Copyright 2012, Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute - IBP
This Technical Paper was prepared for presentation at the Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012, held between September, 1720, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro. This Technical Paper was selected for presentation by the Technical Committee of the event according to the information contained in the final paper submitted by the author(s). The organizers are not supposed to translate or correct the submitted papers. The material as it is presented, does not necessarily represent Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute’ opinion, or that of its Members or Representatives. Authors consent to the publication of this Technical Paper in the Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 Proceedings.

The associated drilling waste and mud loss volumes represent a significant expense utilizing a conventional drilling fluid and solids control management system. High dilution rates are considered as standard of the total drilling cost. Fluctuations in mud parameters affecting ECD reduce the safety margins in MPD operations. Dependent upon solids control equipment and drilling fluids, 30 to 50% of the waste volume is due to fluid adhesion on the drill cuttings and represents a major regulatory and environmental liability. There are substantial cost associated with transportation and treatment of contaminated drill cuttings. In 2010 about 80% of the total chemical discharge from petroleum related activities in Norway were associated to “well and drilling”, cuttings contaminated with drilling fluid representing the majority. Little development has been done on the solids control system compared to other drilling related equipment like i.e. top drive. The next generation wells will be drilled in increasingly more challenging environments like deep water, high temperature and pressure, environmentally sensitive or remote locations, where the logistics cause limitations or there is a need for small lightweight, fully automatic drilling rigs. This paper discuss new methods to lower the liability and cost trough reduction in the total waste volume with less mud loss and fluids adherence, lower dilution rate and improved filtration. These results are achieved by the following:       Removes cuttings without screen blinding utilizing a conveyor filtration system. Reduce the need for HVAC or eliminate personal protection respiratory systems in the MPA. Minimizes acid gas contamination utilizing negative pressure for safe removal of gasses. Remote control with visual inspection of screen, cuttings and fluid in the machine. Cleans cuttings removed from the well with the ability to increase the solids/fluid ratio. Eliminate or reduce the need of ancillary equipment (e.g., desander, mud cleaner, settling pits, cuttings dryers and ventilation systems).

1. Introduction
Today’s well drilling technologies reflect an increasing focus on safety, automation, real-time and remote monitoring, and environmental considerations. The principle of separating solids and fluid has not changed since the traditional shale shaker equipment in drilling fluids was first introduced around 80 years ago. The adapted mining technology which utilizes gravitational forces (gforces) to separate shale and particles from drilling fluids has been used successfully around the globe to drill most, if not all, modern oil and gas wells. The traditional method has improved over the years but there are still disadvantages like mechanical impact of the drill cuttings and HSE related issues as vibration, noise and emission. Combined with the challenges the oil and gas

______________________________ 1 Geology - Cubility 2 Civil Engineer – Cubility

Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 industry have for a steadily improvement within HSE and more cost effective solutions, new SCE and methods have been requested. A new principle for fluid and solids separation was developed from 2004 and later became the MudCube vacuum conveyor separator (VCS) system, see figure 1. The goal was to design a completely new system from scratch that would focus on the following principles: 1. Prevent any chance of large particles passing through damaged screens or malfunctioning equipment, helping prevent damage to pumping equipment, and the creation of ultra-fine solids that can be produced from recirculation in the drilling fluid system. 2. Minimize any retention on cuttings (ROC) or loss of drilling fluids over the equipment while maintaining maximum possible flow rates. 3. Effectively and safely remove gasses from the well and the fluid while automating to minimize personnel contact with the equipment, chemicals, fluid, gasses and fumes. 4. Measure, capture and transmit fluid and equipment information (i.e., density, viscosity, cuttings volumes, returned fluid volumes, temperature, screen status, time to maintenance). The performance data presented in this paper discusses how the VCS technology is working towards achieving these principles.

