Downhole electronics tools are widely used in oilfield operations and during oil and gas exploration activities. Downhole electronics comprises various tools and equipment that have the ability to withstand the extreme mechanical, geological, and thermal stresses of the demanding applications during oil and gas operations. Most of the time, there are drilling applications where usual electronic tools are not able to withstand the demanding and stringent requirements.
Major companies operating in the market are emphasizing on innovation to materialize their idea, by the enhancement of downhole electronics to cope with prevalent issues such as implementation of the processing function in robust/limited hardware, small physical shape to fit optimally into the mechanical housing, package protection in order to get it running downhole, and rugged design to withstand extreme pressure, temperature, and vibration conditions. This emphasis by the major players is a key factor driving the downhole electronics market.
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The high temperature of the downhole applications presents a significant challenge to electronics components and most resistor technologies. Temperature soaring above 275 degree Celsius is critical and even above the melting point of some solders. Consequently, the thin-film resistors get oxidized and wirewound devices witness major shift in values. Therefore, thick-layered resistors are being employed for seismic oil exploration as well as for downhole applications.
Many end-user industries are calling for electronics that can functional reliably in harsh conditions of extreme temperature. The oil & gas industry is a prominent end-user industry of high temperature electronics. The operating temperature increases proportionally to the depth of the well during oil and gas exploration. Typically, the geothermal gradient is 25 degree Celsius / Km; however, in some cases, it is greater. In recent years, drilling operations have maxed out at a temperature range of 150-175 deg Celsius; however, declining reserves and advances in technology have fostered the industry to drill deeper, particularly in the region with a higher geothermal gradient.
Temperature in these cases exceeds 200 deg Celsius with pressure greater than 25 kpsi. In such harsh environment, active cooling is impractical and passive cooling techniques are ineffective. All these factors along with the recovering oil & gas industry, particularly in North America, are estimated to augment the demand for downhole electronics in the near future.
In terms of type, the downhole electronics market can be segmented into electronic pressure and temperature sensing tools, electronic production logging tools, samplers, flow meters, and others. In terms of application, the downhole electronics market can be segmented into as drilling, completion, well intervention, formation & evaluation, and oil & gas production.
In terms of regional demand, Asia Pacific was the leading region for the downhole electronics market due to increasing downhole drilling activities in the year 2016. This is driven by the increasing demand for reliable MWD (Measurement while drilling) and formation-evaluation-measurement-while-drilling (FEMWD, also known as logging-while-drilling or LWD) tools, particularly in Southeast Asia, where downhole temperatures reach as high as 200 deg Celsius. North America on account of increase in exploration activities have led to the widespread use of downhole electronics and is expected to witness significant growth over the years.
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The downhole electronics industry presents a significant challenge to electronics manufacturers & designers to develop ever shrinking and increasingly complex electronics to work at extreme temperatures. Key players operating in the global downhole electronics market include Schlumberger Ltd., Weatherford International Ltd., and Kuster, a Probe Company.
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