April 1, 2015
Electronics have become more and more disposable over the years. As technology advances and devices age, it’s easy to make the decision to ditch the old and replace it with the latest and greatest device. Nowhere is this more evident than in the oil and gas industry.
ETC has been building plunger lift controllers and sensors for over a decade and time and time again, we hear of cases where our original devices are still out in the field running. The reason for the longevity of our devices is because they are built to last. Not only are they rugged and reliable so that the physical device can weather the elements and stand the test of time, but we design them to be upgradable.
What does being upgradable mean? The firmware (software embedded in electronics) is designed in such a way that the application can be erased and replaced with a newer version. This means that even though the physical device does not change over time, the features of the device can be enhanced. Most other manufacturers in plunger lift simply sell you a device and what you purchase is what you are stuck with. We continue to work with our customers to enhance our products long after they are sold. These enhanced features not only appear in new manufactured versions, but can be loaded on to devices that were sold and installed years before. This allows the customer the ability to solve today’s challenges without having to buy another device.
Over the last few years, our ALiEn2 Expert plunger lift controller has been constantly improved to provide different units of measure, plunger tracking, vent tracking, enhanced optimization, the addition of tubing pressure, a Modbus master, and support for the game changing Sasquatch. Had we not planned for future features and built in the capability for upgrades, our customers would have never been able to take advantage of these new features without buying a new device.
This capability doesn’t just exist in our controllers. We have also built upgradability into our sensors. Typically, plunger arrival sensors feature a magnetic coil and a relay to close a switch when a plunger arrives. Because we built the Cyclops with a magnetic sensor chip and a microprocessor, we were once again able to build the firmware so that it could be upgraded with a laptop. No other sensor on the market is as easy to upgrade.
We found that this was useful recently when it was discovered that after many months of continual use where power is constantly applied, a magnetic sensor can lose sensitivity. In most other cases, the sensor would have been discarded and replaced with a newer version. We were able to enhance our software to automatically refresh the sensitivity on a schedule. This software was thoroughly tested and then distributed directly to our customers through our Vision Device Management software. The Cyclops could then be connected to locally and upgraded without even having to take the device off the well head.