Repairing pipes at home is time consuming and can run up a bill into the thousands of dollars. In the oil patch, reparation is a multi-million dollar task that requires a lot of manpower and digging. Because oil wells, gathering systems and pipes never contain only crude oil or natural gas, corrosion inhibitors are added to them. Sometimes, up to two-thirds of the production can be water. This water may be highly saline and can contain sour gas, making corrosion inhibitors a useful additive.
Corrosion inhibitors are liquids meant to coat the insides of metallic structures to prevent rusting. When added in insufficient amounts to a pipe, they can be ineffective. When added in excessive amounts, they can be wasted. Enter the QuatBox: an innovative, practical, and durable device developed by Wilson Analytical, with engineering support from the Alberta Centre for Advanced MNT Products (ACAMP). The QuatBox not only offers a solution to the problem of corrosion inhibitor monitoring, but it acts as a lab on a tailgate. Literally.
A water sample from the target system is gathered, placed into a cuvette, inserted into the QuatBox, and tested. Data is transmitted via USB connection to a small laptop computer. One minute later, results are in, without spending time transporting samples from the field to the lab. No one will even have to leave the field. Work resumes, and lost productivity is kept to a minimum.
The device works based on the principles of fluorescence spectrometry. Wilson’s software has a built-in calibration curve, which measures a collected sample against the lab standard — almost instantly. The QuatBox illuminates a cross-section of the sample, and the fluorescent material in the sample (invisible to the naked eye) is detected by sensors, which is matched to the software’s calibration curve. This gives the tester the concentration of corrosion inhibitors in parts-per-million, plotted on a graph.
The device took a lot of market insight to create, as well as support from chemists, engineers, programmers, and funding. Technology Futures provided $10,000 through the Innovation Vouchers program.