Patent application title: Battery-Powered and Logic-Controlled Gas Lift Valve for Use in Wells and Methods of Using and Making Same
Samuel L. Wildman (Kingwood, TX, US)
James H. Kritzler (Pearland, TX, US)
Paul W. Atkins (Magnolia, TX, US)
Raymond D. Chavers (Humble, TX, US)
Stephen Bisset (Kingwood, TX, US)
BAKER HUGHES INCORPORATED
IPC8 Class: AE21B4300FI
Class name: Processes producing the well by fluid lift
Publication date: 2011-07-28
Patent application number: 20110180267
A flow control device is provided that in one embodiment includes a
flow-through region configured to receive formation fluid at an inflow
region and discharge the received fluid at an outflow region and a
setting device configured to adjust the flow of the fluid through the
flow-through region to a selected level. The setting device includes a
coupling member configured to be coupled to an external latching device
adapted to move the coupling member to cause the setting device to alter
the flow of the fluid from the flow-through region to the selected level.
1. An apparatus for controlling flow of gas into a wellbore, comprising:
a flow control device configured for placement in the wellbore; a source
of gas supply configured to supply gas under pressure to the flow control
device; a transmitter at the surface configured to transmit a wireless
command signal into the wellbore; a sensor associated with the flow
control device configured to detect the wireless command signal; and a
control unit in the wellbore configured to adjust the flow control device
to a selected position in response to the detected signal by the sensor,
wherein the sensor and the control unit are powered by an electrical
device placed in the wellbore.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the electrical device is a battery.
3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the control unit attains an active mode when the sensor detects the wireless command signal and an inactive (sleep) mode when the flow control device is set to the selected position to conserve electrical power consumption from the battery.
4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the flow control device is an electrically-adjustable valve and the control unit is configured to adjust the electrically-controllable valve to the selected position based on programmed instructions stored downhole.
5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the transmitter sends the wireless command signal in a form that is one of: acoustic signals, pressure pulses through a fluid in the wellbore; vibration signals; and radio signals.
6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the flow control device includes a valve and a motor that operates the valves.
7. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a pressure sensor for determining a differential pressure and wherein the control unit adjusts the flow control device at least in part in response to the determined differential pressure.
8. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a charge device configured for placement in the wellbore to charge the battery.
9. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a surface control unit including a transmitter and a surface controller for controlling transmission of the wireless command signal in response programmed instructions.
10. A method of controlling supply of gas into a wellbore, comprising: providing a flow control device in the wellbore; injecting a gas from a surface location into the flow control device; transmitting a wireless command signal from a surface location to downhole; detecting the transmitted command signal by a sensor in the wellbore; processing the detected command signal by a control unit coupled to the flow control device to determine a selected position of the flow control device corresponding to the command signal; adjusting the flow control device to the selected position; and supplying power to the sensor and the control unit by a power device placed in the wellbore.
11. The method of claim 10, further comprising causing the sensor and the control unit to attain an active mode when the sensor detects the command signal and an inactive mode when the flow control is set to the selected position.
12. The method of claim 10, further comprising determining a stable flow of gas through the valve and causing the sensor and the control unit to attain an inactive mode when the flow of gas is stable.
13. The method of claim 12, further comprising using a pressure drop determination across the flow control device to determine when the flow of gas is stable.
14. The method of claim 10, wherein the flow control device is an electrically-adjustable valve and the control unit is configured to set the electrically-controllable valve to the desired position based on programmed instructions stored downhole.
15. The method of claim 10, wherein transmitting the wireless command signal comprises using a transmitter at a surface location to transmit the command signal to the sensor.
16. The method of claim 15, wherein the transmitter at the surface sends the command signal in a form that is one of: acoustic signals, pressure pulses through a fluid in the wellbore; vibration signals; and radio signals.
17. The method of claim 16, further comprising charging the power device by a charging device placed in the wellbore, wherein the power device is a battery.
BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE
 1. Field of the Disclosure
 The disclosure relates generally to gas lift apparatus for use in wells.
