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A new wave of research to support future offshore floating facilities.

Leading operators, certification bodies and engineering firms are partnering with the University of Western Australia and the University of Wollongong to form a research group to blend data science techniques with engineering to transform the operation of offshore energy assets. 

Launching in 2021, the Transforming energy Infrastructure through Digital Engineering (TIDE) research hub will take insight from experimental and industry-generated data to inform and improve the design and operation of offshore energy infrastructure, a critical component of the global LNG market.

TIDE will feature experts from the core engineering disciplines of oceanography, hydrodynamics, offshore structures and geotechnics, who will work collaboratively with experts from the fields of statistics, extreme value and decision making theory, as well as machine learning. Predominantly drawn from the University of Western Australia (UWA), and University of Wollongong, along with various Australian and International research teams, researchers will work with industry partners including three of Australia’s largest LNG producers – Woodside, Shell and INPEX – as well as classification societies such as LR and Bureau Veritas, and solution providers Fugro and Wood.

In June, the new research hub was awarded $5 million (AUD) through the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Research Program. This will be supplemented by an additional $20 million in cash, in-kind contribution and co-investment from industry partners and universities over the next five years.

“We’re excited to be part of TIDE and to work with leading operators, engineering firms and universities to tackle the major engineering challenges facing offshore facilities today and in the future. As the market gets tougher and the risk landscape continues to evolve, the TIDE Research Hub will provide important, up-to-date insight into the offshore industry over the coming years,” says Jeff Baker, LR’s Offshore Business Development Manager based in Australia.

“TIDE will help operators, class societies and the wider supply chain plan for the future will produce better designs, establish efficient operational procedures to maximise opportunities, and reduce unnecessary downtime – while remaining safe and compliant at all times,” Baker continued.

Director of TIDE, Prof Phil Watson of UWA said “As the Australian energy industry strives to continuously improve safety and integrity within a landscape of optimised CapEx and OpEx, the TIDE Research Hub will be positioned to lead transformational research – all with the support of key experts in both academia and industry, including LR. TIDE will focus on lowering the cost of future production in order to assist Australian companies to cost-effectively maximise production, safely manage assets and minimise environmental risk.”

TIDE follows on from the success of UWA’s current Research Hub for Offshore Floating Facilities (OFFshore Hub), a multi-disciplinary research group which launched in 2016. The focus of the OFFshore Hub’s has been to collaboratively tackle the critical engineering challenges associated with current and next generation floating assets in the offshore LNG sector, by creating novel designs, new technologies and operating procedures.

Industry partners for the OFFshore Hub are Shell, Woodside Energy, LR and Bureau Veritas, each of whom have been actively involved in shaping the direction of research, driving adoption of new technologies with practical outcomes, and assisting with the mentorship of researchers and PhD students. The OFFshore Hub focuses on areas such as ocean forecasting, vessel motion and offloading, riser and mooring design, novel anchors and subsea foundations, and data analysis to assist with response prediction.

Throughout the OFFshore Hub, LR assigned subject matter experts from technical support offices and technology centres around the world to support individual Hub projects, providing a third-party compliance perspective and assisting in the development of solutions that can be practically implemented to meet the expectations of offshore regulators.

By being part of the project, LR aims to develop existing and establish new classification Rules, standards and guidelines, based on the latest research outcomes from projects within the OFFshore Hub. For example, the current Hub project has helped LR develop specific industry guidance for nearshore positional mooring systems, a direct output of the research conducted around geotechnical engineering and mooring. This guidance is available for the next generation of nearshore projects, providing more durable and reliable solutions for operators when it comes to mooring in challenging environments.

“The OFFshore Hub has offered many mutual benefits, with LR providing knowledge and expertise around offshore structures, helping students and researchers understand the complexities around the practical application of research findings, thus helping to steer and focus individual projects."

“With the OFFshore Hub now in its final year of activity, LR seeks to utilise key findings to inform the latest Rules, standards and guidelines, and bring the outcomes of this initiative to the wider industry. This will ultimately support our clients and other members of the supply chain with designing and managing safer offshore facilities.

“We anticipate that the TIDE Research Hub will take offshore engineering research to the next level, where further efficiency and reliability can be gained from the application of digital technologies such as machine learning,” comments Baker.


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