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James Stafford

James Stafford

James Stafford is the Editor of Oilprice.com

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Subsea Surveillance: The Fiber Optic Storm

It’s all about fiber optics today, with acoustic spy tech that aims to both perfect offshore fracking and detect subsea leaks—and this is where the defense industry and oil and gas are merging for some top dollar plays.

This distributed fiber-optic sensor market is forecast to reach $586 million in 2013 and $1.1 billion in 2016, 70% of it connected to the oil and gas industry. There are a multitude of applications here that the oil and gas industry is catching on to. The bottom line is that optic fibers can sense most physical properties—from light intensity, displacement, temperature, pressure, rotation, sound and strain to magnetic fields, electric fields, radiation, flow, liquid levels, chemical analysis and vibration.

So this is oil and gas getting really smart, and really sensitive.

Listen to the Perfect Frack

Drilling equipment providers are on to something new: acoustic submarine spy tech that records sounds deep under the Earth’s surface that can tell us how much oil could flow from a well. The ultimate goal is to record and catalogue all the sounds that comprise the flawless frack—explosions, cracking rock and gurgling hydrocarbons—to perfect the process and ensure that the future contains only 100% successful fracks.

For instance, you may not know that gas has a speed of sound of around 600 m/s, while water has a speed of sound around 1,500 m/s, so the distributed variations can be measured…

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