For Environmental Safety, The Cement Impedance Analyzer

2014 Design Excellence Award

One of the 2014 Design Excellence Awards were presented to Cement Impedance Analyzer team members Matthew Beardsworth, Kumiszhan Dybyspayeva, Rubing Jin, Audrey Lewis and Aidyn Shaikhov.

Simone Musso, Schlumberger-Doll Researcher acted as the team client.

From left to right: Senior Lecturer Babak Kia Montazam, Associate Professor of the Practice Alan Pisano, Rubing Jin, Audrey Lewis, Aidyn Shaikhov, Kumiszhan Dybyspayeva, Matthew Beardsworth, and ECE Department Chair Professor David Castañón
From left to right: Senior Lecturer Babak Kia Montazam, Associate Professor of the Practice Alan Pisano, Rubing Jin, Audrey Lewis, Aidyn Shaikhov, Kumiszhan Dybyspayeva, Matthew Beardsworth, and ECE Department Chair Professor David Castañón

Oil Drilling is a huge industry in the United States. Paradoxically, it does not employ a fail-safe system. As the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reminded the nation in 2010, drilling instruments are susceptible to damage. The BP disaster resulted in 11 deaths, and released an estimated 4.9 million of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Department of Energy found that the spill was caused by a drilling rig explosion that led to a wellhead blowout. Suzan Goldenberg and Julia Kollewe, reporters at The Guardian, revealed investigators believe the explosion was preventable in an article entitled “BP and Halliburton knew of Gulf oil well cement flaws.”

Photo by Chitose Suzuki for Boston University Photography.
Photo by Chitose Suzuki for Boston University Photography

Matthew Beardsworth, Kumiszhan Dybyspayeva, Rubing Jin, Audrey Lewis, and Aidyn Shaikhov (ECE ’14) zoomed in on the oil well cement issue for their Senior Design Project. Simone Musso, a Schlumberger-Doll Researcher, acted as the team’s client to guide their efforts throughout the academic school year.

The team created The Cement Impedance Analyzer as a tool to test for cracks in the cement enclosing the steel pipes in oil wells. Their project caught the attention of ECE Day judges, and earned the team a 2014 Design Excellence Award.

To prevent future oil spills, the team examined the cement used to guard the environment from possible leakage. A special cement mixture is used to fill the area between the oil pipe and well wall. When the cement cracks, there is greater potential for oil to escape into the surrounding environment.

Photo by Chitose Suzuki for Boston University Photography.
Photo by Chitose Suzuki for Boston University Photography.

The Cement Impedance Analyzer extracts a cylindrically shaped cement sample in a process that does not leave a footprint on the material. The equipment is an innovative alternative to current testing tools for two reasons: it probes the sample with an electrical current that does not influence the electrons that are being measured, and is extremely cost effective.

The final project deliverable provides hardware to physically extract the cement sample, software to analyze the sample, and a user interface system to display the findings. The user then has the ability to compare various cement samples on a computer screen and decide the optimal solution. The goal of the Cement Impedance Analyzer is to prevent such disasters by eventually having a better structural monitoring through impedance analysis.

Gabriella McNevin and Donald Rock (COM ’17)