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Tractor communication/control and select fire perforating switch simulations

Abstract

Apparatus and methods for controlling and communicating with one or more tools in a downhole tool string including a tractor, an auxiliary tractor tool, a logging tool, a safety sub, a release mechanism, a unit containing sensors for monitoring downhole conditions, a setting tool, and a perforating gun. Control and communication are accomplished by sending signals from the surface to control switches in the control units on the tool, with redundant switches for safety, to state machines in the respective control units, each state machine returning a signal verifying switch status to the surface. The state machine need not return a signal including a unique identifier.

Claims



What is claimed is:

1. A method of switching wireline voltage between a tractor motor or the tractor output in a downhole tool string including a tractor comprising the steps of: sending a signal to a control unit on the tractor from a surface controller; processing the signal with a state machine on board the tractor for controlling the position of one or more switches located in one or more circuits connecting the wireline to either the tractor motor or a through wire that connects to the tool string wherein the state machine is adapted to identify the state of each said control unit and one or more valid signals for each state of the control unit; if the command is not valid for the state of the control unit, sending an error message from the control unit to the surface controller; if the command is valid for the state of the control unit, performing the command and sending an uplink message comprising the state of the control unit to the surface controller; identifying the relative position of the devices within the tool string by tracking the commands and uplink messages; removing power to the control units if the surface controller receives an error message; and removing power to the control units if the surface controller does not receive an uplink message after the command is sent.

2. The method of claim 1 additionally comprising monitoring one or more operating parameters of the tractor during tractoring.

3. The method of claim 2 wherein the operating parameters of the tractor are monitored by power line carrier communications.

4. The method of claim 1 wherein said switches comprise transistor switches, form-C switches, latching relays, or motorized piston switches.

5. The method of claim 1 wherein signals are transmitted to and from the surface controller by power line carrier communications.

6. The method of claim 1 wherein the control unit transmits an identifier for each state machine.

7. The method of claim 1 wherein the downhole tool string includes one or more auxiliary tractor tools.

8. A method of switching between a safe mode for tractoring and a perforating mode for perforating in a tool string including a tractor and a perforating gun that has been lowered into a well on a wireline comprising the steps of: sending a signal to a control unit on the tractor from a surface controller; processing the signal with a state machine for controlling the position of one or more switches located in one or more circuits for connecting the wireline to either the tractor motor or a through wire connecting to the perforating gun wherein the state machine is adapted to identify the state of each said control unit and one or more valid signals for each state of the control unit; if the command is not valid for the state of the control unit, sending an error message from the control unit to the surface controller; if the command is valid for the state of the control unit, performing the command and sending an uplink message comprising the state of the control unit to the surface controller; identifying the relative position of the devices within the tool string by tracking the commands and uplink messages; removing power to the control units if the surface controller receives an error message; and removing power to the control units if the surface controller does not receive an uplink message after the command is sent.

9. The method of claim 8 wherein the switches comprise transistor switches, form-C switches, latching relays, or motorized piston switches.

10. The method of claim 8 wherein the tool string includes a safety sub between the tractor and the perforating gun.

11. The method of claim 10 additionally comprising blocking wireline voltage between the safety sub and the perforating gun.

12. The method of claim 10 wherein the state machine and switches are located on the safety sub.

13. The method of claim 8 wherein the tool string includes one or more of a safety sub, release device, and/or setting tool.

14. The method of claim 8 wherein signals are transmitted to and from the surface by power line carrier communications.

15. The method of claim 14 additionally comprising shunting the through wire to ground at a frequency higher than communication frequencies.

16. The method of claim 14 wherein perforating is done in one polarity and communications are done in the opposite polarity.

17. The method of claim 8 wherein an identifier for each state machine.

18. A method for controlling one or more devices on a tool string in a wellbore with a surface computer and a surface controller comprising the steps of: sending a command from the surface controller down a cable to one or more control units located on the devices in the tool string, said control unit comprising a state machine for identifying the status of each said control unit and one or more valid commands for each status of the control unit; the method further comprising: verifying the command is valid for the status of the control unit; if the command is not valid for the status of the control unit, sending an error message from the control unit to the surface controller; if the command is valid for the status of the control unit, performing the command and sending an uplink message comprising the status of the control unit to the surface controller; identifying the relative position of the devices within the tool string by tracking the commands and uplink messages; removing power to the control units if the surface controller receives an error message; and removing power to the control units if the surface controller does not receive an uplink message after the command is sent.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein the return signal comprises an identifier for the state machine.

20. The method of claim 18 wherein signals are transmitted between the surface controller and the control units by power line carrier communications.

21. The method of claim 18 wherein performing the command comprises actuating transistor switches, form-C switches, latching relays, or motorized piston switches.

22. The method of claim 18 wherein performing the command comprises actuating switches of either a perforating gun or setting tool.

23. A method for checking one or more devices in a tool string before lowering the tool string into a wellbore comprising the steps of: sending a signal from a pre-check controller to one or more control units located on the devices in the tool string, each said control unit comprising a state machine for identifying the status of each said control unit; characterized in that: the state machine of each control unit is operable to identify one or more valid signals for each state of the control unit; the method further comprising: verifying the signal is valid for the state of the control unit; if the command is not valid for the state of the control unit, sending an error message from the control unit to the pre-check controller; if the command is valid for the state of the control unit, performing the command and sending an uplink message comprising the state of the control unit to the pre-check controller; identifying the relative position of the devices within the tool string by tracking the commands and uplink messages; removing power to the control units if the pre-check controller receives an error message; and removing power to the control units if the pre-check controller does not receive an uplink message after the command is sent.

24. The method of claim 23 wherein the state machine of each of said control unit is provided with a pre-assigned identifier for each said control unit.
Description



Perforating guns are used in operations to complete an oil or gas well by creating a series of tunnels through the casing into the formation, allowing hydrocarbons to flow into the wellbore. Such operations can involve multiple guns that create separate perforations in multiple producing zones where each gun is fired separately. Operations can also involve single or multiple guns in conjunction with setting a plug. The guns are typically conveyed by wireline, tubing or downhole tractors.

Switches are typically coupled to each detonator or igniter in a string of guns to determine the sequence of firing. One simple type of switch uses a diode that allows two guns (or a gun and a plug) to be fired, one with positive voltage and the other with negative voltage. Percussion switches are typically used to selectively fire three or more guns. Percussion switches are mechanical devices that use the force of the detonation of one gun to connect electrically to the next one, starting with the bottom gun and working up. The devices also disconnect from the gun just fired, preventing the wireline from shorting out electrically. One problem with percussion switches is that if any one switch in the gun string fails to actuate, the firing sequence cannot continue, and the gun string has to be pulled out of the wellbore, redressed and run again.

More recently, electronic switches have been used in select-fire guns. Unlike the percussion actuated mechanical switches, selective firing of guns can continue in the event of a misfired gun or a gun that cannot be fired because it is flooded with wellbore fluid. One commercial switch of this type has downlink communication but is limited in the number of individual guns that can be fired in one run. As with the percussion switches, the system relies on detecting changes in current at the surface to identify gun position, which may not be a reliable method to identify gun position in a changing environment.

Another type of electronic switch has both downlink and uplink communication, is not as limited in total number of guns that can be fired in a run, but is somewhat slow to fire because of the long bidirectional bit sequence required for communication. Both downlink and uplink communications use a unique address associated with each switch to identify correct gun position prior to firing.

A common problem in operating downhole devices is keeping unwanted power from causing catastrophic actions. Some examples include a perforating gun receiving voltage that accidentally fires the gun downhole, a setting tool being activated prematurely, a release s device suddenly deploying and high voltage destroying electronics in a well logging tool because its power rating is exceeded. A solution is to stop unwanted power by inserting a blocking mechanism between the power supply and the downhole device that is to be protected. In a standard perforating job, the power to log and to detonate the perforating gun is located at the surface. Power can also be generated downhole using batteries. Recently, there have been detonator designs that incorporate electronics to block unwanted power from firing a gun.

The high voltage necessary to power a downhole tractor presents particular problems in protecting the tool string it conveys. The surface voltages powering a tractor are typically 1500 VDC or 1000 VAC. Tractors normally have an internal design that prevents tractor power from being transmitted below the tractor, but sometimes the circuitry fails or does not work properly, allowing induced voltage or direct voltage to pass through the tractor into the tool string below, which can include perforating guns or logging tools. To protect the tool string, one or more special safety subs are located between it and the tractor. Some of the subs use electrical/mechanical relays to block accidental tractor power. Others use electronic switches that are commanded to turn off and on using communication messages from the surface that contain a unique address.

More recently, the American Petroleum Institute has issued a recommended practice for safe tractor operations, RP 67, which includes a recommendation that the tractor be designed so that it blocks unwanted voltage from passing through and that the design is free of any single point failure. In addition, there must be an independent, certified blocking device between the tractor and any perforating gun to prevent unwanted power from being applied to a gun.

