The intelligent completion becomes a common way to improve production performance in multilateral and horizontal wells. Today smart downhole completion can be controlled remotely from the surface by using hydraulic lines. However, hydraulically actuated intelligent completion system requires multiple control lines which can be limited by wellhead and packer control lines penetrations. Recently, an all-electric smart system has been developed using a single electric control line in order to manipulate downhole valves, but this novel system is still required a cable which goes from surface to reservoir depth.
The next step of development of the smart well is to eliminate control lines and become the cableless completion system. Reservoir completion without control lines will significantly simplify deployment operation, reduce risk of damaging cables and minimize the cost. It will allow to control unlimited number of laterals or zones along the wellbore. Some service companies already offer a wireless inflow control valve (ICV) completion with pressure pulse telemetry. Maybe in future other methods of data transmission will be available like low frequency electromagnetic waves (now the main challenge is to transmit waves through the fluid column without loss of signal magnitude), light, sound, or chemical reaction. The casing pipe can be used as media for signal transit as well.
Moving forward, perhaps the smart completion does not need to receive command from surface and transfer data back to downhole. What if downhole valve with monitoring system after evaluation of fluid rate and water cut will make decision by itself and adjust the position of valve accordingly. This is what industry called autonomous ICV. There are few development and concepts in the market. For now the main drawback of the autonomous smart completion is that the strategy or program how to react and optimize well production has to be preset inside ICV and customized for each reservoir environment.
It does not matter whether the signal is transmitted or not, the power is needed in the most cases for valve adjustment. The cableless or autonomous smart completion has to have its own downhole power generator or battery to provide the power during whole well life. As an idea, electricity can be generated by using flow turbine, reservoir pressure (Piezoelectricity effect) or temperature (Seebeck effect). Maybe one day a nuclear battery can supply needful energy for smart well operation and data transfer from downhole gauges.
In the long view, smart completion should communicate with adjacent system from offset well. The well to well communication will be a breakthrough of well optimization for such methods like SAGD; completion will regulate steam injection according with production profile. Another application is the communication between producer and injector in order to maintain optimum reservoir pressure and avoid early water breakthrough.
Another perspective direction of the intelligent completion development is to become a proactive system. For example, now monitoring system detects high water saturation when formation fluid with high water fraction already flows through the downhole valve. The operation of valve becomes a post fact action and understandably less effective. The future monitoring system will be able to detect the approach of water flooding front in advance.
Taking into account the turbulence of oil price in the market, the endless process of cost optimization and efficiency improvement, the new product can be introduced to the market very soon. Future of smart completion is not so far away.