Figure 1 Vacuum Conveyor Separator (VCS)

2. Basic Concept
The VCS system represents a new technology which eliminates the traditional mechanical process of shaking the fluid and solids to separate the two. The VCS is not shaking there for by definition not a traditional shale shaker and the term inaccurate for the system. The VCS system is a true step-change technology in the sense that there is no current generic term in the industry that applies to it. For lack of a better term and for the purposes of this paper, we will generically refer to this technology as a Vacuum Conveyor Separator, or Vacuum Conveyor Separation (VCS) unit. The VCS receives fluid and cuttings conventionally through a distribution box. Once the fluid enters the VCS, the unique processing technique begins. The fluid is distributed evenly via fingers or adjustable gates across a replaceable, non-tensioned, woven wire stainless steel screen cloth with rectangular or square openings. There are a several ways to configure the screen construction and VCS uses both dual- and multi-layer screen configurations. This wire mesh is securely fastened to a drive belt, which is comprised of metal rods or composite materials to support the non-tensioned wire cloth, and provides a rotational feed from zero to 1.5 feet per second (0.48 m/s). The screen belt is 17 ft. long by 4.6 ft. wide (5.2 m x 1.4 m) and provides an equivalent screen area of up to 7.2 ft 2 per second (0,67 m2 per second). This eliminates the need for a pre-filter or scalping filter as the screen is self-cleaning and resists blinding as shown in figures 2 and 3. All screens are API RP13C designated and available in various mesh ranges to achieve optimal filtration in a single pass. Figure 4 shows the dynamics of the VCS operation. The fluid is vacuumed through the entire area of the screen and support belt via the vacuum table. While the VCS does not shake, it has been found that introducing micro-vibration to an area of the screen belt during operation can increase maximum flow capacity in some situations. Between the vacuum 2

Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 table and the drive belt are micro-vibrator devices that can be activated when needed to help increase maximum flow (e.g., large diameter hole, high polymer loading, or using very fine mesh screens). The cuttings drying air knife is located at A, and it blows air on the cuttings, achieving a dryer cutting, putting the effluent back into the vacuum table and returning it to the active system. A secondary air knife is located at B which removes residual solids from the screen and deposits them in the discharge line. A unique attribute of a vacuum-based system is that as the available screen openings are covered by flow (screen loading) the faster the air travels through the remaining openings. This increase in air velocity, coupled with a continuously rotating screen provides a high resistance to screen blinding, helping to minimize the potential for fluid to cascade off of the end of the unit as waste.

Figure 2 Shaker Screen Blinding During Testing The screen condition monitoring unit at C provides two functions. One is to alert of a screen failure in real-time by sending a signal to the control panel, so it can be used to notify personnel that the screen should be repaired or changed. It can also be used to shut down the VCS and divert flow to another VCS. If the operation does not react, a bypass function is automatically activated, so that in critical situations the mud volumes are available. The secondary function is to capture any cuttings that may have passed through a damaged screen. This ensures that unwanted solids never pass through the system to degrade fluid performance or damage pumps or downhole equipment. Cuttings are discharged over the end of the screen belt and handled in traditional ways.

Figure 3 VCS Resisting Blinding


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Figure 4 VCS Basic Concept After passing through the secondary filtration system, the clean fluid is separated from air/gasses in the negative pressure vessel in Figure 5. The air and gas are pulled from the negative pressure vessel and through the negative pressure generating unit. The cyclone filter on the unit is used to capture effluent, water mist, or oil mist in the vent and this is returned to the active system. This recovery feature is not only beneficial to the environment; when compared to conventional technologies, it helps minimize losses to evaporation, which can be quite substantial on wells with high flowline temperatures, as based on evaporation calculations. The filtered drilling fluid from the negative pressure vessel is dumped back to the active system via gravity flow.

Figure 5 Negative Pressure Vessels with exhauster The separating cyclone filters are a successful and well proven technology also known from other industries. These filters are located inside the medium separator as shown in figure 6.

Gas / Air removal to vent


Figure 6 Cyclone filter separating liquid and gas 4

Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 The separation takes place in three stages. In the first step a pre-separation through turbulence and flow separation takes place inside chamber 1 on figure 7. In Stage 2 a cyclone effect in the chamber 2 with an extremely high medium surface tension, relief and re-establishment of the tension. Micro particles are ejected through the small rotating cyclones. Stage 3; the airflow in the filter separating element consist of the individual cyclones. They pass though the profiled element in such a manner that two cyclones flow into a common chamber, 3. A specific agglomeration process as well as turbulence provide for the separation of micro particles. The separated fluid run vertically off to the bottom of the filter element and is evacuated by a special drainage effect. Any small solid particles run off together with the liquid and provides for a self-cleaning effect because the fluid mass ≥ the solid mass.