It is, therefore, an object of the present invention to provide a command and response system featuring fast bidirectional communication while allowing a large number of guns to be fired selectively. The system requires communication through a cable and can include communications with a downhole tractor and safety sub. Two embodiments are provided, both using a state machine as part of the electrical switch to command and identify status within the switch. In one, the gun position before firing is uniquely identified by keeping track of the sequence of states. In the other, correct gun position is established by state and an uplink of a unique identifier. Unlike bidirectional communication electronic switches, a returned downlink of the identifier is not necessary.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a system that prevents tractor power from migrating past the tractor. Elements of this design are employed in a separate safety sub that acts as a further safety bather to block unwanted power to the tool string.

Other objects of the present invention, and many advantages, will be clear to those skilled in the art from the description of the several embodiment(s) of the invention and the to drawings appended hereto. Those skilled in the art will also recognize that the embodiment(s) described herein are only examples of specific embodiment(s), set out for the purpose of describing the making and using of the present invention.

The present invention provides a system for communicating bi-directionally with a tractor that includes means for connecting and disconnecting electrical power below the tractor. The system also allows bidirectional communication to sensors contained in the tractor for monitoring certain operational functions. The communication and uplink data transmission can occur with tractor power either off or on. A separate safety sub uses common elements of the bidirectional communication and switching to block unwanted voltage and to pass allowable voltage. In addition, methods are disclosed for disconnecting a shorted wireline below the tractor or below the safety sub.

Also provided is a system for bi-directional communication with other devices such as selectively fired perforating guns, setting tool, release devices and downhole sensors. According to described embodiments, the invention features a system to select and fire specific guns in a perforating string. In one embodiment each switch unit is interrogated and returns a unique address that is retrieved under system control from the surface. Each location within the gun string is identified with a particular address.

In another aspect, the present invention provides an embodiment in which every switch unit is identical without an identifying address. Each switch unit's sequential position in the gun string is identified by keeping proper track of the number of surface commands along with the uplink status from an embedded state machine. This predetermined chain of events provides surface information for determining the unique location of each switch unit in a given gun string. These enhancements allow for faster communication, initialization and firing time. As an added feature, all switches are exactly the same with no unique embedded address to program and manage.

Also provided is a method for controlling one or more devices on a tool string in a wellbore with a surface computer and a surface controller comprising the steps of sending a signal down a cable extending into the wellbore to one or more control units located on the devices in the tool string, each said control unit comprising a state machine for identifying the status of each said control unit, processing the signal with the state machine, controlling the position of one or more switches located on the device in the tool string when the state machine for that device processes a valid signal, and returning a signal validating switch action to the surface computer.

In another aspect, a method of switching wireline voltage between a tractor motor or the tractor output in a downhole tool string including a tractor is provided. The method comprises the steps of sending a signal to a control unit on the tractor from the surface, processing the signal with a state machine on board the tractor for controlling the position of one or more switches located in one or more circuits connecting the wireline to either the tractor motor or a through wire that connects to the tool string; and returning a signal validating switch action to the surface. In another aspect, a method of switching between a safe mode for tractoring and a perforating mode for perforating in a tool string including a tractor and a perforating gun that has been lowered into a well on a wireline is provided. The method comprises the steps of sending a signal to a control unit on the tractor from the surface, processing the signal with a state machine for controlling the position of one or more switches located in one or more circuits for connecting the wireline to either the tractor motor or a through wire connecting to the perforating gun, and returning a signal validating switch action to the surface.

Also provided is an explosive initiator that is integrated with a control unit comprising means for receiving a signal from a cable to which the explosive initiator is electrically connected, a microcontroller including a state machine for validating a signal from the signal receiving means, a switch responsive to an output from the microcontroller when a signal is validated by the state machine; and an explosive initiator that is connected to the switch.

In yet another aspect, the present invention provides an apparatus for checking the function of one or more downhole tools before lowering the tools into a wellbore comprising a pre-check controller, electrical connections between the pre-check controller and one or more downhole tools to be lowered into a wellbore, and one or more control units mounted on each downhold tool that are adapted for bi-directional communication with the pre-check controller, each control unit comprising a state machine for identifying the status of each control unit, the pre-check controller being adapted to send a plurality of commands to the respective control units.

Also provided is a method for checking one or more devices in a tool string before lowering the tool string into a wellbore comprising the steps of sending a signal to one or more control units located on the devices in the tool string, each control unit comprising a state machine for identifying the status of each control unit; and processing the signal with the state machine. The position of one or more switches located on the device in the tool string is controlled when the state machine for that device processes a valid signal and a signal validating switch action is returned from the control unit.

Also provided is a communication system than allows both serial and parallel control of downhole devices including tractors, auxiliary tractor tools, well logging tools, release mechanisms, and sensors. The advantage of parallel control is that individual devices can be interrogated without going through a series path, thereby being more accessible. Each tool in the parallel arrangement has a control unit that carries a tool identifier as part of its uplink communication. A detonator that contains an integral switch unit is also provided.

Also provided is a system including several components, a tractor, surface controller, surface computer, and safety sub as follows:

Tractor 1. Use of dual processors, each controlling a set of switches for connecting a W/L to either a tractor motor or a tool below for directing the wireline for powering the tractor power or providing a direct through wire mode. 2. A Zener diode in series with the final output to decouple the wireline in case of a short, thereby allowing communication to the micro in order to actuate a switch to disconnect a shorted circuit to regain tractor functions. 3. An inline series transformer on the output of the tractor with one end of the primary winding connecting directly to the tractor output while the other end connecting to tools below. In addition, the output end of the transformer primary is capacitive coupled to ground. In the event of a shorted W/L, a high frequency signal can be sent down the wireline and produce power on the transformer secondary for actuating a switch such as a motorized piston switch or a form C switch, thereby clearing the shorted wireline. 4. Pre-selecting W/L switches within a tractor and remaining in a fixed or latched position for further use by another service operation. 5. Provide real time status for temperature. 6. Provide real time status for downhole voltage. 7. Gang switch for control and status in a piston contact geometry. 8. Design applies to both AC or DC driven tractors. 9. Supports 2-way communication. 10. Receives downlink commands. 11. Transmits switch status. 12. Transmits sensor data (Temp, V, RPM, etc.). 13. No single point failures in Tractor itself. 14. Complies with RP67.

Surface Controller 1. Wireless interface for sending and receiving data between a laptop computer and a Surface Controller. 2. Laptop provides: Control and human interface via special program Monitor System Status Archives data Job History Bluetooth between Laptop and Surface Controller. 3. Interfaces between laptop and Tractor. 4. Sends commands and solicits data.

Surface Computer 1. Wireless connection to a surface controller. 2. Monitor which power supply is connected between tractor or perforating and run appropriate program. 3. Surface computer for controlling tractor pre-check, tractor operations including communications and sending commands, and power for perforating. 4. Communicate using a power line carrier during tractor operation with either AC or DC power. 5. Correlation (CCL) during tractor operation. Safety Sub 1. Use of dual processors, each controlling a set of switches for connecting a perforating gun string to either ground or to a downhole W/L. 2. A Zener diode in series with the final output to decouple the wireline in case of a short thereby allowing communication to the micro in order to actuate a switch to disconnect a shorted circuit in order to regain tractor functions. 3. Provide an inline transformer on the output of the Safety Sub having the output capacitive coupled to ground. In the event of a shorted W/L, a high frequency signal can be sent down the wireline and produce power on the transformer secondary for actuating a switch such as a motorized piston switch or a form C switch, thereby clearing the shorted wireline, and produce power on the transformer secondary for actuating a piston switch and clearing the shorted wireline in the same way as with the tractor. 4. A wireless interface for sending and receiving data between a laptop computer and a Surface Controller. 5. Pre-selecting Safe Sub W/L switches and remain in a fixed position for further use by another service operation. 6. Supports two-way communication. 7. Receives Safe and Perf commands from surface. 8. Transmits switch status. 9. Independent Unit with no single point failures. 10. Uses same design as portion of tractor electronics. 11. Complies with RP67.

Referring now to the figures, FIG. 1 is a diagram of a tool string that includes a perforating gun string, downhole Sensors and Release Device, a Safety Sub for preventing unwanted voltages from getting to the gun string, a Casing Collar Locator (CCL) or other positioning device for locating the gun string within a cased well bore, a Tractor Unit for pushing tools along a horizontal well bore, and a wireline unit containing a wireline wench, Surface Controller, computers and power supplies. A wireline collector provides a method for selecting either the Surface Controller or the Tractor Power Unit.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a Surface Controller that integrates perforating, tractor operations, logging and other well services, including pre-checks for tools at the surface. This pre-check would include, but is not limited to, Tractor and Safety Sub operations, select fire switches, sensors, release devices and communication links associated with logging and perforating operations and tractoring. The Surface Controller also supports receiving and transmitting signals to a Tractor, Safety Sub, Release Device, Sensors and to Switch Unit. Controlling power supplies archiving job data, program control and safety barriers are also functions of the Surface Controller.

