Ultrasound business sense

April 1, 2012

ClampOn boss Dag Aldal with the CEM and R&D manager Geir Instanes, The man credited with the new monitor's invention. Bergen companies know a thing or two about using intelligent sensors to optimize well productivity. One of the leaders in this field is ClampOn, which, as its name does more than suggest, specialises in sensors of the nonintrusive variety. Since it was founded in 1994, the company has put together an impressive range of ultrasonic instruments for topside and subsea sand/particle monitoring, pig detection, vibration monitoring, leak detection and well collision detection, steadfastly refusing to compromise on quality. Well-proven ultrasonic technology and high end electronics are the essential building blocks upon which all ClampOn products are based, and the company sees its software and its products' use both topside and subsea as key differentiators in the oil & gas marketplace.

Now, after almost ten years of intensive development work, ClampOn has added a groundbreaking subsea corrosion-erosion monitor (CEM) to its non-intrusive product portfolio.

Dag Aldal‘Operators have for many years been looking for a reliable system that can measure and monitor changes in wall thickness on subsea pipes, plates or other metal structures on a permanent and continuous basis. The ClampOn CEM addresses this need in a reliable, easy-touse and cost-effective manner,' explains Dag Aldal, the company's charismatic co-founder and president.

‘Looking at alternatives on the market, there are ROV-operated instruments that take measurements typically at hotspots, but by their very nature, these do not provide constant readings and as they are generally single point measurements they may not give any indication whatsoever of critically thin wall thicknesses. One of the many advantages of the CEM is that it is non-intrusive and provides constant monitoring of the pipe's condition over a large area of pipe.'

Transducer pairs operate in a pitchcatch mode and use the ultrasonic waves to give the average wall thickness between the transducer pairs. The transducers are fixed at pre-determined points on the pipe to monitor the wall thickness loss in sections of the pipe typically up to 2m long.

The instrument consists of up to eight transducers and an electronics unit that handles all signal acquisition and processing. Wall thickness trends are generated automatically and can be observed in real-time on a computer running ClampOn CEM software, or logged internally in a data logger. There are two different models available, one ROV-installable for existing pipes and structures, and one pre-installable solution that can be installed topside before the structure is submerged. ‘Both models operate in the same way and will give the same results when it comes to reliability and repeatability,' notes Aldal.

The new monitor has been attracting a good deal of industry attention since its launch last year and is one of the select group of new offshore industry offerings to be given ‘Spotlight on New Technology' status by the organisers of this year's OTC conference in Houston. Following a period of thorough subsea testing, and after making a few modifications, the first system has now been retrofitted in one of BP's fields in the Gulf of Mexico, and another nine sensors will be permanently installed in the North Sea early this year.

The subsea CEM emerged from a thorough-going joint industry project involving BP, ClampOn and Innovation Norway, with each party contributing equally. Development of the topside version of the monitor began nine years ago. ‘Many rounds of testing and improvement, and then more testing and improvement, resulted in an instrument we and the operators were happy with,' says Aldal. ‘Once the topside unit proved to work as we intended we set about marinising it for subsea use. Following three further years of development we now we have a product that can really give huge benefits to operators and for the safety of subsea pipes.'

The company continues to have a strong focus on sand, pig and vibration measurement and monitoring for subsea applications. In the first few months of 2012 alone, it has signed contracts worth NKr15 million for sand monitors, vibration monitors and pig detectors.

ClampOn is regularly approached by potential corporate suitors but Dag Aldal remains fiercely protective of the company's independence. ‘It gives us a lot of freedom,' he says. ‘I can wake up in the morning and we can make a decision in the afternoon. I don't like the idea of people breathing down my neck.'

Aldal also makes short shrift of suggestions that the company might one day need to consider relocating some of its production, currently running at 900 ultrasonic sensors a year, to a cheaper overseas location. ‘We are not making mobile phones,' he declares, pointing out the state-of-the-art clean room facilities at ClampOn's new 4600m manufacturing facility in Bergen, the company's 10,000th sensor which now occupies pride of place there, the compactness and versatility of many of today's instruments and the exotic metals, notably titanium, employed in their manufacture.