Figure 7 Cyclone filter for separating fluid and gas

A complete VCS system can be retrofitted to an existing operation via a modular concept. An example configuration is shown in figure 8. However, if the VCS system is designed into the rig from the beginning, a smaller total footprint for a complete fluid and solids control management system can be achieved as the system is designed to potentially consolidate/ reduce the need for the following equipment:  Desander (in some cases)  Degasser (in some cases)  Shaker house ventilation system (HVAC)  Mud cleaner (in some cases)  Cuttings dryers (in some cases)  Pressure washer  Sand traps

Figure 8 VCS Modular Concepts However, there is no claim that the equipment listed above should be entirely removed from the rigsite in every situation. If a desilter, desander and mud cleaner are being used primarily to remove the solids that are prone to cause screen blinding in a conventional system, then the VCS system has a potential to eliminate these pieces of equipment. Figures 2 and 3 compare a shale shaker with a VCS system drilling large diameter surface hole with similar API RP13C designated screens. These photos were taken minutes apart with the one VCS unit filtering approximately 400gpm (1500 l/m) and each shaker averaging approximately 315gpm (1200l/m). If these pieces of equipment are being used to remove specific particle ranges for other reasons, then these could still complement the VCS system. The same applies to 5

Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 cuttings dryers. If the system is used to reduce the ROC a few percent, the VCS has the potential to eliminate the use of such equipment. However, if ROC requirements are in the low percentage range (i.e., 1-5%) it is more likely that the VCS will complement the use of a cutting dryer.

2.1. Weight
On an offshore drilling vessel A traditional fluid and solids control system consisting of 2- 5 modern triple deck shakers and a heavy duty HVAC system weighs between 13 to 25 mT. Other auxiliary equipment as degasser, desander, pumps, mud cleaner, sand trap and processing tank, normally a part of the total package are additional elements in a fluid management system. Preliminary results indicate that some of these elements are not required with a VCS system. Replacing the traditional shale shaker system with VCS system could reduce the weight with more than 300% and be between 3 to 7 tons.

2.2. Sensors
A variety of sensors are available for real-time monitoring of the drilling fluid properties, such as Electrical Stability, Viscosity, pH, PSD, density and temperature. The standard option used in a CVS system is a Coriolis Optimass 7000 T80 Massflow sensor, see table 1 for details. Table 1 Instrumentation package for a standard option CORIOLIS OPTIMASS 7000 T80 Unit Range Accuracy Density lbs/ft3 30 – 125 ±0.033 kg/m3 500 - 2000 ±0.5 Temperature °F ÷40 to +302 ±1.8 °C ÷40 to +150 ±1 Massflow lbs/min 15,800 ±0.1% of kg/h 430,000 measured flow rate

2.3. Other benefits
The VCS provides unique advantages over conventional shaker systems. The completely enclosed unit always maintains a vacuum on the housing, preventing the entry or accumulation of any mist or gasses in the shaker house. Many countries enforce oil-mist exposure limits for personnel when operators use inverts emulsion fluids (i.e., oil- or syntheticbased muds). These regulations are becoming more stringent in some areas. Additionally, the sealed design of the VCS does not cause drilling fluid to mist onto the walls, handrails, surfaces, etc., which further eliminates many HSE risks whether on land or offshore. It is also important to note that while the unit is sealed and does maintain a vacuum on the unit, the lid can be easily opened at any time to inspect cuttings loading or condition. However, this is not advisable during H2S drilling operations, as maintaining the vacuum on the unit at all times will help eliminate employee exposure. If an H2S environment is expected, it is also possible to engineer a completely enclosed scenario by maintaining negative pressure on the bell nipple, VCS system, active pits, and even the cuttings skips if this is necessary. The VCS is easily assembled on location. The actual cubes are made of stainless steel and the unassembled parts can be carried through a standard door opening. The cubes can be assembled by hand in approximately three hours per unit. Most replacement parts are off-the-shelf components and are easily serviceable.