FIG. 3 shows tool strings being prepared for downhole service. In FIG. 3A, a Surface Controller interfaces to a Tractor for providing power and communications. Typical pre-checks and set-ups for the Tractor would be to set all switches to an initial condition for safe operation and to check communication functions. Communications and functions are also checked for the Sensors, Release Devices and select switches within the perforating gun. FIG. 3B shows a Surface Controller for checking Tractor functions only. FIG. 3C shows a surface check of only the Release Device, Sensors and select switches. Any combination of tools can be tested at the surface. A laptop computer provides program control to the Surface Controller through a wireless connection.

FIG. 4 is a Pre-check Controller block diagram used in the surface pre-check shown in FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is a flow chart describing program control for performing a pre-check on the gun string containing selective Switch Units prior to running in hole. This embodiment does not use any addressing between the Switch Units and surface computer.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram of the Tractor Controller electronics for sending and receiving commands and controlling switches for tractor operation or perforating events.

FIG. 7 shows the combination of position for two sets of form C switches. No single switch can be positioned such that the tractor would be unsafe for perforating.

FIG. 8 is a block diagram of various sensors within the tractor electronics.

FIGS. 9A and 9B are a block diagram of a Safety Sub that resides on top of a perforating gun string and a detail diagram of a motorized piston switch suitable for use in the circuits of the Safety Sub, respectively.

FIG. 10 is a flow chart for a Tractor Controller single State Machine for controlling either tractor electronics, shown in FIG. 6, or Safety Sub, shown in FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is a State Diagram for a single State Machine which can control either the electronics of the Tractor, shown in FIG. 6, or the Safety Sub, shown in FIG. 9.

FIG. 12 is a block diagram for a Power Line Carrier Communication (PLCC) interface to the wireline. The interface could be the same at the surface and at the tractor.

FIG. 13 shows a tool string that includes Switch Units in a gun string for firing selected guns, a wireline, a logging truck equipped with a power supply and a surface computer for controlling job events such as communication with the Switch Units, data storage, power supplies current and voltages, all following standard safety procedures.

FIG. 14 is a block diagram of a perforating Switch Unit according to an embodiment shown in FIG. 13. The Switch Unit shown is adapted for a positive voltage on the wireline conductor with the wireline armor being at ground potential.

FIG. 15 is a block diagram showing a Switch Unit integrated into a detonator.

FIG. 16 is flow chart describing the program control sequence for initializing a three gun string and firing the bottom gun. This embodiment does not use any addressing between the Switch Units and surface computer.

FIG. 17 is a state diagram for the state machine within a Switch Unit and defines the predetermined logical flow for selectively firing detonators in a gun string. This embodiment does not use any addressing between the Switch Units and surface computer.

FIG. 18 is a flow chart describing the program control and sequence for initializing a two gun string and firing the bottom gun using common downlink commands for all Switch Units that solicits a unique address from each Switch Unit.

FIG. 19A is a diagram of a generalized perforating tool string that includes a setting tool and auxiliary devices such as sensors and cable release mechanisms. The diagram illustrates both series and parallel communication paths. FIG. 19B shows a tool string including multiple auxiliary tractor and logging tools. The auxiliary and logging tools shown in FIG. 19B are powered by positive DC voltage from the surface as shown in FIG. 19C.

FIG. 20 is a flow chart describing the program control sequence for communicating with devices that are connected in a tool string in parallel and in series.

FIG. 21 is a state diagram defining the predetermined logical flow for selecting various devices that are connected in a tool string in parallel and in series.

In more detail, and referring to FIG. 1, a tractor system is shown equipped with a tractor 10, casing collar locator (CCL) 12 (or any correlation device for depth association), Safety Sub 14 for preventing tractor voltages from migrating to the gun system, and set of sensors for monitoring downhole events/Release Device 18 for separating the gun string from tractor 10 and perforating gun 18. Tractor 10 functions to push perforating gun 18 along horizontal or nearly horizontal sections of an oil well. A logging truck 20 typically houses power supplies and computers for performing required logging and perforating operations. A separate power supply 22 is typically used for supplying tractor power. The tractor is powered through a wireline 24 using high voltage in the range of 1000 Volts AC or DC.

Perforating power supply 26 and Tractor Power Unit 22 are not connected to the Wireline Collector 28 at the same time. Wireline Collector 28 provides a means for selecting a plurality of different signals or power for a specific operation. In all cases, only one signal and/or power source 22, 26 is connected to wireline collector 28 at a time.

Referring now also to FIG. 2, the supporting peripherals used during a tractor and perforating interval are shown. The Surface Controller 30 interfaces with all power supplies, commands ON/OFF sequences, and controls and delivers voltage and current to the tool string. In addition, surface computer 32 runs software for controlling and recording all communication events during a perforating job, such as position of the Switch Unit within the gun string. Computer 32 is also provided with a monitor (not shown) for displaying a visual tool string and events during a job. On many wells, the tractor operator does not have the capability of running additional services because of equipment differences or for lack of integrated support hardware. The embodiment shown illustrates a Surface Computer 32 and peripherals for supporting both perforating and tractor operation, which provides more reliable and safer operation. The more common arrangement has separate responsibility for controlling tractor and perforating operations.

Surface Controller 30 runs such events as pre-check and initialization of tractor 10, controlling tractor power supply 22 during tractor operation, running embedded software for logging during tractor operations, controlling sequences during a perforating job, communicating with and controlling other tools in a string such as drop-off joints (to disconnect in case of being stuck in the hole), safety sub functions, and operating parameters of tractor 10 such as temperature, RPM, voltage and/or current, etc. A Downlink Driver 34 typically interfaces to wireline 24 through transformer 36 to send signals down wireline 24 while powering the tools below. Uplink signals are monitored across a Signal Transformer/current-viewing-resistor (CVR) 38 and decoded for message integrity by uplink 40. Series wireline switch 42 turns power ON or OFF under computer control and also by means of using a manual removable safety key 44.

Surface Computer 32 is also equipped with a wireless or cable, or combination of wireless and cable, interface 46 to Pre-Check Controller 48. Pre-Check Controller could include a laptop, PDA or any preprogrammed device that controls predetermined events, a laptop computer being shown in FIG. 2. Pre-Check Controller 48 is connected to the tractor or gun string as shown in FIG. 3 while at the surface for pre-check procedures during which wireline safety switch/key 44 is in the OFF position with the key removed. Also due to a low power RF restriction during perforating, it may be necessary to have the Surface Computer 32 equipped with an extension cable having a receiver/transmitter attached to one end to allow the wireless path to be a shorter distance and in line of sight.

As described above, Surface Controller 30 is equipped with power supplies 22, 26, one for perforating and another for tractor operations, in separate compartments for safety reasons, and only one is connected to wireline 24 at a time through a Perf/Tractor switch in wireline collector 28. The switch could also be a physical connector that allows only one connector to be installed at a time. Those skilled in the art will also recognize that computer 32 can be configured to sense whichever power supply is connected and only allow the programs to run that are associated with a particular power supply.

FIG. 3 shows various tool string configurations being tested at the surface before running in the hole. The support equipment for setup and test operations is Pre-Check Controller 48 that connects to the wireline input of the tool string, provides power and communications to the tractor input, and receives program control from a laptop through a wireless or cable connection, or from a Surface Controller as shown in FIG. 2. Radio frequency power must remain low in a perforating environment and therefore communication links are not limited to a single RF link. The communication link could be implemented using RF repeaters to get around steel buildings and remain in the line of sight, use RF receiver/transmitters on an extension cable, or a simple cable connection.

FIG. 3A shows typical pre-check functions for a tractor system equipped with a Tractor 10, CCL 12, Safety Sub 14, Release Sub and Sensor Unit 16, and perforating gun 18 containing selective Control Units as described below. Types of tests performed for Tractor 10 and Safety Sub 14 include, but are not limited to, verifying communications, setting up switches to safe positions to perform tractor operations, soliciting status from the Tractor and Safety Sub switches, and other tractor functions such as verifying sensor data transmissions. Tests for the Sensors and Release Device 16 include communications and function tests. Tests for perforating gun 18 include sending wireline ON commands to the series string of Control Units, verifying communication to all Control Units, along with correlating a Control Unit to a specific gun. These checks are normally performed without perforating gun 18 attached, although with the Pre-Check Controller 48 described herein, it is possible to leave perforating gun 18 attached because the Surface Controller 30 in one embodiment is designed to limit its current output in compliance with the above-described API RP67. FIG. 3B shows a pre-check for a tool string that includes only a Tractor 10 and Safety Sub 14. In this embodiment, the perforating gun string is equipped with other type of select fire devices and would not be tested by Pre-Check Controller 48. FIG. 3C shows a pre-check for a Sensor Unit and Release Device 16 and perforating gun string equipped with selective Control Units tested as shown in FIG. 3A. The Surface Controller 30 or laptop also stores pre-check and setup data for conformation of proper operation. Using a Surface Controller located in logging truck 20 instead of a laptop, all functions, including pre-check, tractor operation, depth correlation, and perforating, can be performed inside the wireline unit, reducing total operational rig time.

