Extracting fossil fuels from the earth is not a simple process of sticking a pipe into a hydrocarbon deposit and sucking out the contents. The contents are extremely variable and can include oil, gas, tar, brine, sand, and mud. The deposits also exist under a wide range of conditions – from extremely high heat and pressures, to compacted and embedded in shale and stone.
As a consequence the extraction of hydrocarbon is a complex and variable process that includes controlling mixed substances under a range of temperatures and pressures, separating out the desired products, disposing of the unwanted byproducts, and distribution of the desired products to where they can be sold.
In earlier times most of this processing occurred adjacent to the well, or in offshore settings it occurred above the water line. As we move past the era of “easy oil” the global fossil fuel industry is pushing ever deeper into the ocean, and in these deep waters – up to 2 miles deep, moving the hydrocarbon/brine/mud mix up to the surface, and then moving the unwanted byproducts back down to re-inject them in to the reservoir is a costly waste of energy and resources.
The new technologies now do this processing on the sea floor with separators, injectors, and multi-phase pumps. This processing takes place under huge water pressures (2250 psi at 5000 feet) and often huge well-head pressures (the BP Macondo wellhead pressure was in excess of 13,000 psi).
It is likely that multi-phase material (solids, liquids, and gas) flowing under these extreme conditions generates noise. We would like to know how much noise and are in the planning (and fundraising) stages of deploying an autonomous profiler to drift across sub-sea operations in the Gulf of Mexico to record and evaluate operational noises of deepwater hydrocarbon production.