It is essential for oil and gas companies to inspect and monitor changes in oil wells over time to control irreversible damages which may cause impaired or halted production, costing millions of dollars. Although different inspection methods are available, in many cases these methods are inefficient or costly. The principle drawback of optical imaging is that it requires a transparent medium to be operative, rendering it ineffective inside an operating oil well. In the case of acoustic imaging, heavily weighted objects, such as mud in the well, absorb the acoustic energy, causing low resolution imaging. On the other hand, the resolution of electrical imaging depends on the number of electrodes and their sizes. So, high resolution can be achieved at higher costs.
To address the need for an inexpensive and efficient inspection tool, University of Alberta researchers have investigated radar imaging techniques for monitoring oil wells and pipelines¹²³. Their efforts have led to a method for detecting small perforations and corroded areas in metal oil wells and pipes using ultra-wide band (UWB) synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging. By effectively engineering the transmitter pulse characteristics and its speed corresponding to the
time delay at the receiver, they have overcome the challenge of detecting small anomalies which are generally masked by the highly reflective metal surface.