The purpose of the pre-check is to verify proper function of all control units connected to the wireline. Tractor Control Units, Safety Sub Control Units, Sensors, and Release Devices are tested. An additional reduced current and voltage power supply is utilized for testing Switch Units within a gun string. These tests verify that the Control Units are communicating and functioning correctly before running the perforating gun in the hole, and for safety reasons, are typically not done with the same power supply used to fire the gun downhole. As described above, a special power supply is used that generates communication power signals with limited current output in accordance with API RP 67. Pre-Check Controller 48 commands a special internal power supply and sends power along with signals to the Control Units in the gun string through a connecting cable. Pre-Check Controller 48 receives wireless commands from a laptop; alternatively, Surface Controller 30 communicates wirelessly using communication protocols such as BlueTooth which limits the wireless output power according to established commercial standards.

FIG. 4 illustrates the Pre-Check Controller 48 and functional blocks required for conducting a tractor pre-check. Pre-Check Controller 48 is a self-contained, battery operated device that communicates on one side through a wireless or cable link to a laptop or Surface Controller 30 (FIG. 2) and connects directly on the other side to the tractor input. A State Machine, implemented within the microprocessor, controls all events based on commands received and is recommended for most solutions where there are non time-critical tasks to perform. In this embodiment and throughout the following descriptions, a State Machine is implemented within the structure of a microprocessor. In addition, the microprocessor is provided with additional functions such as signal conditioning, analog-to-digital inputs, digital inputs, driver outputs, watch dog timers, etc., all as known in the art. As described herein, a state machine is as an algorithm that can be in one of a small number of states. A state is a condition that causes a prescribed relationship of inputs to outputs and of inputs to next states. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the state machine described is a Mealy machine, which is a state machine where the outputs are a function of both present state and input, as opposed to a Moore machine in which outputs are a function only of state. The state machine as defined above can also be implemented using an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), programmable logic array (PLA), or any other logical elements conforming to a predefined algorithm.

A Downlink Driver 50 provides an interface link between the Microprocessor and a Signal Transformer 52 that is capacitor coupled to the wireline. Induced signals from transformer 52 are received by the Tractor or Safety Sub (not shown in FIG. 4). An Uplink Detector 54 provides signal interfaces between the Microprocessor and a Current Viewing Resistor (CVR) 56 or Signal Transformer 52. The components of Uplink Detector sense and condition signals received from either the Tractor Unit or Safety Sub. Power for the surface controller is derived from on-board batteries 58 that can be turned ON and OFF 60. Power supplies 62 convert the battery power for proper operation of electronics and tractor communication. A current limiting element 64 in series with the power output limits the current level in compliance with API RP 67. A series wireline switch provides a means for turning the power ON or OFF under computer control.

As an example, the following describes a pre-check event for a plurality of Switch Units. FIG. 5 is a flow chart describing a first embodiment of the program control for performing the pre-check. Unlike the second embodiment described below, in this embodiment, no unique address(es) is/are used in the uplink communications. The position of each Switch Unit in the perforating string is determined by recognition of the status of the respective State Machine and the proper sequencing of messages.

The default or initial condition of the Deto Switch, see FIG. 14, is the OFF position, thereby disallowing power to all detonators. The default condition for each W/L switch is also in the OFF position so that there is no wireline connection beyond the input of the top Switch Unit. Pre-Check Controller 48 commands a power supply to apply a power signal to the gun string through a connecting cable. Power energizes the microprocessor or State Machine in the top Switch Unit. Pre-Check Controller 48 then interrogates the top Switch Unit and sends a State (0) command (see FIG. 17 for a state machine diagram). After receiving the first message, the top Switch Unit validates the message. Upon receiving a valid message, the State Machine in the top Switch Unit advances and uplinks a message containing switch status, state machine status, and a security check word. Upon receiving an invalid address, the Switch Unit uplinks an invalid message response. Upon receiving the first uplink message, the surface computer validates the message, verifies the state machine status, and downlinks a W/L ON command. If the Switch Unit sent an error message or the uplink message was invalid in any way, the power to the gun string would be removed and the process restarted. After receiving the second downlink message, the top Switch Unit validates the message. If a valid message was received, the Switch Unit advances the State Machine of the top Switch Unit, turns the W/L Switch ON, and uplinks a message containing switch status, state machine status and a security check word. The top Switch Unit then goes into hibernation. This process is then repeated for each and every Switch Unit in the gun string

There are several variations on this sequence. One variation is for the top Switch Unit to send an automatic uplink message after being powered up containing a State (0) status, State Machine status, and security check word. The surface computer records and validates the message and returns a downlink command to advance the State Machine to (1), which turns the W/L Switch ON. The top Switch Unit then sends a second uplink message that contains a State (1) status. Applying power to the next Switch Unit wakes it up and triggers an automatic uplink message of its current State (0) status. The uplink is delayed to allow the second uplink message to be received first at the surface. The second Switch Unit is then commanded from the surface to advance to State (1), and so forth. By recognizing the change in state of each Switch Unit as it is communicated with, the surface computer can uniquely identify each Switch Unit in the perforating gun string.

A tractor has two basic operation modes, Tractor Mode or Logging Mode. In Tractor Mode, high power is delivered to the tractor motor for pushing tools along a horizontal section of a well. In Logging Mode, the tractor provides only a through-wire connection to tools connected below the tractor. FIG. 6 illustrates a control function for directing the wireline voltages to either the tractor motor, Tractor Mode, or directing the wireline to the tractor output, Logging Mode. Voltages for powering the tractor must never be present at the tractor output. After the tractor has pushed the tool string into location, a redirection to Logging Mode is required. The wireline must first be disconnected from the tractor motor and then reconnected to the tractor output.

The process of switching the wireline is accomplished using small voltage and low current signals. The following disclosure describes a control system within the tractor that safely disconnects the wireline from the tractor motor and connects it to the output of the tractor. The system only allows connection to the Logging Mode when certain criteria are met and verified, and contains redundancy so that no single point failure can cause unwanted voltage below the tractor. Referring to FIG. 6, the system comprises two similar circuits 66 connected in series. First circuit 66A provides control for a set of switches 68A that connects the wireline to either the tractor motor or to the second set of switches 68B within the second circuit 66B. Second circuit 66B provides control for a set of switches 68B that connects the output of the tractor to either ground or to the first set of switches. Each set of single-pole-double-pole (SPDT/form C) switches is ganged together with another like pair of contacts in order to obtain status of the combined pair. The switches 68A, 68B shown in FIG. 6 are generic and can be one or more of many different types such as latching relays, latching solenoid piston switches, bidirectional solid state switches in the form of N and P channel Field Effect Transistors (FET), insolated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) with high side drivers, etc. The Switch Control 70A, 70B between the respective microprocessors 72A, 72B and switches 68A, 68B is designed for the appropriate action as known to those skilled in the art. Switches 68A, 68B are controlled from the surface by sending signals to the control units that are decoded by onboard microprocessor 72A, 72B, processed by the respective state machine, and used to control the position of the switches. In addition, switch status is returned to the surface, validating switch action. Each control unit is also provided with an onboard power supply 74A, 74B and transmit 76A, 76B and receive 78A, 78B circuits for communication.

To comply with safety standards for perforating while using a tractor, it is necessary not to have single point failures that cause unwanted voltages on the output of the tractor. The embodiment in FIG. 6 shows the combinations positions for the Motor switch and Log switch. Each switch has two positions, yielding a total of four combinations, shown in FIGS. 7A, B, C, and D. In all cases, the wireline voltage must pass through two separate switches controlled by separate circuits before reaching the output, satisfying the single point failure requirement.

It is sometimes important to solicit critical operating parameters associated with operation of a well tractor including, but are not limited to, temperature, head voltage and current delivered to the tractor unit, as well as tractor motor RPM. These and other operating parameters are retrieved in real time by surface computer 32 using a power line carrier communications (PLCC) that provide for both downlink and uplink communication signals to be sent over a wireline in real time while the tractor is powered. On the transmit side, communication signals are injected onto the wireline and ride on top the power. On the receiver side, signals are extracted using band pass filter techniques, allowing commands to be sent to the tractor control electronics as well as retrieving status from downhole events. FIG. 8 depicts a separate microcontroller using the same protocol as in FIGS. 6 and 9. Input voltage 80 into tractor motor 82 is sensed using a resistor voltage divider for DC tractors or a step-down transformer followed by a bridge rectifier for an AC tractor. These status signals are conditioned, scaled, and sent to an analog-to-digital input of microprocessor 84. Monitoring the current delivered to a tractor motor can reveal whether a motor has lost traction, is in a lock rotor condition, or being over- or under-loaded relative to well bore temperature. Tractor current is monitored by sensing voltage across a current-viewing-resistor (CVR) 86 using an operational amplifier 88 having sufficient gain for reading by an analog-to-digital input. The scale factors used depend on load ranges, analog to digital bits, and required accuracy.

