UWA’s Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems (COFS) supported a fund-raising event for the Young Engineers and Scientists (YES!), in partnership with the Society for Underwater Technology.
Together they held a site visit to UWA’s Large O-tube facility at the Shenton Park Field Station last week.
The multi-award winning O-tubes are world unique recirculating flumes which have enabled ground-breaking research into the tripartite interaction of hydrodynamics, geotechnics and subsea structure responses from extreme underwater wave and current conditions. Put simply, they are wind tunnels filled with water – 60 tonnes of water in the case of the large O-tube.
Shell EMI Chair Professor David White said the guests were invited to observe the experimental apparatus in action and learn about the research program and its influence on industry practice. These unique flumes were designed by UWA’s team of researchers, who work across hydrodynamics, sediment transport and geotechnics.
“The O-tubes provide the only physical modelling environment capable of reproducing the high wave and current-induced water velocities found on Australia’s North West Shelf during tropical cyclones.
“We were pleased to support the YES! group and to showcase our technology to further promote interaction between researchers, industry and government,” Professor White said.
The key motivation for the development of the O-tube facilities is the high cost of stabilising the pipelines that connect Australia’s offshore gas fields to shore.
“The cost of the concrete weight coating or anchoring systems on these pipelines is a significant part of the capital expenditure associated with the projects,” he said.
With support from Woodside, Chevron and the Australian Research Council (ARC) UWA is the lead researcher in the Woodside and Chevron-funded STABLEpipe JIP, working in partnership with Wood Group Kenny. Their work has led to new guidelines for the design of pipelines on erodible seabeds, which have been approved by the Norwegian verification agency, DNV, and have been applied by the JIP sponsors to improve their pipeline engineering practices.
The facility gives industry partners access to its world class research capability. The O-tube research team is led by Professor Liang Cheng and Professer David White, and Dr Hongwei An is the manager of the Large O-tube facility. WA’s 2016 Early Career Scientist of the Year, Dr Scott Draper, manages the smaller Mini O-tube facility, which is located on UWA’s Crawley campus. Together their work is training the next generation of engineers, and challenging the norms of engineering practice to exploit offshore energy via safer and more cost-effective projects.