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Case Study

Creating an Oil Valve Test System That Ensures Critical Value Reliability

Challenge: Updating an oil valve test system to streamline procedures from test to test and provide accurate, effective data when certifying new valves or changes to existing valves

Solution: Using NI LabVIEW programming and NI CompactRIO in a way that produces effective data and repeatable results

Industry: Oil & Gas

Application: Valve testing

Technologies: NI CompactRIO, NI LabVIEW, SCXI

Erdos Miller was selected for its NI LabVIEW programming expertise, history of success maximizing the proven NI CompactRIO platform, and previous work specifically with down-hole electronics for the oil and gas industry.

Background
A global company that creates and produces flow and pressure control technologies for the worldwide oil and gas industry sought to upgrade its hardware and use real-time rugged electronics to test oil well valves and better understand how they would withstand extreme environments – in particular, in the event that a wellhead caught on fire.

It was critical that before a valve goes to market, is shipped to customers, or installed for use, the company knows how it will react in extreme environments and can test and modify the valve if needed. The client sought to understand the following four key factors:

Would the valve remain sealed?

  • At what temperature would the valve’s performance be altered?
  • If/how could oil leak through the valve?
  • How much oil could potentially leak?

Testing these factors would give the client the ability to certify that the valve would maintain its integrity through worst-case scenarios for customers.

The company used a tester based on SCXI prior to beginning its search for a new test solution. The SCXI system was near obsolete and required connected computers to use Windows, ultimately slowing the test and data logging process. The new system would need a real-time embedded platform with rugged electronics as well as an updated UI.

The client had already worked with National Instruments to spec new hardware for the system, choosing the NI CompactRIO platform to replace legacy SCXI components. The CompactRIO was a cost-effective, customizable, FPGA-based option that accommodated the I/O channels the client needed without requiring them to pay more for a platform that caters to additional, unneeded channels. In addition, the CompactRIO platform would remain supported for years to come, avoiding the current problem of equipment obsolescence.

The client selected Erdos Miller to implement the new test system because of the company’s NI LabVIEW programming expertise, history of success maximizing the proven CompactRIO platform, and previous work with down-hole electronics for the oil and gas industry.

Approach
The prior test setup included many changes to source code, didn’t have a user-friendly UI, and required much manual effort to replicate a test. In a growing oil and gas business with an increasing number of units under test, it was imperative that the Erdos Miller team streamline both the test process and the operator experience. With the new hardware selection in place, Erdos Miller programmers used their experience with real-time embedded targets to take advantage of the benefits of the rugged, customizable, NI CompactRIO platform. They also developed a UI for the system that created a seamless experience for operators from test to test. In addition, the team ensured the platform would scale with future growth, and then trained the client’s internal LabVIEW programmers to manage the system.

System
In just a few weeks, the Erdos Miller team had worked directly with the client’s R&D department to create a test system that assessed a valve while it was in development phase. The Erdos Miller LabVIEW team programmed the CompactRIO to control a flamethrower, which would then heat only specific areas of the valve to certain temperatures and subsequently hold those temperatures for defined periods of time. The CompactRIO accurately recorded, logged, and saved the data.

Expert programming combined with the CompactRIO transformed the old test setup into an easily adaptable system able to take additional measurements and record data from more sensors, including pressure, torque, and water level measurements. With CompactRIO, the test now can run independent of a PC, a feature that helps to ensure tests are not adversely affected by a Windows crash or a PC update. Moreover, data is stored directly on the CompactRIO and does not have to pass back and forth to and from a PC for data acquisition and analysis. This benefit speeds the test and data acquisition process.

Results
End users now can make changes and adjustments to the test without returning to the original source code, saving time and reducing the possibility of error. Using the new system. R&D teams can certify new valves and any changes made to existing valves. The shift to CompactRIO greatly reduces the risk of test failure and increases data integrity and data acquisition speed.

The client plans to keep maximizing this solution and anticipates working with Erdos Miller to add automation and reporting in the next phase.

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