A plurality of temperature sensors, shown schematically at reference numeral 90, may be used to monitor downhole temperature, motor winding temperature, boring bit temperature, or any other necessary tractor functions as known in the art. Implementation is accomplished by a variety of sensors. Examples include a resistor-thermal-device (RTD) associated with a reference voltage, thermocouples, junction voltages of semiconductors, and voltage-to-frequency converter associated with an RTD. In all of the examples, a calibration and scale factor is part of an overall design as known to persons practicing the art. The sensor outputs mentioned are represented by either a voltage or frequency and monitored by either an analog-to-digital input or time domain counter and converted to temperature. The revolutions-per-minute (RPM) of various motors within a tractor is important for milling operations as well as pushing pay loads to location. The RPM sensor 91 accumulates pulses generated as a function of motor shaft rotation. Various sensors may be used including, but not limited to, magnetic field coupling, optical, infrared, switch contacts, and brush encoders. Pulses generated are counted over a selected time frame for RPM derivation.

As part of the safety requirements for perforating with a tractor system, a separate independent device, typically the above-described Safety Sub 14 (FIG. 1), must be placed between the output from tractor 10 and the input to perforating gun 18. In addition, the Safety Sub must not have any single point failures and is typically certified by an outside authority. The Safety Sub has two modes of operation, Safe Mode during all tractor operations and Perf Mode only when perforating. Switching between modes is done only after tractor power has been disconnected at the surface.

The block diagram in FIG. 9A describes a system that has no single point failures. This is accomplished by placing two similar circuits 92A, 92B connected in series for redundancy. For example, when the first (bottom) circuit 92A is in Safe Mode, switch K1 disconnects from the wireline and connects the entire second (top) circuit to ground. The Safety Sub output is also grounded either through switch K1 or switch K2. If the first (bottom) circuit 92A is in the Perf Mode, switch K1 connects the second (top) circuit 92B to the wireline. The output is again protected by the second switch K2. In order for the wireline voltages to pass to the Safe Sub output, two sets of switches, K1 and K2, must be commanded and set to the Perf Mode. The second circuit 92B provides control to a set of switches identified as K2. The switch K2 connects the output of the Safety Sub to either ground or to the center contact of switch K1. Whenever switch K2 is connected to ground, the Safety Sub also provides a ground to the perforating gun input. Whenever switch K2 is connected to the center contact of switch K1, the Safety Sub output may be connected to ground or the wireline input. The logic that follows shows that both control circuits must fail in a Perf Mode before the Safety Sub would pass unwanted voltage.

Each set 94A, 94B of single-pole-double-pole (SPDT/form C) switches are ganged together with another like pair of contacts to obtain true status of the existing pair. The switches shown are generic and can be one or more of many different types such as latching relays, latching solenoid piston switches, bidirectional solid state switches in the form of N and P channel FETs, and IGBT with high side drivers, all as known in the art. The switch control 96A, 96B between microprocessor 98A, 98B and the switch element is designed for appropriate action as known in the art. Switches within the Safety Sub are controlled from the surface by sending signals to the Control Units that are decoded by onboard microprocessor 98A, 98B and used to control the position of switches 94A, 94B. In addition, switch status is returned to the surface, thereby providing validation of switching action. Each control unit also has an onboard power supply 100A, 100B along with circuits that transmit 102A, 102B and receive 104A, 104B communication signals.

A motorized piston switch as shown in FIG. 9B has the advantage of a construction that is easily adapted to round tubing geometry and provides a rugged and reliable switch for the high shock perforating environment. In addition, the position of the contact make-up, either open or closed, remains in position after removal of all power. The latching feature of the piston switch allows the tractor operator to set the switch to a desired position and then turn the wireline operations over to another company for logging or perforating services. The piston switch is comprised of the following functions. A microcontroller 106 controls the signal for turning motor 108 ON and OFF and selects the direction of the motor rotation (either clockwise or counter clockwise). Additionally, the microcontroller 106 monitors the position of the Piston Switch to determine if the contacts are in either the SAFE or PERF positions. An H-Bridge 110 receives commands from microcontroller 106 and changes polarity to DC motor 108, thereby allowing the motor to turn in either direction. Motor 108 is connected to a planetary gear reduction box equipped with a threaded screw section. The threaded screw section, having an embedded set of contacts, shuttles back and forth to make up to mating contacts. This action forms either a single pole single throw (Wireline to Gun contact) or single pole double throw (as Perf and Safe Status to the micro). The switch shown on top of FIG. 9B is in an open position (SAFE) and the switch on the bottom is in a closed position (PERF).

A wireline can short to ground when the perforating gun fires and communication can be interrupted, particularly with a form-C switch. Without communication, the switches in both the Tractor and the Safety Sub cannot be changed. FIG. 9A shows two methods for resolving the shorted wireline situation. The first solution is to place the primary of a transformer 112 in series with the output of the Safety Sub. The output side of transformer 112 is also shunted to ground through a small capacitor. The value of the capacitor is chosen such that it only provides a shunt to ground at frequencies much higher than the communication frequencies and therefore does not interfere with normal communications and perforating operations. A W/L Disconnect Control 114 is connected to the secondary of transformer 112. W/L Disconnect Control 114 encompasses a bridge rectifier and is filtered in order to produce DC voltage and a path to route the developed voltage to release the switch from the Safety Sub output. When a shorted wireline exists on the output of the Safety Sub, a high frequency signal is sent from the surface through the transformer and capacitor. The result is that a voltage is developed on the secondary of transformer to actuate the Safety Sub switch K2 and clear the short.

A second method of preventing a short on the output of the Safety Sub is to place a diode in series with the output of the Safety Sub. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the diode could be a normal diode of chosen polarity, a single Zener diode of chosen polarity, or a back-to-back Zener having a predetermined breakdown voltage in both directions. Using a normal diode as an example, perforating is done in one polarity and communication in the opposite polarity. With a simple diode, only one polarity would be shorted to ground thereby allowing communication by using the opposite polarity.

A Zener provides the same results as a normal diode along with a selected breakdown voltage in one polarity. With a properly selected Zener voltage, communication continues at signal levels below breakdown voltage with the advantage that shooting of the perforating gun can be done selectively in both polarities. The voltage delivered to the gun system in one polarity would be less by the Zener breakdown value and generally has no effect on perforating. A back-to-back Zener has all the features of a single Zener diode except that standoff voltage is the same for both polarities. The voltage delivered to the gun system would be less by the Zener breakdown value for both polarities of shooting voltage. Again, no detrimental effect is seen during selective perforating. Voltage blocks between the Safety Sub can also be accomplished using a Triac that triggers at a predetermined voltage that is either positive or negative and is above the operating voltages of the Safety Sub. The Triac blocks all voltages until triggered and after being triggered, only a small voltage drop is seen across the device, which is desirable for shooting selectively (plus and minus polarities). Another method for creating a voltage block is implemented with a set of FET transistors. One P-Channel FET controls or switches the high side and the other N-Channel FET controls or switches the low side, allowing both polarities to pass for selective shooting. Again, predetermined switch voltages (turn ON) can be implemented using zeners, diacs, thyristors, etc.

FIG. 10 illustrates a method for communicating with a microprocessor/state machine without sending a downlink address for an identifier. Typically when two or more remote devices are on a common buss, an identifying address is embedded in the host message to prevent coincident response signals from multiple remote responding devices. In accordance with the present invention, each state machine or device has a plurality of its own set of legal commands. Upon receiving a message, the controller decodes the embedded command. Only if the command is legal is the receiving controller allowed to generate an uplink message, thereby preventing buss contention or collision of data when two or more remote units are on a buss or party line connection. In addition, before an uplink transmission can occur, the logical position of the state machine is also compared and must be in sync with the expected state position transmitted by the host. This comparison further discriminates which messages are legal and which controllers are allowed to return an uplink message. In another embodiment, a unique identifier is attached to each uplink or returned message to further distinguish or identify one control unit from another. In another embodiment, unique identifiers are attached to both uplink and downlink messages. These methods apply to each controller within the Tractor Electronics (FIG. 6) and to each control unit within the Safety Sub (FIG. 9).