 2. Description of the Related Art
 Hydrocarbons such as oil and gas are recovered from a subterranean formation using a well or wellbore drilled into the formation. In some cases the wellbore is completed by placing a casing along the wellbore length and perforating the casing adjacent each production zone (hydrocarbon-bearing zone) to extract fluids (such as oil and gas) from the associated a production zone. In other cases, the wellbore may be open-hole, i.e. no casing. A production string is placed in the wellbore. The wellbore includes a tubing (also referred to as base pipe) and a number of flow control devices that enable the formation fluid to enter into the production tubing. In some cases, the downhole pressure is not adequate to lift the formation fluid in the wellbore to the surface. In such cases, artificial lift mechanisms are often used to lift the formation fluid to the surface. In one such mechanism gas is injected from the surface through tubing run in the wellbore to a selected location in the wellbore. The gas reduces the density of the formation fluid and the downhole pressure, thus causing fluid to be lifted to the surface. The valve is usually placed in a pocket in a side mandrel. The gas lift valves are typically operated by the pressure of the injected gas. Such valves utilize mechanical components such as springs to control the valve position. Such mechanically-set valves are generally imprecise and can result excessive introduction of the injected gas to the selected locations.
 The present disclosure provides an improved gas lift valve and methods of using and making the valve that address at least some of the deficiencies of commercially available gas lift valves.
 In one aspect, a downhole-adjustable flow control device is provided that in one embodiment includes an inflow control device with a flow-through region configured to receive formation fluid at an inflow region and discharge the received fluid at an outflow region. The inflow control device also includes a setting device configured to adjust the flow of the fluid through the flow-through region to a selected level, the setting device including a coupling member configured to be coupled to an external latching device adapted to move the coupling member to cause the setting device to alter the flow of the fluid to a desired level.
 In another aspect, an apparatus for controlling flow is disclosed that in one embodiment may include a passive inflow control device configured to receive fluid from a formation and discharge the received fluid to an outflow region, a setting device configured to adjust flow of the fluid through the inflow control device, the setting device including a coupling member and a latching device configured to couple to the coupling member to operate the setting device to adjust the flow of the fluid through the inflow control device.
 Examples of the more important features of the disclosure have been summarized rather broadly in order that detailed description thereof that follows may be better understood, and in order that the contributions to the art may be appreciated. There are, of course, additional features of the disclosure that will be described hereinafter and which will form the subject of the claims appended hereto.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 Advantages and additional aspects of the disclosure will be readily appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art as the same become better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters designate like or similar elements throughout the several figures of the drawing, and wherein:
 FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of an embodiment of a wellbore system configured to extract hydrocarbons from a formation;
 FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a flow control device to be placed downhole for use in a flow control system within a wellbore; and
 FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of an exemplary control system configured to remove hydrocarbons from a formation.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSURE
 The present disclosure relates to apparatus and methods for controlling flow of formation fluids in a well. The present disclosure provides certain exemplary drawings to describe certain embodiments of the apparatus and methods that are to be considered exemplification of the principles described herein and are not intended to limit the concepts and disclosure to the illustrated and described embodiments.
 FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of an embodiment of a wellbore system 100 configured to extract hydrocarbons from a formation. The wellbore system 100 includes a flow control system 102, wellhead 104, wellbore 106 and casing 108. The flow control system 102 is configured to enhance flow of formation fluid from a formation adjacent to the wellbore 106 as it flows through the casing 108 into a mandrel or base pipe 110. The flow control system 102 includes a flow control device 112 located in a side pocket 114 of the base pipe 110. As discussed below, the flow control device 112 may be any suitable device configured to control a flow of gas (116) as it flows from an annulus inside the casing 108 into the base pipe 110. A gas supply system 118 may include a tank and lines configured to deliver the gas flow 116 to the flow control device 112. The gas supply system 118 may be located at the surface, downhole or a combination thereof, and may include a tank, pump and other equipment to supply pressurized gas.
