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PETROMAKS2-Stort program petroleum

Non-intrusive separator level monitoring

Alternative title: Utenpåliggende sensorer for nivåmåling i separator

Awarded: NOK 8.6 mill.

Project Manager:

Project Number:


Project Period:

2023 - 2025


Partner countries:

Nicoustic was founded in June 2022 based on groundbreaking R&D cooperation between Equinor and Fraunhofer IKTS institute (Germany). Our product is a non-intrusive sensor system based on Guided Ultrasonic Waves. Our sensors will be able to detect levels of solids and liquids in separators and tanks from the outside, without the need for flanges and penetrations. Our main customers in the beginning are in the oil & gas industry, but we have also seen strong interest in our products from the other industries such as renewables and chemicals. We have developed a sensor prototype able to detect level of solids and absolute liquid level in laboratory and pilot scale. This prototype will soon be tested on an offshore oil platform in Norway. But for our technology to become a commercial success, we need to perform more R&D in order to develop the product further. This project covers following research topics: 1. Our sensors need to measure more. We will develop capabilities to better differentiate between levels of different fluids and also to detect interface emulsion layers between the fluids and foam on top of the fluids. 2. In a full scale operation the conditions are much tougher than in laboratory. We will investigate how different growth (scale, wax...) on the inside of the separator wall influences our measurements. Maybe our sensors will become blind - or maybe we can contribute to valuable characterization of the growth? 3. Our technology will become much more valuable if we can perform several types of measurements using the same sensors. We will attempt to develop integrity monitoring capabilities, i.e. ability to detect and characterize damage on the inside of the separator due to corrosion and erosion. 4. It would be a great benefit to manufacture our sensors here in Trondheim in the future. But for that we need to conduct investigations into novel production methods.

There is an unmet need for reliable measurement of multiphase levels in oil & gas separation equipment, especially when it comes to measurement of sand/solid layers, liquid interface levels as well as emulsion and foam layers. This need comes from the fact that improved level measurement will lead to less equipment downtime and an opportunity to better optimize production. The technology to be further developed in this project is a novel sensor system that has already been confirmed to provide accurate solids and oil/water interface measurements in pilot scale. Measurement principle utilizes Guided Ultrasonic Waves. The biggest differentiating factor compared with other measurement methods is that our sensors are non-intrusive (they are mounted on the outside of the vessel). This is a big advantage with respect to installation and maintenance cost and ease. Our technology was initially developed by the German research institute Fraunhofer IKTS, which responded to the Equinor innovation challenge. Nicoustic AS was formed in Trondheim in 2022 to carry on the development and to commercialize the R&D results. It is now becoming evident that other industries than oil & gas (for example biofuel and chemicals production) face many of the same challenges in their separation processes. Nicoustic is one of the finalists at Jump Start technology competition by PRIO, a leading biodiesel manufacturer in Portugal. There is also a potential for hydrogen and ammonia storage, which will be addressed later. In this project we seek to develop capabilities to measure liquid, foam and emulsion interface layers, explore how fouling on the inside of the separator wall influences our measurements, conduct research in integrity measurement using the same hardware as level measurement and prepare industrialization of our hardware and software manufacturing methods.

Funding scheme:

PETROMAKS2-Stort program petroleum