Mohammed Ahmed Zaki (left) with Professor Julian Beer (second left) and the IDSI UK team

A new Plymouth company is on a growth path that could see up to 200 people employed at its base in Roborough. Following a period of research and development, IDSI UK is now moving into manufacturing a new instrument for companies to monitor and analyse the health of oil and gas wells more cheaply and accurately than ever before.

To drive its move into production, IDSI UK secured an Innovation Voucher to harness electronics expertise from University of Plymouth. This enabled the company to develop a new prototype to transmit data up to six miles and analyse measurements that are captured by its new instrument.

Innovation Vouchers provide funding for small to medium sized businesses to access the expertise available in higher education establishments. University of Plymouth delivers Innovation Vouchers as part of the wider suite of support services provided by GAIN (the Growth Acceleration and Investment Network), through which the University is working with partners across the South West to help businesses achieve their growth potential.

IDSI UK is now responding to its first ten orders, which will be manufactured at the company’s new production facility. The business is also attracting interest from the US as a result of new environmental legislation that requires companies to undertake regular leak detection tests in oil wells following the 2010 oil spill in Louisiana.

Oil and gas companies are still working with 15-year-old technology to identify the presence of oil and monitor the health of wells. The new device developed by IDSI UK includes 12 sensors to provide a range of measurements, including temperature, pressure, flow-rate, well diameter and inclination, density, resistivity, dielectric, Gamma-ray detection and tubing joint detection. The device operates in wells up to six miles deep, facing temperatures of up to 175°C and pressures of 15000 PSI.

IDSI UK was already confident that its device was a significant improvement on existing technologies, being smaller and more portable, cheaper and offering far more accurate and comprehensive measurements. However, the team had not yet managed to find a way of transmitting the data to the surface or of providing full analysis of the results.

Through the Innovation Voucher, IDSI UK worked with University of Plymouth's Dr Mohammed Zaki Ahmed, who came up with a solution and built a data transmitter-receiver system that the device could utilise. Field tests in Aberdeen confirmed that the ultra-compact system can reliably transmit and receive data from six miles underground. Using the new telemetry system, IDSI UK can now market a product that gathers, transmits and analyses data in a way that will be valuable to oil and gas companies.

Founder and Director of IDSI UK, Colin Tattersall, said: 

“For more than a decade we have had the vision to create a device that would combine different instruments to provide a range of accurate measurements for oil companies. Working with the University of Plymouth has enabled us to complete this vision by producing a device to transmit and analyse the data, allowing companies to make decisions based on the most accurate information. I couldn’t fault the experience we had of working with the University. They were always happy to help and Dr Ahmed came up with a solution that has performed perfectly in our field tests. We hope this will be the first of many collaborations with University of Plymouth and we are already in discussion with them on working together in the future.”

Dr Mohammed Zaki Ahmed, of the School of Computing and Mathematics, said: 

“The request from IDSI was an unusual and challenging one, because it focused on a very uncommon type of communication link for a very niche application. This made it a really interesting project that has already given me real life examples I can use in my teaching. Despite having some thoughts of their own on which technology to use, IDSI were very flexible and open to new ideas. They allowed me space to explore other avenues and gave me a free rein to pursue the approach I thought would work best. This resulted in real innovation – they have a product that is genuinely unique and will blow the competition away.”

Professor Julian Beer, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Regional Enterprise at University of Plymouth, said: 

“This is a perfect example of how university expertise can provide tangible benefits to a business. IDSI UK are a really innovative company and we are proud to have been able to support the development of this exciting new device with our electronics expertise. GAIN is all about joining up business services, assets and expertise and this collaboration shows how, by working together, businesses and University researchers can achieve great things. I wish IDSI UK the very best of luck for the next stage of their journey.”