Memorial researchers dive into some deep water

Dr. Neil Bose, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, with C-Scout, an autonomous underwater vehicle.

Offshore oil and gas exploration around the world has been moving into increasingly deep water. In the Orphan Basin on the East Coast, for example, exploration is being done in depths of about 2,000 metres and those reserves could be three times larger than Newfoundland’s existing oil-producing Jeanne d’Arc Basin. Six to eight billion barrels of oil would make it the one of the largest fields in North America. In other parts of the world, deepwater offshore activity represents a growing share of global offshore exploration and development, with work in deep water zones happening in 56 countries.

There are difficulties, however, that are not encountered in shallow water including very long risers, relatively high and non-uniform currents, vortex induced motion leading to multi-mode riser vibration, riser fatigue and clashing.

Researchers at Memorial University’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science are about to delve into these deepwater issues. They are studying vortex induced vibration (VIV), critical to the design and operation of marine risers, which are used to transport oil and gas from producing fields to a surface platform and back down for export through a subsea pipeline or a tanker loading system. Professor and Canada Research Chair in Offshore and Underwater Vehicles Design, Dr. Neil Bose recently received funding worth nearly $250,000 a year for three years. The funding comes from Petroleum Research Atlantic Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), National Research Council Canada, as well as in-kind support from Oceanic, the Institute for Ocean Technology and Chevron Texaco. Other partners include Dalhousie University, Université de Sherbrooke and Defence Research and Development - Atlantic.

“These complex environments are the areas where the next generation of Canadian oil and gas exploration is taking place, but it’s already the conditions in leading edge offshore oil and gas production in other parts of the world,” said Dr. Bose. “The principal areas are Brazil, US Gulf of Mexico, West of Shetland, Northern Norway, West Africa, Asia-Pacific and Australia’s northwest.”

Researchers at Memorial will conduct vibration tests on complex instrumented models built by the team. They will also use a particle image velocimeter, advanced computer networks running parallel processors, as well the Bonne Bay Field station and equipment and tanks at various locations. “This is an important area of research for oil companies and they are addressing this through the oil industry consortium Deepstar whose manager on vortex induced vibration, Dr. Owen Oakley, is an advisor on this project. This ensures that what we do is unique and does not reproduce work done elsewhere,” says Dr. Bose. “The data on riser performance that we are generating is not available in the open literature to date; in most cases it is just not available but the data is definitely needed.”