Referring to FIG. 10, the Surface Unit first applies power to the wireline, causing all control units on the communication buss to initiate a power-up reset and enter state "0" waiting for a downlink message. The surface unit then sends a downlink message containing a plurality of commands specific to only one controller along with a state "0" status. Every downhole controller then receives and verifies the message for errors. If an error is detected, the downhole controller goes back to state "0" with no further action. If the message is error free, the state machine advances and the command bits within the message are decoded. If the command is illegal, the downhole device reverts to state "0." If the command is legal for a particular device, the state machine again advances, uplinks a message and waits for a second response. The Surface Unit then receives and validates the first uplink message. If the message is in error, the surface controller goes into a restart mode by turning power OFF and then back ON. If the message is error free, the Surface Controller transmits a second message containing the same control command along with the state machine expected position. Again, all remote control units receive the second message and only the one controller matching the downlink state position and having received a legal command is allowed to advance and process the message. If the message is verified and an error exists, a bad message status will be returned and the downhole device must be powered down to continue. If the message is verified to be free of errors, the command is processed and a return (uplink) confirmation message is transmitted. The surface unit receives and validates the message. If the message contains errors, the surface controller restarts the entire process. If the message is error free, the surface controller accepts the data and continues to the next downhole controller.

FIG. 11 illustrates a predefined sequence of events for controlling each downhole device (such as the Tractor Control Unit or a Safety Sub) containing one or more microprocessors or state machines. Upon power-up, the state machine enters state "0" and waits for a downlink message. Upon receiving a message from the surface, the state machine advances to state "1." While in state "1," the message is validated for proper state position, cyclic-redundancy-check, and message length. An invalid message decoded by the microprocessor causes the state machine to revert to state "0." If a valid message is decoded the state machine advances to state "2." While in state "2," the command bits are decoded. If an illegal command is decoded for that particular controller, the state machine again goes back to state "0." If a legal command is decoded, the device returns a message containing state "3," the decoded command, switch status, embedded address (if used) and cyclic-redundancy-check and the device waits for a second downlink message. Upon receiving a second downlink message, the state machine advances to state "4." While in state "4," the downhole controller verifies receiving the proper state position from the surface controller, again compares the command bits with the previous command bits, cyclic-redundancy-check, and message length. If the message is invalid in any way, the state machine advances to state "6" and the downhole controller transmits an uplink message confirming an invalid message. At this point, the controller must be powered down in order to restart. If the message is valid, the state machine advances to state "5." While in state "5," the device processes the command. For the last event, the downhole controller transmits an uplink message including state "5" position, switch status, embedded address (if used), and cyclic-redundancy-check. The microprocessor/state machine now enters a sleep mode while maintaining its present logic state and will not listen to any more messages until a complete restart.

The block diagram in FIG. 12 is but one example for interfacing a Power Line Carrier Communication (PLCC) scheme onto a wireline and could be the same at the Surface Controller in FIG. 2 and the Tractor Controller FIG. 6. For those skilled in the art, there are many ways to interface a power cable for PLCC operations. A capacitive coupled transformer taps across the wireline (power line), providing a route for injecting high frequency communication signals onto the wireline and for extracting signals from the wireline during power operations. The receiver section also includes a Receiver Filter and Amplifier for conditioning the signal for use by the microprocessor. The transmitter section also includes an amplifier of sufficient power for signal generation. Communicate using half-duplex, master/slave party line, and complies to interrogation/response only (no unsolicited uplinks). Signals: a. Downlink--FSK (mark/space frequencies TBD) b. Uplink--Current Loop, modified NRZ Baud Rate--300 Baud or higher (for example).

FIG. 13 shows a perforating gun system having a series of three guns attached to a wireline, or more generally, to any electrical conductor, that is conveyed into a wellbore to a first formation zone to be perforated using a truck and winch. A Surface Controller and associated power supply is typically located in a logging truck. The firing sequence begins on the bottom (Gun 1) and progresses upward until the top gun (Gun 3) is shot, completing the firing sequence. The system is initialized starting with Gun 3, followed by Gun 2 and Gun 1.

Initialization of the Switch Units (FIG. 14) occurs by sending power and a sequence of signals to the gun string. In one embodiment, the first command signal is sent to the top gun, thereby validating its presence and position followed by turning its wireline (W/L) Switch to ON. The second gun (middle) is initialized in the same manner. Successive messages are sent to the first gun (bottom) and validated before turning on the ARM Switch and Fire Switch, respectively. The wireline is prevented from shorting to ground because the W/L Switch of Switch Unit (1) remains OFF during firing. Shooting voltage is then applied to the wireline and the bottom gun is the first gun fired, destroying Switch Unit (1). The remaining Switch Units disconnect automatically from the wireline when power is turned off. Following relocation to the second perforating zone, the initialization sequence is repeated, except only two guns remain in the string. The bottom gun is now Gun 2. The signal is sent to the top gun, thereby validating its presence and position, followed by turning its W/L Switch to ON. Successive messages are sent to the second gun (bottom) and validated before turning on the ARM Switch and Fire Switch, respectively. Shooting voltage is then applied to the wireline and Gun 2 is fired. Following relocation to the third perforating zone, the initialization sequence is repeated except only one gun remains in the string. The bottom gun is now Gun 3. Successive messages are sent to the third gun (bottom) and validated before turning on the ARM Switch and Fire Switch, respectively. Shooting voltage is then applied to the wireline and the bottom Gun 3 is fired, completing the shooting sequence for a three gun string. If the gun string has more or fewer guns, the same sequence of initialization and shooting follows the basic example presented here.

If one of the guns fails to fire for some reason, the operator can communicate and control the remaining guns. Given that misfires can occur frequently, an extra gun(s) can be attached to the gun string and fired in place of a misfired gun, saving an additional trip in the hole. Accidental application of voltage on the wireline will not cause a detonation because proper communication must be established before the Switch Unit will connect to the detonator. As an added safety element, a top switch may be added that is not connected to a detonator, giving a safety redundancy that prevents an accidental detonation should a Switch Unit be defective.

FIG. 14 is a block diagram of a perforating Switch Unit. The embodiment shows the wireline input voltage to be positive with the wireline armor being at ground potential. The Power Supply 116 input connects the Switch Unit to the wireline and regulates the voltage for the power circuitry within the Switch Unit. The State Machine 118 receives downlink messages, provides uplink states, traces command-sequence status and controls the W/L and Deto Switches 120, 122. State Machine 118 can be a specially programmed microprocessor or separate circuitry that is functionally equivalent to a microprocessor. The Receiver 124 interfaces to the wireline to capture data from downlink signals. The Xmit transmitter 126 induces a signal current onto the wireline that is decoded at the surface. A Deto Switch 122, controlled by State Machine/microprocessor 118, provides switching between wireline power and the detonator. Deto Switch 122 may be a single switch or two switches in series (for additional safety). During any perforating sequence, only the Deto Switch 122 in the bottom gun is selectively turned ON to apply power to the detonator. The W/L switch 120 controls both firing power and communication signals through the gun string. In one embodiment, W/L and Deto switches 120, 122 include transistors such as field effect transistors (FET) or integrated gate bipolar transistors (IGBT), but can be any type of switch that allows power to be connected by command. This type of switch has the advantage of disconnecting when powered down, preventing the wireline from seeing a short during the next command sequence. As shown in the FIG. 14, a High Side Driver 128 is used to interface State Machine 118 to W/L Switch 120. Shooting power is shown as positive, which requires a High Side Driver to interface State Machine 118 to W/L Switch 120. If the shooting power is negative, a High Side Driver would not be necessary provided the W/L Switch is in series with the W/L Armor input and the W/L In is powered with negative voltage.

Detonators can include all types, such as hot wire detonators, exploding foil initiators, exploding bridge wire detonators, and semiconductor bridge detonators. In addition, the Switch Units described herein can be integrated into the body of such detonators as shown in FIG. 15 for safer handling at the surface because application of accidental power will not cause the detonator to fire. Also, an integrated detonator needs only three wires compared to five wires for a separate Switch Unit connected to a detonator. Power can only be applied to the detonators after the proper communication sequence is established. The embodiment in FIG. 15 shows a Switch Unit that is integrated with a detonator having a negative shooting polarity (as compared to a positive shooting polarity shown in FIG. 14). The integrated components include all parts of the Switch Unit along with whatever parts are required for the detonator of choice.

In an alternative embodiment, the interrogation-response communications system of the present invention does not use addressing between the surface computer and the downhole Switch Units. In this alternative embodiment, the surface computer and power supply are typically the same as used in ordinary perforating jobs, but different software is used for the communication protocol that tracks the number of uplink and downlink messages and the state machine position within each Switch Unit. FIG. 16 is flow chart describing the program control sequence for initializing a three gun string and firing the bottom gun in accordance with this alternative embodiment of the present invention.

The process begins at the time the Surface Unit sends power down the wireline. The Surface Unit then sends a State (0) command to the top Switch Unit (3). After receiving the first message, the top Switch Unit (3) validates the message. Upon receiving a valid message, the State Machine advances within the top Switch Unit (3). If the message validation is error free, Switch Unit (3) uplinks a message containing switch status, State Machine status, and a security check word. If an invalid message is received, the Switch Unit uplinks an invalid response message. Upon receiving the first uplink message from Switch Unit (3), the surface computer validates the message, verifies the status of the State Machine, and switches and downlinks a W/L ON command. If the Switch Unit sends an error message or the uplink message was invalid in any way, the power to the gun string is removed and the process restarted.

