Low cost and conformal microwave water-cut sensor for optimizing oil production process

  • Muhammad Akram Karimi

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Efficient oil production and refining processes require the precise measurement of water content in oil (i.e., water-cut) which is extracted out of a production well as a byproduct. Traditional water-cut (WC) laboratory measurements are precise, but are incapable of providing real-time information, while recently reported in-line WC sensors (both in research and industry) are usually incapable of sensing the full WC range (0 – 100 %), are bulky, expensive and non-scalable for the variety of pipe sizes used in the oil industry. This work presents a novel implementation of a planar microwave T-resonator for fully non-intrusive in situ WC sensing over the full range of operation, i.e., 0 – 100 %. As opposed to non-planar resonators, the choice of a planar resonator has enabled its direct implementation on the pipe surface using low cost fabrication methods. WC sensors make use of series resonance introduced by a λ/4 open shunt stub placed in the middle of a microstrip line. The detection mechanism is based on the measurement of the T-resonator’s resonance frequency, which varies with the relative percentage of oil and water (due to the difference in their dielectric properties). In order to implement the planar T-resonator based sensor on the curved surface of the pipe, a novel approach of utilizing two ground planes is proposed in this work. The innovative use of dual ground planes makes this sensor scalable to a wide range of pipe sizes present in the oil industry. The design and optimization of this sensor was performed in an electromagnetic Finite Element Method (FEM) solver, i.e., High Frequency Structural Simulator (HFSS) and the dielectric properties of oil, water and their emulsions of different WCs used in the simulation model were measured using a SPEAG-dielectric assessment kit (DAK-12). The simulation results were validated through characterization of fabricated prototypes. Initial rapid prototyping was completed using copper tape, after which a novel reusable 3D-printed mask based fabrication was also successfully implemented, which would resemble screen printing if it were to be implemented in 3D. In order to verify the design’s applicability for the actual scenario of oil wells, where an oil/water mixture is flowing through the pipes, a basic flow loop was constructed in the IMPACT laboratory at KAUST. The dynamic measurements in the flow loop showed that the WC sensor design is also equally applicable for flowing mixtures. The proposed design is capable of sensing the WC with a fine resolution due to its wide sensing range, in the 80 – 190 MHz frequency band. The experimental results for these low cost and conformal WC sensors are promising, and further characterization and optimization of these sensors according to oil field conditions will enable their widespread use in the oil industry.
Date of AwardAug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Science and Engineering
SupervisorAtif Shamim (Supervisor)


  • Microwave T Resonator
  • 3D printing
  • Flow loop
  • Water Cut Sensor
  • Microwave Dielectric Properties
  • Sensor

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