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RGU spinout close to blowout-prevention technology trials after funding boost

A fledgling oilfield equipment company has secured funding to help it develop blowout prevention technology which could save operators millions of pounds per well — and prevent loss of life.

Safe Influx, of Aberdeen, also believes its automated well control (AWC) technology will turn it into a multi-million-pound business and create employment opportunities for the north-east supply chain.

The company is a spinout from Robert Gordon University (RGU) and is led by co-founder and managing director Bryan Atchison.

He is well engineering manager at the university’s Energy Transition Institute.

The other co-founder is Phil Hassard, technical director at Safe Influx and drilling simulator manager at RGU.

Mr Atchison said Safe Influx’s game-changing AWC product would dramatically reduce the risk of blowouts, a major accident hazard.

He expects the equipment to become a fixture in every operating basin in the world, onshore and offshore.

Fresh funding from the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) will help the firm take a further step towards a field trial, scheduled for the second week of October.

The test is supported by Finesse Control Systems, an engineering company responsible for managing the electrical and pneumatic controls, and by a major drilling contractor.

Safe Influx did not specify how much funding it had received from the OGTC, but it is understood to be a near-six-figure sum.

The system is designed to detect well influxes, kicks of gas or fluid from a formation into a wellbore, and take immediate corrective action to minimise the influx and prevent a well blowout.

The product fully automates influx detection and shut-in sequences during drilling, speeding up the process and reducing the human factor.

It has gone through extensive testing to validate the concept by programming well data into drilling simulators.

Commenting on the funding award, Mr Atchison said: “We are pleased to work with OGTC to deliver their goal on improving the safety and efficiency of the oil and gas industry”.

“This partnership will help to consolidate our technology and demonstrate that by using automated well control technology to detect and react to a kick, the risks to well control and a potential blowout can be dramatically reduced.”

Malcolm Banks, well construction solution centre manager at the OGTC, said: “The OGTC is pleased to support Safe Influx in the development and testing of their automated well control technology.

“This project is supported by industry partners and aligned with the Wells Solution Centre Roadmap focus area of ‘flawless delivery’, specifically the theme of decision-making.

“This technology could represent a further step towards automation of well operations and has the potential to enhance real-time decision-making in critical well control situations.”

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Craigmill, Pitcaple, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom, AB51 5HP
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