Upon receiving the second downlink message, the State Machine advances within the top Switch Unit (3). If the message validation is error free, the Switch Unit (3) turns the W/L Switch ON, uplinks a message containing switch status, State Machine status, and a security check word and then goes into hibernation. The action of turning W/L Switch ON within Switch Unit (3) allows wireline power to be applied to Switch Unit (2). If an invalid message was receive, the Switch Unit uplinks an invalid message response with no other action. Upon receiving the second uplink message from Switch Unit (3), the surface computer validates the message and verifies the status of the State Machine and the switches, completing the communication to Switch Unit (3). Switch Unit (3) then goes into hibernation.

The following process begins a first time communication to Switch Unit (2). The surface computer sends the first message, a State (0) command to the middle Switch Unit (2). Switch Unit (2) now receives and validates its first message. Upon receiving a valid message, the State Machine advances within the middle Switch Unit (2). If the message validation is error free, Switch Unit (2) uplinks a message containing switch status, State Machine status, and a security check word. If an invalid message is received, the Switch Unit uplinks an invalid response message. Upon receiving the first uplink message from Switch Unit (2), the surface computer validates the message, verifies the status of the State Machine and then switches and downlinks a W/L ON command. If the Switch Unit sends an error message or the uplink message was invalid in any way, the power to the gun string is removed and the process restarted.

The middle Switch Unit (2) receives and validates the second downlink message. Upon receiving a valid message, the State Machine advances within middle Switch Unit (2). If the message validation is error free, the Switch Unit (2) turns the W/L Switch ON, uplinks a message containing switch status, State Machine status, and a security check word and then goes into hibernation. With the action of turning W/L Switch ON with Switch Unit (2), wireline power is applied to Switch Unit (1). If an invalid message is received, the Switch Unit uplinks an invalid message response. Upon receiving the second uplink message from Switch Unit (2), the surface computer validates the message, verifies the status of the State Machine and the switches, completing the communication to Switch Unit (2). Switch Unit (2) then goes into hibernation.

The following process begins a first time communication with Switch Unit (1). The Surface Unit sends the first message, a State (0) command to the bottom Switch Unit (1), which receives and validates its first message. Upon receiving a valid message, the State Machine advances within bottom Switch Unit (1). If the message validation is error free, Switch Unit (1) uplinks a message containing switch status, State Machine status, and a security check word. If an invalid message is received, Switch Unit (1) uplinks an invalid response message. Upon receiving the first uplink message from Switch Unit (1), the surface computer validates the message, verifies the status of the State Machine, and switches and downlinks an ARM ON command. If an error message was sent or the uplink message was invalid, power to the gun string is removed and the process restarted.

Upon receiving the second downlink message, the state machine advances within the bottom Switch Unit (1). If the message validation is error free, the Switch Unit (1) turns the ARM Switch ON, uplinks a message containing switch status, State Machine status, and a security check. If an invalid message is received, the Switch Unit uplinks an invalid message response. Upon receiving the second uplink message from Switch Unit (1), the surface computer validates the message, verifies status of the State Machine and the switches and downlinks a FIRE ON command. If an error message was sent or the uplink message was invalid in any way, power to the gun string is removed and the process restarted.

Upon receiving the third downlink message, the state machine advances within the bottom Switch Unit (1). If the message validation is error free, the Switch Unit (1) turns the FIRE Switch ON, uplinks a message containing switch status, State Machine status, and a security check. If an invalid message is received, the Switch Unit uplinks an invalid message response. Upon receiving the third uplink message from Switch Unit (1), the to surface computer validates the message, verifies the status of the State Machine and the switches. All conditions are now met to send power for detonation of the bottom gun. Following detonation, power is removed from the wireline and the gun string is repositioned for firing gun (2), which is now the bottom gun. On a gun string of (n) guns, the process is repeated for each gun. Again, no addressing is required.

Those skilled in the art will recognize that there are several variations on this method. One variation is for the top Switch Unit to send an automatic uplink message after being powered up containing a State (0) status, State Machine status, and a security check word. The surface computer records and validates the message and returns a downlink command to advance the State Machine to State (1), which turns the Wit Switch ON. The top Switch Unit then sends a second uplink message containing a State (1) status that is verified at the surface. Applying power to the next Switch Unit wakes it up and triggers an automatic uplink message of its current State (0) status. The uplink is delayed to allow the second uplink message to be received first at the surface. The second Switch Unit is then commanded from the surface to advance to State (1), and so forth until the bottom Switch Unit is located and power sent to detonate the bottom perforating gun. By recognizing the change in state of each Switch Unit as it is communicated, the surface computer uniquely identifies each Switch Unit in the perforating gun string.

FIG. 17 describes an embedded State Machine within each Switch Unit along with its pre defined sequence of events. Upon power-up, the State Machine begins in State (0). When in State (0) the Switch Unit waits for the first downlink message. After receiving the first message, the State Machine advances from State (0) to State (1) and tests the message sent for correct bit count, content and cyclic-redundancy-check (CRC). If the first message is invalid, the State Machine advances from State (1) to State (8) and uplinks an invalid message status. The results of this action alert the surface computer and cause the Switch Unit to progress to a permanent hold state waiting for power to be removed. If the first message is valid, the State Machine advances from State (1) to State (2) and uplinks a message containing valid message status. The State Machine now waits in State (2) for the second downlink message.

After receiving the second downlink message the State Machine advances from State (2) to State (3) and tests the second message sent for correct bit count, content and cyclic-redundancy-check (CRC). If the second message is invalid, the State Machine advances from State (3) to State (9) and uplinks an invalid message status. The results of this action alert the surface computer and cause the Switch Unit to progress to a permanent hold state waiting for power to be removed. If the second message is verified, the received command bits must be decoded. The two legal commands for the second downlink message are a W/L ON command or an ARM ON command. If the Switch Unit decodes a W/L ON command, the State Machine advances from State (3) to State (4). While in State (4), the Switch Unit turns the W/L Switch ON, uplinks a valid status message and then goes into hibernation. The Switch Unit is not allowed to receive any further commands. If the Switch Unit decodes an ARM ON command, the State Machine advances from State (3) to State (5) and turns the ARM Switch ON, uplinks a valid status message and waits for a third downlink message.

After receiving the third downlink message, the State Machine advances from State (5) to State (6) and again the message is validated for content. If an error is detected in the third downlink message, the State Machine advances from State (6) to State (10) and uplinks an invalid message status. The results of this action alert the surface computer and cause the Switch Unit to progress to a permanent hold state waiting for power to be removed. If a valid third downlink message is decoded along with a valid FIRE ON command, the State Machine advances from State (6) to State (7). While the State Machine is in State (7), the switch unit sets the FIRE Switch to ON, uplinks a valid status message, and waits for the firing voltage to be applied to the wireline. Application of the firing voltage causes the detonator to fire. Other error trapping as known to those skilled in the art may also be used in accordance with the method of the present invention.

Another alternative embodiment follows the same logic except that any uplink message also contains a unique address specific to a particular Switch Unit. The address is pre-programmed into the State Machine during manufacturing of the circuit, providing additional confirmation of the position of an individual Switch Unit within the tool string.

In the following paragraphs, an interrogation-response communication between the surface computer and the downhole Switch Units is described that uses common commands for all downlink interrogations. The surface computer and power supply are typically the same as used in ordinary perforating jobs and the communication protocol is implemented with appropriate software. All Switch Units respond to a common specific protocol for the downlink interrogation. A unique address is retrieved from each individual switch unit as a result of a downlink interrogation and is transmitted back up to the surface computer. In this embodiment, downlink commands do not contain the address of the switch, making the commands shorter and quicker than if they did.

FIG. 18 shows a flow chart describing a sequence of events for shooting two guns in a string. The first event occurs when the surface controller sends power down the wireline. The second event occurs when the surface computer interrogates the top switch using a common sequence. The first downlink transmission includes a State (0) command in order to sync the surface computer with the Switch Unit. The embedded state machine within each Switch Unit allows the surface computer to track the sequence of commands to all Switch Units in the entire string.

After receiving the first message, the top Switch Unit validates the message. If the downlink message is free of errors, the top Switch Unit advances the State Machine, loads its embedded unique address, and uplinks a message containing switch status, state machine status, address information and a security check word. If the downlink message contains errors, the Switch Unit advances the state machine and uplinks an invalid message response identifying the detected error. This error trapping is repeated for any invalid receive message for a switch unit. For clarity, this routine will not be repeated in the remaining paragraphs of this description of this embodiment of the communication/control protocol of the present invention. The surface computer receives and validates the first uplink message from the top Switch Unit. The State Machine status is compared to expected results and the unique address is recorded.

