Autonomous Intelligent Control Valves Enhance Oil Recovery and Environmental Sustainability

  • David Roland Davies (Participant)
  • Muradov, Khafiz (Participant)
  • Ivan Grebenkin (Participant)

Impact: Environmental, Economic

Description of impact

Global environmental pressures are increasing to avoid the opening of new oil wells and to optimise outputs from existing wells. Existing technologies can only recover less than one third of the reserves that they reach due to ingress of water or gas. ERPE researchers at Heriot-Watt University investigated and modelled an innovative intelligent Autonomous Inflow Control Valve technology (AICV®) within a multi-partner industry consortium, led by the Norwegian limited company InflowControl AS (InflowControl). Impacts arising include:

(A) – AICV technology is now mass-manufactured in multi-country supply chains including the UK and has been installed in over 100 petroleum industry wells worldwide;

(B) – InflowControl, a start-up company in Norway, now with a USD 17 Million turnover;

(C) – Oil recovery has been enhanced, where AICV is deployed, by an average of 38% with consequent increases in revenue and savings in production costs;

(D) – New knowledge and practice across the international industry sector deriving from the ERPE parametric approach to optimising AICV deployment; and

(E) - Water ingress and co-produced waste can be reduced by up to 89% with consequent positive environmental impact.


Lift, processing, transportation, storage and disposal of unwanted fluids (i.e. trapped water and gas in the geological reservoirs) co-produced with oil is one of the most expensive, energy consuming and environmentally unfriendly activities in petroleum production. It is also a key factor limiting the quantity of oil recovered during production. The range of impacts resulting from the ERPE research resulted in not only in a world-first new technology that significantly reduced this co-produced residue but also delivered a series of multi-partner country economic, business and environmental impacts as follows:

(A) Development of a multi-country partnership supply chain for AICVs

The primary objective of the REVIVAL project was to develop an innovative low-cost, high-performance Autonomous Inflow Control Valve to enable increased recovery of oil by preventing breakthrough of water and gas into the oil well. ERPE research underpinned this development and led to a multi country partnership to manufacture and commercially test the AICV technology including: InflowControl (Norway), HP Etch (Sweden), International Syalons (UK), Seal Engineering (Norway), RT Filter Technike (Germany), Norner (Norway). Today, ‘InflowControl sources the AICV parts from suppliers in Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, the UK and Switzerland, and assembles these parts in Norway to produce the AICV’.

(B) World First Installation and Company Growth

InflowControl was a new start-up company in Norway. As a result of the ERPE modelling, the benefits of the technology were quantified, the technology was adopted and the world’s first installation of the AICV occurred in August 2015. InflowControl confirmed that, by November 2020, AICVs had been ‘installed in over 100 wells worldwide’ and the 2019-20 turnover for InflowControl from AICV technology and deployment had been circa USD17,000,000.

(C) Economic Impact with International Reach

Each oil field may typically require 100 valves and the AICV modelling designed and developed by the ERPE team demonstrated the positive impact of the AICV on the oil production and recovery rates, allowing full economic justification and payback to be clearly provided for different reservoirs/customers.

Provision of quantifiable evidence from the ERPE reservoir simulation model assisted in overcoming a major marketing barrier by allowing customers to model the additional cost/benefits offered by the novel AICV system for their oil fields. The CEO of InflowControl has stated that the ‘research helped to identify and develop the best approach to model the performance of a well completed with AICVs in one or more reservoir simulator(s).’. The modelling also demonstrated the ability of the AICV technology to improve the production and recovery rates, enabling more complete economic appraisal of reservoirs to a wider customer base. This enabled InflowControl to grow substantial global reach:

- By late 2020 inflow client companies were installing the AICV in ‘Canada, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Oman, Norway, Bahrain and China. The AICV® wells cover a large number of applications, onshore and offshore, carbonate and sand stone, new and retrofit, ultra-light, light, medium, heavy and extra heavy oil for gas, steam, CO2 and/or water choking/shut-off’. Further, the technology has demonstrated significant increase in oil production of 38% on average. In some cases, depending on the geology and other characteristics of the oil field the AICV can increase oil recovery from 50% to 80%.

- InflowControl reported operational cost savings for a client in the Middle East in 2020, for one field alone in the ‘first year’ of operation, of USD2,000,000, with a ‘water cut’ reduction of 68%, (due to reduced water handling costs). Oil recovery from the existing wells as a result of the AICV deployment was enhanced by 18%.

- Another major operator with one of the largest fields in the world had areas of the field that could not be recovered, due to an excessively high Gas Oil Ratio (GOR). After fitting AICVs in a well, the GOR ‘reduced by over 85%’, resulting in significantly enhanced oil recovery.

- In a Middle East AICV deployment, ‘within the first 12 months of the well having been brought on line with the AICV retrofit completion, the operator earned a net gain of over 51 times the cost of the retrofit completion, including rig costs’

(D) Optimisation Modelling and Knowledge Exchange for AICV Deployment

The ERPE underpinning research showed how the AICV technology and modelling could be deployed successfully while also ‘adding value’ when compared to existing passive valve control technologies and approaches. This evidence through reservoir simulation models supported the InflowControl marketing strategy and the additional cost/benefits offered by the novel AICV system. With and an early consultancy project for Woodside Energy by ERPE, to assess the future potential of the AICV, the engineering design process was informed across the consortium partners, which was previously stated by the CEO of InflowControl as ‘helping to identify and develop the best approach to model the performance of a well completed with AICVs in one or more reservoir simulator(s)’. The ERPE findings and partnership with InflowControl has also been disseminated widely through the international network called the ‘InflowControl Forum’ supporting knowledge exchange involving major oil and engineering companies such as Total, Chevron, Shell & Halliburton.

(E) Positive Environmental Impact

Water and gas trapped in the geological reservoirs, co-produced with oil, is one of the most expensive, energy consuming and environmentally unfriendly activities in the petroleum business. Over 75% of fluid produced from oil reservoirs today is dirty water. ERPE researchers were the first to quantify the long-term potential of AICV technology to restrict inflow of unwanted fluids (improving environmental outcomes) and enhance oil recovery. Based on the results from the REVIVAL project, the performance and the functionality of the AICV were compared to competing technologies. The significant advantage of this AICV compared to the passively controlled valves is that it can operate actively and, if necessary, close completely to prevent breakthrough of unwanted fluids. Enhancing oil recovery and reducing co-produced waste reduces significantly the direct environmental impacts and importantly also reduces the operational carbon footprint through reduced unwanted water/gas handling with consequent economic cost savings.

InflowControl reported in 2020 that, across the range of client projects with AICV installations, ‘the gas oil ratio (GOR) and/or water cut (WC) had been reduced significantly’ (by 89% on average). This has supported the environmental marketing aspects for InflowControl to their clients “Environmental benefits are achieved by reducing gas and water production, which supports companies goals of being less carbon intensive within their total production operations”.
Impact statusAchieved
Impact date1 Aug 201531 Dec 2020
Category of impactEnvironmental, Economic
Impact levelInternational


  • 2021