Subsea pipeline stability innovation wins award

Developed by engineers at the University of Western Australia (UWA), the Large O-tube Facility won the Woodside Oil and Gas Encouragement Award in this year’s WA Innovator of the Year Awards.

The awards were announced by Science and Innovation Minister John Day. The Encouragement Awards were judged by an independent panel of industry specialists.

Project Leader Winthrop Professor Liang Cheng said the experimental facility simulated the effect of cyclones at seabed level, supporting new design methods for the stability of pipelines during storms.

The facility is a huge closed-loop flume with a base of natural seabed soil containing 60 tonnes of water which can be rapidly pumped back and forth simulating the underwater conditions during cyclones, he said.

The facility was designed and built by UWA and began operating last year from the University’s Shenton Park site. The instrumentation and control technology were designed and fabricated at UWA while the flume structure was made in China under UWA supervision following a small-scale trial of the design at UWA in 2009. Earlier this year, Woodside, Atteris and UWA used the technology for the first time commercially (click here for more information).

The Large O-tube Facility is part of a long-term UWA research initiative, part-funded by Woodside and Chevron.

Professor Cheng said pipeline seabed stability was a more significant design challenge in Australian waters compared to other regions worldwide.

“This is due to the need for large diameter gas trunklines to cross the continental shelf, which is covered with mobile sediment and subject to cyclones,” he said.

“The results will improve our assessments of pipeline stability and more efficient and safer design of WA’s offshore infrastructure.”

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