2016 Winner: Outstanding Achievement In Applied Technology And Innovation Sponsored By SAIT
Bringing Oil and Gas Technology Into the 21st Century
“Imagine taking your cell phone from 2003 or 2004 and trying to use it today,” says Jim Bush, President of Evolution Engineering Inc. “You can’t text message, or surf the web, or be on conference calls. That’s what drilling technology in oil and gas was like, compared to what we can do now.”
This technology advancement was possible due to the Calgary-based company’s innovative work with measurement-while-drilling (MWD) tools. MWD tools are used thousands of metres underground, where they send information to the surface which the drilling rig operator uses to guide and steer the entire drilling assembly.
These measurement tools are an essential part of the oil and gas industry, but according to Evolution Engineering, suffered from major flaws. “Our MWD tools really emanated from the 1990’s, and the industry hadn’t seen much development since then,” says Bush.
Their solution was to create a revolutionary new MWD called EVO ONE™. This new tool is equipped with modern capabilities never before used in an MWD, and it helped to modernize the oil and gas drilling industry.
Creating a New System to Create New Possibilities
One way Evolution Engineering set out to make a better MWD was to give EVO ONE™ a new communications system. In order for MWDs to wirelessly transmit data from the drill to the operator, they rely on a methodology called telemetry. Cell phones use this same method, but only at a much faster rate. This slow transmission rate in MWDs resulted in the operator receiving data that was often unreliable.
Before EVO ONE™, MWDs relied on either mud pulse telemetry, using pressure pulses sent to the surface in the drilling fluid, or electromagnetic telemetry, electrifying the formation and picking up very small electrical signals at the surface. In the EVO ONE™, Evolution Engineering created a much more efficient version of telemetry called Unified Telemetry™.
This new system achieves data transmission rates up to 30 times faster than previous telemetry systems and is capable of transmitting data through all kinds of formation or fluid types. This innovation has had an enormous impact on the oil and gas industry.
“If I told you to drive at 100km per hour, but you could only open your eyes once every kilometre, you’d probably make a lot of mistakes,” explains Bush. “But now with this new technology, you are able to open your eyes every 10 or 20 metres. This allows you to operate at the speed that you want. The same result is happening in [the oil and gas drilling] industry.”
Unified Telemetry™ allows for data monitoring remotely from any point on an iPad or other device. As such, oil and gas companies can reduce the need for full monitoring crews on drilling sites, thereby saving money and lowering risks.
Drilling into the Oil and Gas Market
Commercializing EVO ONE™ was a long process that took three years to complete. The technology was conceptualized in 2011, prototyped in 2012, tested in field trials in 2013 and finally launched into the market in 2014.
A major step in the process was a project called 20-in-20, which was developed to create interest in EVO ONE™. “We set out to show 20 operators EVO ONE™ in person, live on their boardroom table, in a span of 20 months. What we actually managed to achieve was 40-in-40,” says Bush.
This created a massive buzz around EVO ONE™ and resulted in a very successful launch, despite the declining state of the oil and gas industry in 2014. Since then, Evolution Engineering has seen huge demand for their product, and in May 2016, they were working to increase supply to meet high demand.