The surface computer sends a second downlink containing a W/L ON command. If the Switch Unit sent an error message or the uplink message was invalid in any way, the power to the gun string would be removed and the process restarted. The top Switch Unit receives and validates the second downlink message. If a valid message was received, the Switch Unit advances the State Machine, turns the W/L Switch ON, loads the embedded unique address for the top Switch Unit, and uplinks a message containing switch status, State Machine status, address information, and a security check word. The top Switch Unit then goes into hibernation. With the W/L switch turned ON, the second Switch Unit in the string is now powered. The surface computer verifies the final uplink message from the top Switch Unit, which includes State Machine and switch status and the unique address of the Switch Unit, completing the sequence for the top Switch Unit.

The surface computer now interrogates the second Switch Unit. The first downlink interrogation to the second Switch Unit includes a State (0) command. After receiving the first message, the second Switch Unit validates the message. If the downlink message is free of errors, the second Switch Unit advances the State Machine, loads the embedded unique address, and uplinks a message containing switch status, state machine status, address information, and a security check word. If the downlink message contains errors, the Switch Unit advances the State Machine and uplinks an invalid message response identifying the detected error. The surface computer receives and validates the first uplink message from the second Switch Unit. The State Machine status is compared to expected results and the unique address is recorded. The surface computer sends a second downlink containing ARM ON command. If the Switch Unit sent an error message or the uplink message was invalid in any way, the power to the gun string is removed and the process restarted.

The second (bottom) Switch Unit receives and validates the second downlink message. If a valid message is received, the Switch Unit advances the State Machine, turns the ARM Switch ON, loads the embedded unique address for the second Switch Unit, and uplinks a message containing switch status, state machine location, address information and a security check word. The surface computer receives and validates the second uplink message from the second (bottom) Switch Unit. State Machine status and unique address are compared to expected results and the surface computer sends a third downlink message containing a FIRE ON command. If the Switch Unit sent an error message or the uplink message was invalid in any way, the power to the gun string would be removed and the process restarted.

The second (bottom) Switch Unit receives and validates the third downlink message. If a valid message is received, the Switch Unit advances the State Machine, turns the FIRE Switch ON, loads the embedded unique address for the second Switch Unit, and uplinks a message containing switch status, state machine location, address information, and a security check word. The surface computer receives and validates the third uplink message from the second (bottom) Switch Unit. State Machine status and unique address are compared to expected results, and if all status and address data is correct, the surface power supply is allowed to send shooting voltage to the second switch and the bottom gun detonates.

Those skilled in the art will recognize that there are several variations on this sequence. One variation is for the top Switch Unit to send an automatic uplink message containing a State (0) status, State Machine status, the unique embedded address for the top Switch Unit, and a security check word after being powered up. The surface computer records and validates the message and returns a downlink command to advance the State Machine to State (1), which turns the W/L Switch ON, which powers the next Switch Unit, which then automatically uplinks a message containing a State (0) status, State Machine status, the unique embedded address, and a security check word, and so forth until the bottom Switch Unit is reached and firing power applied to detonate the gun.

In the preceding paragraphs, selective perforating with Switch Units controlling power access to detonators was described. FIG. 19A shows a top level system having a combination of parallel and serial control units for perforating. The difference is that serial control units are electrically connected in any command sequence that accesses a particular unit below them. Parallel units need not be connected to access units below them. The parallel units are shown on top of the string in FIG. 19A although they could be located anywhere in the string, e.g. between series control units, below the series units or any general placement. One parallel Control Unit is used in conjunction with a Release Device. Another parallel Control Unit is used for monitoring a plurality of sensors. These sensors include, but are not limited to, such functions as acceleration, downhole voltage, downhole current, inclination and rotational positioning, temperature, and pressure. Included in the serial string is a single control unit for detonating a perforating gun. The actual number of serial control units for perforating guns can be one or more. Another service uses a serial control unit for igniting a Setting Tool.

Another version of the application of parallel/series communication is for conveyance of well logging tools by a tractor as shown in FIG. 19B. A Control Unit located at the tractor allows electrical power to be selected by command to either power the tractor or the logging tools. One or more auxiliary tractor tools (millers, cleaners, strokers, for instance), each with their own Control Unit and identified generically as "select ID1," "select ID2," etc. at reference numeral 130A, 130B, etc. can be selected and powered individually. The Control Units for the tractor and the auxiliary tractor tools are connected electrically in parallel. Those skilled in the art who have the benefit of this disclosure will recognize that a particular auxiliary tractor tool 130A, 130B, etc. may have two or more Control Units connected in series. FIG. 19B also shows two or more logging tools 132A, 132B connected electrically in parallel that can be individually powered by either positive or negative DC voltage from the surface, as detailed in FIG. 19C. One or more safety subs are located below the tractor to prevent accidental tractor power from reaching logging tools 132A, 132B. Each safety sub contains its own Control Unit that allows electrical connection upon command from the surface.

FIG. 20 illustrates a method for communicating with a microprocessor and state machines that have both parallel and serial Control Units on the wireline as shown in FIGS. 19A and 19B. Typically, whenever two or more remote devices are on a common buss, an identifying address is embedded in the host message for the purpose of preventing coincident response signals from more that one remote responding device. In the method illustrated, each state machine or device has a plurality of its own set of legal commands. Upon receiving a message, the receiving controller decodes the embedded command. Only if the command is legal is the receiving controller allowed to generate an uplink message preventing buss contention or collision of data whenever two or more remote units are on a buss or party line connection.

In addition, before an uplink transmission can occur, the logical position of the state machine is compared and must be in sync with the expected state position transmitted by the host. This comparison further discriminates which messages are legal and which controllers are allowed to return an uplink message. In another embodiment, to distinguish further or identify one type of tool from the other, an identifier, either unique or common to that type of tool is attached to each uplink or returned message. Those skilled in the art will recognize that these methods apply to each of the controllers within the parallel and serial systems shown in FIGS. 19A and 19B.

Referring to FIG. 20, the Surface Unit first applies power to the wireline, causing all control units on the communication buss to initiate a power-up reset and enter state "0" waiting for a downlink message. The Surface Unit then sends a downlink message containing a plurality of commands specific to only one controller along with a state "0" status. Every downhole controller then receives and verifies the message for errors. If an error is detected, the downhole controller goes back to state "0" with no further action. If the message is error free, the state machine advances and the command bits within the to message are decoded. If the command is illegal, the downhole device reverts to state "0." If the command is legal for a particular device the state machine again advances, uplinks a message, and waits for a second response.

The Surface Unit then receives and validates the first uplink message. If the message is in error, the Surface Controller goes into a restart mode by turning power OFF and then back ON for a fresh start. If the message is error free, the Surface Controller transmits a second message containing the same control command along with the state machine expected position. Again, all remote control units receive the second message and only the one controller matching the downlink state position and having received a legal command is allowed to advance and process the message. If the message is verified and an error exists, then a bad message status is returned and the downhole device must be powered down to continue. If the message is verified to free of errors, the command is processed and a return (uplink) confirmation message is transmitted. The Surface Controller receives and validates the message, and if the message contains errors, the Surface Controller restarts the entire process. If the message is error free, the Surface Controller accepts the data and continues to the next command or next control unit.

FIG. 21 illustrates a predefined sequence of events for each control unit on the buss connected in either parallel or serial and containing one or more microprocessors or state machines as referred to in FIGS. 19A, 19B and 20. Upon power-up, the state machine enters state "0" and waits for a downlink message. Upon receiving a message from the surface, the state machine advances to state "1". While in state "1," the message is validated for proper state position, cyclic-redundancy-check, and message length. If an invalid message is decoded by the microprocessor, the state machine reverts to state "0." If a valid message is decoded, the state machine advances to state "2."

While in state "2," the command bits are decoded. If an illegal command is decoded for that particular controller, the state machine again goes back to state "0." If a legal command is decoded, the device returns a message containing state "3," the decoded command, all status, embedded address (if used) and cyclic-redundancy-check. The device now waits for a second downlink message. Upon receiving a second downlink message the state machine advances to state "4." While in state "4," the control unit verifies receiving the proper state position from the surface controller, again compares the command bits with the previous command bits, cyclic-redundancy-check, and message length. If the message is invalid in any way, the state machine advances to state "6" and the downhole controller transmits an uplink message confirming an invalid message. At this point, the control unit must be powered down to restart. If the message is valid, the state machine advances to state "5." While in state "5," the control unit processes the command. For the last event, the control unit transmits an uplink message including state "5" position, all status, embedded address (if used), and cyclic-redundancy-check. The State Diagram in FIG. 21 shows the microprocessor/state machine entering a sleep mode following a command and will not listen to any more messages until a complete restart as would be the case for a serial connected control unit, but a parallel connected control unit may wait for additional commands and may or may not enter the sleep mode.

Those skilled in the art who have the benefit of this disclosure will recognize that certain changes can be made to the component parts and steps of the present invention without changing the manner in which those parts/steps function and/or interact to achieve their intended result. Several examples of such changes have been described herein, and those skilled in the art will recognize other such changes from this disclosure. All such changes are intended to fall within the scope of the following, non-limiting claims.

 

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