Extreme pressure under the earth affects drilling tools and electronics, so manufacturers of drilling equipment need to test these effects prior to their use in the field to prevent costly accidents. To verify, it is helpful to simulate deep well conditions and subject new tool designs to pressure levels found under the earth’s crust.


The Challenge: The manual system places technicians at risk by exposing them to high pressure without separation between them and the source of that pressure. The manual system exposes technicians to high pressure, places technicians at risk, without separation between them and the sources of high pressure. To solve this problem, the client desired to upgrade the control system so that operators can run tests remotely, safely and efficiently. Optimation’s Solution: Optimation’s solution involved turnkey layout and fabrication of a new valve, panel and control system. The system was fabricated in a cargo container and completely constructed and commissioned in Optimation’s shop in Rochester, NY. Upon verification of the control software the system will be installed and commissioned at the client’s facility.

System Architecture: National Instruments’ cRIO is the core of the test system. FPGA and a real time interface gives operators high speed interlocks which prevent the mixing of different test substances. In addition, if Windows shuts down, the system can still control itself because cRIO is still operating. The new system gives operators a “heads up” display, and in manual mode they can click on valves, and select pump set points to create various test conditions. Automatic mode allows operators to run pre-programmed recipes created by engineering. The recipe then controls pump set points and valve positions in a pre-set manner. Recipe configuration software, designed by Optimation, was developed as a stand-alone application running in the office environment. This software supports the set up and storage of the various recipe steps. Another advanced feature in the recipe generation software is for safety. It allows the engineer or technician to build a recipe at his desk and simulate it before running an actual test, ensuring that each recipe is correct before actual use. Once the recipe is created, it can be stored and then run on the actual system. In the software, there is one main screen that shows the camera view, a chart of the data, a process flow diagram (that allows you to click on valves and setpoints), and a recipe area which allows you to load and run recipes when in automatic mode. Data can be acquired at multiple rates up to 100 Hz and as low as .1 Hz. The operator has the ability to view the data in digital form on the process, and can also watch trends in a graphical format.

Hardware Design: The test system is capable of pressuring test particles up to 30,000 psi. Automatic valves allow the user or a recipe to set flow paths on the test system. High pressure metering valves are controlled via stepper motors to give the system automatic bleed control. Any of the six channels can be bled independently. The entire system was built in a container in Optimation’s shop, allowing for easy delivery as a package to the client’s site. Optimation designed the container layout for easy access to all equipment. A control panel communicates via Ethernet with the control console. A new inertion system controls the flow of nitrogen to the client’s downstream chamber. The throttling valve, controls, piping and oxygen analyzer in the chamber are hooked up to the control panel, which controls the flow of nitrogen in the system.

Control is based on percentage of O2 in the chamber as measured by the client’s analyzer. The control room is isolated from the test area with a thick metal plate, protecting technicians from high pressure exposure. In addition to data monitoring, technicians can view actual test conditions with the IP cameras. All control and data acquisition is via Ethernet, keeping the technicians completely out of harm’s way when the tests are running. Various systems at the client’s site are standardizing on the same architectural design. Cross-training of technicians from one system to another is envisioned for the future.


In addition to the safety enhancements, style meets function with automatically run recipes, cRIO-based architecture, computer-based process monitoring, and dynamically controlled web cameras.