3. Operational Data

The field data in the paper are from offshore in the North Sea and a third party test at Cubility’s testcenter in Sandnes, Norway to establish accurate performance data in a controlled environment.

3.1. Capacity
The VCS system has been utilized on wells both onshore and offshore and has also been through a third party SCE verification project. The testcenter where the verification was performed includes a complete circulating flow loop which can utilize water-based, oil-based, and completion fluids. The current configuration at the test center has a maximum flow rate of 1590 gpm (6000 l/min). The circulating temperature can be adjusted up to a maximum of 185°F (85°C). It is also valuable to note that while the test center is currently limited to 1590 gpm (6000 l/min), early testing of the VCS achieved flow rates of over 1590 gpm (6000 l/min) on low solids polymer WBM. The capacity tests were performed according to a procedure where the fluid flow over the shaker was increased in 6

Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 steps. Specially selected sand, with particle size typical for sandstone formations in the Norwegian Continental Shelf, was added to simulate drill cuttings at concentration of 1.9 % Vol. in a 1.35 SG oil-based fluid which simulates normal drilling rates in a 17 ½” section. The flow rate over the shaker was increased until the equipment flooded with undamaged screens. After flooding point was detected, the flow rate was reduced until stabile drilling fluid processing conditions were reached. The maximum capacity was noted as the highest flow rate the shaker managed to process without flooding. From the report the VCS will with an API 170 and parameters as mentioned above have a maximum average flowrate of 528 gpm (2000 l/min).

Traditional shale shaker pretension screens shows, according to B.Dahl et. al (SPE 103934), an average of 2.7m3 of drilled formation per screen before they are replaced. Screen life for VCS has significant data supporting volumes up to 100m3 of drilled formation depending on the engagement of the microvibrators before it is defined as damaged.

3.2. Screen Wear

3.3. Health, Safety and Environment
The weight of the screen on the VCS is approximately 7 lbs. (3.2 kg). To change a screen on the VCS, the unit is opened from the end, and the screen is rolled off of the unit in the fashion similar to rolling up a carpet. This is pos sible because the screen belt is not a continuous woven belt, but fastened together easily after installation. A new screen is installed in the reverse order. This is done with one operator within two minutes, as many times as solids control equipment needs to be redressed in its lifetime, the reduction of weight, handling, lifts, twists and potential pinch points is substantial with the VCS. This minimizes risk for employees over time. Another benefit of the system is the minimization of waste when compared to pre-tensioned screens. The air-knives in the VCS keep the screen clean. In all operation to-date, the air-knives eliminated the need to pressure wash any shale blinding or particles from the screen. The way to make an activity risk free is to completely remove the employee from the activity. With no pressure washing needed, automated screen failure detection, automated density and viscosity measurement, the employee duties required with a VCS when compared to a conventional system are dramatically reduced, and in some cases remove risk completely. The three main work environmental data for operational parameters measured were; (1) noise, (2) vibration and (3) emission.

3.4. Noise
The measurements were performed by third party and documented in a report from SINUS. The sound power level measurements were according to standards in the NS-EN ISO 9614 series. With the system running at 90% drilling fluid capacity and configured with an API 170 screen using OBM-XP07 at 50 degrees C, the equipment noise levels were measured to 68 dBA SPL which is well below the recommended NORSOK standard of 83 dBA for a 12 hours working day.

3.5. Vibration
The VCS have vibration from micro-vibrators localized to the screen; however these vibratory forces are isolated from the housing hence not transmitted into the working area Measured values from the VCS system have been compared to human vibration limits in Norsok S-002, for horizontal axis. The measurement on the structure below VCS is compared to category 3 and the measurement made on the VCS skid (the highest level measurement) is compared to category 4. The VCS vibration measurements ar e well within acceptable limits, see figure 9.


