The various sectors of fiber optic sensor technology are at different levels of maturity. Fiber optic switches and counters, which are an extension of optoelectronic devices, are more than 40 years old. The overall market for opto-electronic sensors, excluding telecommunications, was nearly $4 billion in 2012. The fiber optic segment is estimated to be in excess of $175 million. This family of products is at an advanced maturity level and has been proven and accepted in those niche market applications where it is appropriate.
Fiber optic gyroscopes have been a success in the military and avionics applications market segments. The primary gyroscope manufacturers, with strong government support, have developed Sagnac-based, interferometric-rotation- rate sensors with excellent performance and reliability that are cost competitive with existing technologies. Both military and civilian aircraft uses have performed exceptionally well. The 2012 market was estimated at about $125 million.
Distributed fiber optic sensing has created an opportunity for broad growth in a multiplicity of markets. Distributed sensing systems allow a large number of sensing points to be monitored using a common electro-optic interface (interrogator) that has the potential for cost-effective solutions. Distributed fiber optic sensors are an enabling technology that creates smart systems in a variety of applications. For the most part, this is not a new technology. The initial commercialization efforts focused on military applications. However, the need to function in harsh environments and the development of optical fiber technology that can survive in these applications has significantly impacted the oil and gas industry. These smart sensing systems provide benefits throughout the life of a well, from exploration to drilling and completion, to production and reservoir management. There is no other technology that can provide critical process control information spatially throughout a well in real time over long periods. Without smart well technology, fracture monitoring and analysis, and applications like steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) would be very difficult to effectively implement. A point that is understated is that distributed fiber optic sensing systems have enabled smart well technology which has created the North American energy boom. While energy is the leading market sector for this technology, it serves as a platform for many other applications (see Fig. 19.1).
The distributed fiber optic sensor market was estimated at $500 million in 2012. The smart oil well market segment (in-well) represented 41% of the total market in 2012 and is projected to reach 60% in 2017. In terms of the overall distributed fiber optic sensor market, Raman-scattering sensors have the largest market share (46%). Bragg grating technology sensors have 25% market share. Interferometric sensing approaches have about 25% market share, but half is for distributed acoustic sensing, which is rapidly gaining market share.
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