 The flow control system 102 includes the flow control device 112 configured to detect wireless command signals from a control unit 120. The control unit 120 includes a transmitter 122 and surface controller 124. The surface controller 124 may be a computing device that includes a processor 126, memory 128 and computer program 130 configured to run on the processor 126. An input device 132, such as a touch screen, keyboard and/or mouse, and display 134 may be used to operate and program the surface controller 124. A power supply 135 may include a battery to provide power to components of the control unit 120. In an embodiment, an operator at the surface may use software such as the computer program 130 on the control unit 120 to control the position of the flow control device 112, thereby adjusting the amount of gas that flows into the base pipe 110 to enhance the flow of formation fluid to the surface. The control unit 120 and transmitter 122 may transmit a wireless command signal 136 that includes commands from the computer program 130 to control the flow position of the flow control device 112. The flow control device 112 may receive the wireless signal 138 using a sensor or other device suitable for the various forms of wireless communication. In one embodiment, the flow control device 112 may have a plurality of flow positions, wherein each of the positions enables a range of gas flow rates (from open to closed) into the base pipe 110. Formation fluid 140 flows from the production zone through the casing 108 and into the base pipe 110. The formation fluid 140 then mixes with the gas in a mixing region 142 to enhance flow of the mixture toward the surface 144. In an aspect, the wellbore may include isolation packers 146 configured to restrict and enable formation fluid flow into selected portions of the wellbore 106 and casing 108.
 In one embodiment, the flow control system 102 enables improved extraction of hydrocarbons from the formation by wirelessly communicating with the downhole flow control device 112. The surface controller 124 issues a command to the flow control device 112 using transmitter 122 to send the command using a wireless signal 136, 138. The flow control device 112 receives the wireless command signal 138 and processes the signal to determine a selected position for the flow control device 112. The selected position of the device will enable a selected amount of gas to flow into the base pipe 110. As depicted, the gas is injected into the wellbore 106 by the supply system 118 and is routed to the flow control device 112 by flowing along an annulus or within lines in the annulus. The gas is mixed with the formation fluid 140 within the base pipe 110 to improve flow of the formation fluid to the surface 144. The control unit 120 and flow control device 112 may use mud pulses, radio, wireless networks (802.11) or any combination thereof to wirelessly communicate. In other embodiments, cables may be used to communicate with downhole flow control devices. Cables may be costly to place in the wellbore and may require repair after wear and tear over time. The remote wireless command of the flow control device 112 from the surface enables improved control over the mixing process while improving reliability for the flow control system 102.
 FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of an embodiment of a flow control device 200 to be placed downhole for use in a flow control system (FIG. 1, 102) within a wellbore. The flow control device 200 may be any suitable device utilizing electrical and/or mechanical components to restrict or enable fluid flow through the device. The flow control device may be placed in a recess or side pocket 114 portion of a base pipe 110 of a drill string, thereby controlling the amount of gas flow into the base pipe for mixing with the formation fluid. In an embodiment, the flow control device 200 includes a body 202, flow control mechanism (or valve assembly) 204, motor 206, battery/controller 208 and sensor 210. As depicted, the flow control mechanism 204 is a valve assembly controlled by linear actuation via a stem or coupling 212 with the motor 206. In one embodiment, the motor 206 may include a screw actuator to cause linear movement of the stem 212 and flow control mechanism 204, thereby causing a change of gas flow through the flow control device 200. In an aspect, the flow control mechanism 204 includes a ball 214 and seat 216. Linear movement of the ball 214 along a device axis 217 may restrict (close) or enable (open) flow through the mechanism, due to a mating of the ball 214 and seat 216. The valve or flow control mechanism 204 is any suitable device to allow or restrict gas flow through the device 200. In an embodiment, gas may flow from outside the base pipe into the device via ports 218. The gas may then flow from the device 200 via outlet 220, wherein the outlet 220 routes the gas into a mixing region within the base pipe. In one embodiment, the flow control device includes a trickle charger 222 configured to periodically provide a low level charge rate to the battery/controller 208, thereby reducing battery maintenance.