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Figure 9 Vibration measurements chart

3.6. Emission
Fume exposure to the employee is eliminated with the VCS unit. In dangerous environments, such as H2S exposure, the covers could be locked, or set to alarm if opened. This also eliminates oil-mist employee exposure. Exposure limits are in place in many countries. In the U.S. the OSHA (and MMS) safe working limits are up to 5 mg/m3 TWA (40 hour workweek) for mineral oils. Diesel-based fluids have an exposure limit of 100 mg/m3 TWA. It is important to note that diesel is classified as an OSHA Select Carcinogen, and fumes can be formed above temperatures as low as 52F (11C). In British Columbia, the exposure limit is 0.1 mg/m3 TWA for 12 hours. In a study by WorkSafeBC it was noted that these exposures were exceeded even on an open shaker house (no roof). Employee exposure to oil -mist in the shaker house is eliminated with the VCS. The criteria set by the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority used for oil vapor (OV) and oil mist (OM) are given in table 2. These values are adjusted for a 12 hour shift as relevant for offshore work. The measurements are used in this paper refers to the limits above.

Table 2 Acceptance criteria of oil vapor, oil mist and total volatile organic compounds (TVOC). Accept Criteria (AC): Oil Vapour Oil Mist TVOC 30 mg/m3 0.6 mg/m3 30 ppm

There are emission data from two separate reports shown in this paper. The first in table 3 is from an offshore environment and the second in table 4, from a controlled onshore test facility environment onshore. As shown in the two tables the concentrations of OV and OM in the samples were all well below the Accept Criteria, between 1/6 - 1/2 times AC. This clearly demonstrates the advantage of a totally enclosed system utilizing vacuum as principle for an improved work environment. Table 3 Measured concentrations of OV and OM at offshore conditions


Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 Table 4 Average concentrations of OV, OM and TVOC at onshore testing conditions

3.7. Reduced losses to evaporation
The enclosed system design utilized by the VCS reduces losses of base oil and water. During the offshore testing it was revealed that the cooling effect of the ambient air resulted in considerable condensation of oil and vapor in the vent line. Samples of fluid the vent line showed that the condensed liquid mainly contained base hydrocarbons (775mg/l ). The liquid condensation was approximately 0.6 to 1% of the drilling fluid processed. As an example, processing of 3500 lpm for 24 hour results in a potential recovery of 3 m3 of fluid (oil and water) through the regeneration system.

3.8. Filtration efficiency
Filtration testing was performed on screens with various API RP13C configurations, in the range from 120 to 170, comparing it against various shakers configured with 200 and a combination of 140/200 in table 5. The results suggest that the VCS has unique filtration efficiency compared to similar API configuration on a shaker as seen in figure 10. Table 5 Results from filtration performance analysis

This also matches visual verification where significant amount of particles are still filtered out on the VCS after first having been filtered on a regular shaker using the same screen designation.


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Figure 10 Average screen filtration performances (PSD) for VCS and shakers screens

3.9. Fluid adherence and waste reduction
A report by the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency from 2011 reported a 66% increase in transportation of waste material form petroleum related to activities on the NCS in figure 11. Of the total chemical discharge, 80% were associated to “drilling and well”, with cuttings contaminated with drilling fluid representing the majority. The increased volume of waste represents an increased liability risk as well increased transportation and treatment cost. In 2010 and 2011 two separate studies were performed to establish the total waste and OOC reduction on cuttings utilizing the VCS system. In both cases cuttings from offshore operations were processed over the VCS system and the original volume was compared to the processed volume.

Hazardous material from the Norwegian Continental Shelf

Figure 11 Waste from petroleum related activities on the NCS The field data for fluid adherence show that it delivers a 30-50 % better result than shakers in the same operation. To date, all cuttings from VCS is documented drier, figures 12 and 13 than the shale shaker cuttings on the same location. Under simulated offshore conditions, the fluid adherence was reduced by 30 to 50 % from its original value after processing through the VCS unit. The OBM cuttings were shipped to shore, homogenized, and then pumped over the VCS utilizing API 500 screens which as used because the original API screen designation offshore varied hence avoid generating an advantage for the VCS system. All cuttings were tested utilizing retort and weight analysis before and after processing. Volume measurements show a reduction of 30 to 50% overall. Drilling fluid that adhere to cuttings is lost as waste and it is therefore of economic and environmental interest to minimize this fluid loss.


