PhD partnership welds research with industry experience

PhD candidate Curtis Armstrong, at the Australian Maritime College's towing tank facility in Launceston, Tasmania.

PhD candidate Curtis Armstrong, at the Australian Maritime College’s towing tank facility in Launceston, Tasmania.

PhD candidate Curtis Armstrong has partnered with deepwater engineering specialists INTECSEA on a research project to get better performance from their riser flow line systems, the arteries of the oil and gas sector.

Riser flow lines transport oil, gas and other chemicals through a hose-like system underwater and their effective and safe design is paramount to the success of a venture.

The three-year project is jointly funded by the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania and INTECSEA, part of Advisian consulting business Worley Parsons.

Mr Armstrong will simulate a floating facility, its riser system and the environmental conditions in which it operates, using response-based analysis (RBA) modelling, a proven technique that has already been applied to ship-shaped floating vessels, but this project will be the first to apply it to riser systems.

“Risers are difficult to analyse because they are mostly flexible, hose-like structures of complex construction, with spans reaching from sea surface to seabed. A lot can happen when this system is exposed to such a complex force of nature as the ocean,” Mr Armstrong said.

“My research aims to develop RBA for riser flow lines when they are coupled with the other systems and help prevent the loss of assets through failure, reducing costs through efficient design methodology, and conserving the environment in which they operate.”

Until recently, companies have relied on data collected from ocean buoys that measure wave height and wind speed, to determine the extreme conditions that will act on their multi-million dollar equipment. This approach is flawed however, as it predicts only the biggest possible wave that could hit the system and not the many smaller ones that cause wear and tear.

Perth-based offshore engineering consultancy INTECSEA will provide in-house supervision and part-time employment for four months each year during Mr Armstrong’s PhD tenure.

The project was proposed by INTECSEA and the research and tools developed will be used by the company for its front-end engineering services. The results will be applied to riser design and also integration of the risers with mooring systems and floating structures. They will also be incorporated into the teaching of AMC’s undergraduate offshore engineering program.

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