 In an aspect, the flow control device 200 is configured to receive a wireless command signal via the sensor 210. A surface controller and transmitter may emit the wireless signal as one of, but not limited to: acoustic signals, pressure pulses through fluid in the wellbore; vibration signals and radio signals. Therefore, the sensor 210 may be any suitable device to detect the selected wireless signal, such as an accelerometer configured to sense vibration. In an embodiment, the sensor 210 is powered by the battery/controller 208 to sense the wireless command signal. In addition, upon detecting a wireless command signal, the battery/controller 208 may transition from an inactive state to an active state. The inactive state may also be referred to as a sleep or power saving state. The battery/controller 208 is "awakened" to an active state by receiving a command signal, it may process the signal. The battery/controller 208 processes the received signal and sends the corresponding control signal to the motor 206, causing movement of the flow control mechanism 204 to a selected position. After moving the flow control mechanism 204 to the desired position, the rate of gas flow may be determined via a sensor or measurement device located within or near the flow control device 200 to ensure a stable inflow of gas. In an embodiment, the battery/controller 208 may return to an inactive state ("sleep") after the gas flow is stabilized and/or a specified period of time (e.g., 1-10 minutes) elapses during which no new command signal is received. For example, if the gas flow into the base pipe is stable and a signal with instructions to implement a gas flow position change have not been received for three minutes, the battery/controller 208 will transition to the inactive mode.
 The battery/controller 208 may consist of any suitable power source or chemical-based battery to supply electrical power to the motor 206 and sensor 210. In an aspect, the battery is a suitable durable and robust power source capable of extended life and repeated charging. Further, the battery/controller 208 may include a processor, memory and suitable software or firmware to control operation of the motor 206, wherein the movement of the motor 206 corresponds to various positions of the flow control device 204. The motor 206 may be any suitable electric motor and mechanism configured to actuate movement of the flow control device 204. The flow control device 204 may include any suitable mechanism, such as a ball valve, bonnet valve, disc valve, spring valve or any combination thereof, configured to translate movement from the motor 206 to an opening or closing of a flow path.
 FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of an exemplary control system 300 configured to remove hydrocarbons from a formation. In an aspect, the control system 300 includes components located downhole and at surface 301. The downhole components include a valve 302, motor 304, control circuit or controller 306, sensor or detector 308, battery 310 and charging device 312. The valve 302 is configured to adjust and control flow through a device that enables mixing of gas and formation fluid within a base pipe. The gas may be injected or flow from a surface location along an annulus, wherein a position of the valve 302 controls the amount of gas flowing into the base pipe. In an embodiment, the valve position is adjusted by a motor 304, such as an electric screw drive motor, wherein the motor 304 is controlled by the controller 306 and powered by the battery 310. The sensor 308 receives wireless commands that are translated and sent to the controller 306, which processes the commands and sends electrical signals to adjust the flow position of the valve 304. The battery 310 may provide power to the motor 304, controller 306 and sensor 308. The control system may also include a transmitter 314 and surface controller 316 located at the surface of the wellbore. The transmitter 314 and surface controller 316 may include a processor, memory and programs configured to emit or transmit wireless signals with commands to control the position of the valve 302 downhole. The transmitter 314 may include any suitable mechanism to provide mud pulses, vibration, radio signals or any suitable wireless signals to the downhole components of the control system 300.
 FIGS. 1-3 are intended to be merely illustrative of the teachings of the principles and methods described herein and which principles and methods may be applied to operate, construct and/or utilize flow control systems in a wellbore. Furthermore, the foregoing description is directed to particular embodiments of the present disclosure for the purpose of illustration and explanation. It will be apparent to one skilled in the art that many modifications and changes to the embodiment set forth above are possible without departing from the scope of the disclosure.
Patent applications by James H. Kritzler, Pearland, TX US
Patent applications by Paul W. Atkins, Magnolia, TX US
Patent applications by Raymond D. Chavers, Humble, TX US
Patent applications by Samuel L. Wildman, Kingwood, TX US
Patent applications by Stephen Bisset, Kingwood, TX US
Patent applications by BAKER HUGHES INCORPORATED
Patent applications in class By fluid lift
Patent applications in all subclasses By fluid lift