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Figure 12 Cuttings, OBM, volume reduction from traditional shaker to VCS

Figure 13 Cuttings, WBM, volume reduction from traditional shaker to VCS

To assess the amount of fluid adherence, Oil On Cuttings (OOC) measurements were conducted using a retort analysis. The OOC reduction, figure 14 and 15, is minimal compared to the reduction in the total waste volume. In addition the two examples described above results from the Drilling Fluid Solids Control Equipment performance report is shown in table 6. The results for OOC were measured to be within 6.4% to 8.4%. This gave an average oil of 7.6% in retort analysis of cuttings sampled at maximum capacity with field-used OBM.

Figure 14 Oil On Cuttings, OBM, values from analysis using GC-FID


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Figure 15 Oil On Cuttings, OBM, values from analysis using GC-FID

Table 6 Oil On Cuttings, OBM, analysis results from SCE Performance report

4. Conclusions
The VCS system is a step-change technology that can supplement, or replace conventional solids control equipment at the rigsite. It offers the following potential cost and operational advantages:
     

Provides unique benefits when drilling high-pressure high-temperature wells in regards to mist and exposure. Helps eliminate dangerous H2S exposure. Eliminates the need for employees to handle pressure washing equipment routinely for screen cleaning. Could be utilized as an offline device to reduce volumes of waste or offline filtration. An improved and lower ROC is demonstrated through tests and proves advantage of the new VCS system Prolonged screen life compare to pre-tension screen of same configuration due to better mechanical stress distribution as a result of a revolving filterbelt (screen).

Results from the offshore qualification program and the onshore Drilling Fluid Solids Control Equipment Performance test demonstrate the technology readiness level for the VCS systems for commercial deployment.


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5. Acknowledgments
The authors would like to thank the following for their efforts and dedication: Iren Steinnes, Vegard Peikli, Tor Henry Omland, and Bodil Aase from Statoil, Arild Saasen, Arne Malmin, Gozzi Braten, Knut Haga and Stein Undheim

5.1. Nomenclature
AC= Accept Criteria API = American Petroleum Institute ft2 = Square Feet gpm = Gallons per Minute H2S = Hydrogen Sulfide HVAC = Heating, Venting and/or Air Conditioning l/min = Liters per Minute lbs = pounds m/s =Meters per Second mg/m3 = Milligrams per Cubic Meter OBM = Oil-based Mud OEL=Occupational Exposure Limits OOC=Oil On Cuttings OSHA = Occupational Safety and Health Administration ROC =Retention on Cuttings sg = Specific Gravity TWA = Time Weighted Average VCS = Vacuum Conveyor Separator / Separation WBM = Water-based Mud

6. References
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. http://www.cubility.com/eng/The-MudCube American Association of Drilling Engineers. Shale Shaker and Drilling Fluids Systems: Techniques and Technology for Improving Solids Control Management. Houston: Gulf Professional Publishing, 1999. Morrison, Ron. 2007. Economics of Using Compact High Performance Solids Control Equipment. International Association of Drilling Contractors (unpublished). Occupational Safety & Health Administration. OSHA IMIS Code Number D150. http://www.osha.gov/dts/chemicalsampling/data/CH_234655.html Occupational Safety & Health Administration. OSHA CAS No.: 8012-95-1 http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/healthguidelines/oilmist/index.html Murray, C., Clark, G., Epps, L., and Lin, T., “Sampling for Oil Mist and Hydrocarbons on Drilling Rigs in Northeast British Columbia.” WorkSafeBC (November 2009). AADE-10-DF-HO-12, Intelligent, Automated Shale Conveyance: Rotary Screen Vacuum Assisted Gas and Solids Separation System for Drilling Fluids. Klima- og Forurensingsdirektoratet 2011, miljostatus.no Norwegian Government, Stortingsmelding 28 (2010-2011) Statoil, RE-SNADF-00031 (2011) Statoil, «MudCube Technology Qualification Project» (2010) Sinus report, 614400-1-R04, Sound and Vibration measurement report