‘You can't put a mobile phone in 3000m of water and expect it to work for 30 years,' he adds. OE

Bergen companies know a thing or two about using intelligent sensors to optimize well productivity. One of the leaders in this field is ClampOn, which, as its name does more than suggest, specialises in sensors of the nonintrusive variety. Since it was founded in 1994, the company has put together an impressive range of ultrasonic instruments for topside and subsea sand/particle monitoring, pig detection, vibration monitoring, leak detection and well collision detection, steadfastly refusing to compromise on quality. Well-proven ultrasonic technology and high end electronics are the essential building blocks upon which all ClampOn products are based, and the company sees its software and its products' use both topside and subsea as key differentiators in the oil & gas marketplace.

Now, after almost ten years of intensive development work, ClampOn has added a groundbreaking subsea corrosion-erosion monitor (CEM) to its non-intrusive product portfolio.

‘Operators have for many years been looking for a reliable system that can measure and monitor changes in wall thickness on subsea pipes, plates or other metal structures on a permanent and continuous basis. The ClampOn CEM addresses this need in a reliable, easy-touse and cost-effective manner,' explains Dag Aldal, the company's charismatic co-founder and president.

‘Looking at alternatives on the market, there are ROV-operated instruments that take measurements typically at hotspots, but by their very nature, these do not provide constant readings and as they are generally single point measurements they may not give any indication whatsoever of critically thin wall thicknesses. One of the many advantages of the CEM is that it is non-intrusive and provides constant monitoring of the pipe's condition over a large area of pipe.'

Transducer pairs operate in a pitchcatch mode and use the ultrasonic waves to give the average wall thickness between the transducer pairs. The transducers are fixed at pre-determined points on the pipe to monitor the wall thickness loss in sections of the pipe typically up to 2m long.

The instrument consists of up to eight transducers and an electronics unit that handles all signal acquisition and processing. Wall thickness trends are generated automatically and can be observed in real-time on a computer running ClampOn CEM software, or logged internally in a data logger. There are two different models available, one ROV-installable for existing pipes and structures, and one pre-installable solution that can be installed topside before the structure is submerged. ‘Both models operate in the same way and will give the same results when it comes to reliability and repeatability,' notes Aldal.

The new monitor has been attracting a good deal of industry attention since its launch last year and is one of the select group of new offshore industry offerings to be given ‘Spotlight on New Technology' status by the organisers of this year's OTC conference in Houston. Following a period of thorough subsea testing, and after making a few modifications, the first system has now been retrofitted in one of BP's fields in the Gulf of Mexico, and another nine sensors will be permanently installed in the North Sea early this year.

The subsea CEM emerged from a thorough-going joint industry project involving BP, ClampOn and Innovation Norway, with each party contributing equally. Development of the topside version of the monitor began nine years ago. ‘Many rounds of testing and improvement, and then more testing and improvement, resulted in an instrument we and the operators were happy with,' says Aldal. ‘Once the topside unit proved to work as we intended we set about marinising it for subsea use. Following three further years of development we now we have a product that can really give huge benefits to operators and for the safety of subsea pipes.'

The company continues to have a strong focus on sand, pig and vibration measurement and monitoring for subsea applications. In the first few months of 2012 alone, it has signed contracts worth NKr15 million for sand monitors, vibration monitors and pig detectors.

ClampOn is regularly approached by potential corporate suitors but Dag Aldal remains fiercely protective of the company's independence. ‘It gives us a lot of freedom,' he says. ‘I can wake up in the morning and we can make a decision in the afternoon. I don't like the idea of people breathing down my neck.'

Aldal also makes short shrift of suggestions that the company might one day need to consider relocating some of its production, currently running at 900 ultrasonic sensors a year, to a cheaper overseas location. ‘We are not making mobile phones,' he declares, pointing out the state-of-the-art clean room facilities at ClampOn's new 4600m manufacturing facility in Bergen, the company's 10,000th sensor which now occupies pride of place there, the compactness and versatility of many of today's instruments and the exotic metals, notably titanium, employed in their manufacture.

‘You can't put a mobile phone in 3000m of water and expect it to work for 30 years,' he adds. OE



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