DarkVision goes downhole to improve integrity and performance of wells

Defects in well casings, connections, and other downhole components can lead to significant business and environmental impacts for oil and gas operators. This includes everything from methane leaks to integrity problems and production issues. DarkVision Technologies is looking to help operators save costs and reduce emissions by introducing ultrasonic imaging technology, that builds on advancements recently made in the medical device sector.

DarkVision has developed an acoustic-based downhole imaging tool that offers operators a set of eyes inside their wells. The approach solves a well-known problem for industry working under conditions of high pressure and temperature. In addition to cost savings and environmental benefits the technology can increase production and improve the overall well integrity.

“We spent lots of time talking to operators and service companies. It became apparent that they needed to more effectively detect and measure defects in the inhospitable downhole environment. Our technology can withstand the temperatures, pressures, and constraints of the downhole environment and capture detailed imagery of what’s going on in the well,” said Stephen Robinson, DarkVision co-founder and CEO.

The field-ready tool uses proprietary and patented technologies to provide oil and gas operators with high resolution 3D scans of all its well components. Ultrasonic pulses pass through the fluid, hit the metal, and bounce back to help map out a sub-millimetric picture of underground operations. DarkVision launched the first version of the technology in 2017 and have been enhancing it to work at higher temperatures and higher pressures.

“That was the biggest challenge—making the technology work in such a challenging environment and to find all the various problems that can arise it wells. We had to undertake every aspect of tech design ourselves from scratch, from building our own sensor arrays to our own visualization software and rendering engine,” said Robinson.

ERA has committed $3.2 million to the project through its Partnership Intake Program. The technology is being piloted across various Alberta sites owned by ConocoPhillips, Suncor, Cenovus, and other operators. They have also received funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), IRAP-NRC, BDC Capital, and Evok Innovations.

“DarkVision has developed a highly differentiated technology that is gaining a significant amount of industry attention and has enormous potential,” says Geoff Catherwood, partner in BDC Capital’s Industrial, Clean & Energy (ICE) Fund. “Rarely do we find such an attractive combination of great technology, customer traction, and a top-notch founding team in this stage of a company.”

Co-founded in 2013, DarkVision now employs 35 people with offices in Vancouver and Calgary. It saw rapid growth last year, growing revenues by 800 per cent from 2018. The company now has 32 different operators as customers, including majors like Encana, Chevron and Pioneer. They are currently exploring expanding into other markets, as the technology platform is broadly applicable to other industries and can be adopted to inspect watermains, pipelines, and boiler tubes.