Seabed ploughing: modelling for infrastructure installation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: Civil Engineering

Abstract

Soil ploughing, an activity carried out by man for thousands of years for agriculture, is now used at a much larger scale on the seabed to connect offshore energy production and generation devices to the supply network. In the next 50 years many more of these offshore devices (wind, wave, current and oil & gas) will be installed, meaning that considerably more seabed ploughing will be undertaken. However, we do not possess the same level of understanding of the mechanical and hydraulic processes associated with soil ploughing as we have developed for other soil-structure interaction problems. This means that ploughing schemes and equipment have to be designed on the basis of semi-empirical and conservative approaches, leading to financial uncertainty. In this project, new computational methods will be applied to the simulation of seabed ploughing to provide better estimates of key parameters such as the towing force and speed of ploughing in a given seabed deposit along with insights into plough stability. Given the likely ploughing activity in the next 20-50 years in UK waters and elsewhere, we expect that this new predictive approach will result in major savings for industry.
 
Description The award has allowed the development of new improved analytical approaches for both cable and pipeline ploughing that has the potential to allow more accurate prediction of plough progress rates and stability of ploughs in granular materials. This has come through the development of new physical modelling infrastructure at both 1g and elevated g (geotechnical centrifuge testing) that has allowed efficient testing of ploughing analogues to deconvolute behaviour and the verification of existing scaling laws for 1g testing. This has shown that small scale 1g testing of ploughing models is appropriate if previously developed scaling laws are adopted which has not been previously verified.
The main objective of the University of Dundee in this project was to develop high quality research testing infrastructure to generate high quality and detailed data sets for use by Durham University for their objective to develop a computational tool (i.e. software) to improve predictions of soil and machine behaviour in ploughing. This objective was met during this project and wider improvement of existing analytical models and insights into ploughing behaviour were developed through both physical and the computation tools developed.
Exploitation Route The findings from this research can be taken forward by industry to allow more accurate prediction of ploughing progress rates and to estimate when at high speeds ploughs may start to become unstable. This will mainly be by specialist offshore installation contractors responsible for installing pipelines and cables. Accurate prediction of time for installation allows selection of the most appropriate and efficient plant and vessels, appropriate costing and tendering of jobs and helps to de-risk these very expensive operations. In the future this has the potential to influence new plough design and manufacture and fast prototyping of new models and designs.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Energy

 
Description EPSRC Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) project, Research Alignment Group (RAG): Invited member
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact EPSRC Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) project, Research Alignment Group (RAG). Influencing future research direction of EPSRC offshore renewable energy research.
 
Description ETP Energy Industry Doctorate Efficient offshore cable and pipeline installation through advanced numerical and physical modelling techniques
Amount £74,000 (GBP)
Organisation Energy Technology Partnership (ETP) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2020 
End 07/2023
 
Title Development of large cetrifuge box and actuation system for large strain inflight simulations 
Description Development of a specialist large actuation centrifuge box for inflight testing of large strain events or ploughing in this case. Require new infrastructure development mainly in terms of an actuation system capable of at operating at 80 times earth gravity to pull objects through soil beds at appropriate stress levels. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Enabled award of EP/N009215/1 LOCORPS: Lowering the Costs of Railways using Preformed Systems with advanced inflght centrifuge testing of novel high speed railway embankment systems. 
URL https://discovery.dundee.ac.uk/en/publications/centrifuge-testing-to-verify-scaling-of-offshore-pipe...
 
Title Development of low cost 3D soil surface scanning for physical modelling 
Description 3D scanning is becoming increasingly commonplace in everyday life, but its potential may be yet to be fully exploited in geotechnical research. Key barriers to its use include issues such as the high cost of the hardware required, the need for specialist or custom built software for processing the 3D scan data and challenges in visualising the final 3D scan. This development of a low cost soil surface scanning system that can create a 3D representation of a physical model's surface geometry accurate to within +/- 0.5 mm. The system is based around a low cost commercially available scanner which is easily deployable and provides rapid output in an integrated 3D model which can be easily visualised and interrogated. Measured physical model surface geometry can also be easily transferred into numerical modelling software to allow complex surface boundaries to be modelled. The scanner output allows detailed analysis of surface de-formations such as the measurement of features of interest, generation of cross-sections of physical models and the calculation of areas and soil volumes. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None known but there was significant interest in this technique from other research groups when presented. Has been read 268 times on Researchgate since publication. 
URL https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303737848_Development_of_low_cost_3D_soil_surface_scanning_...
 
Description Visiting Industrial Researcher from the Taisei Corporation, Japan 
Organisation Taisei Corporation
Country Japan 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Provision of research equipment and advanced physical modelling techniques to simulate offshore cable plough performance in a laboratory environment. Training of visiting researcher in advanced modelling techniques
Collaborator Contribution Financial support of visiting researcher
Impact Creating of a data set looking at cable plough perfroamcne modelling suring centrifuge testing as well as a study (data) on how plough share geometry affects plough performance.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Cathie Associates, Newcastle: Invited presentation, with link to French and Belgium offices on "the advantages and disadvantages of physical modelling 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on the benefits of physical modelling for supporting research and indsutrial projects. 15 practicing engineers attended or viewed online which sparked questions and discussion. This has also lled to further research collaboration and the recomendation of University of Dundee facilities to simulate real industrial problems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description DeepOcean, Darlington: Invited lunch and learn speaker on Physical modelling of seabed ploughing for cable and pipeline installation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact DeepOcean, Darlington: Invited lunch and learn speaker on Physical modelling of seabed ploughing for cable and pipeline installation. Showing all staff involved in the company a summary of the research undertaken on cable and pipeline ploughing undertaken and the developments and improvements made in understanding plough behaviour and design. 40 Staff members attended. This sparked questions and dsicussion afterwards and the potential for related future research to be discussed in detail at alater date.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description ETH Zurich, Institut für Geotechnik, Invited colloquium speaker, Offshore plough modelling 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 10 Postgraduate students attended research talk on the physical modelling of offshore ploughs and methods of predictiong tow forces and advance rates and research that has been doen to improve these predictions. This sparked questions and discussion afterwards and some existting publications were requested after the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Fugro Geoconsulting, Brussels Belgium: Invited presentation to design team on updates to offshore ploughing prediction models 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Fugro Geoconsulting, Brussels Belgium: Invited presentation to design team on updates to offshore ploughing prediction models. Updating international consultant on recent advances in pipeline and cable plough performance prediction models. Sparked discussion and questions and sharing of publications after the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description ICONHIC2019, Greece: Invited Theme lecturer. Geohazards prevention and mitigation, The influence of offshore geohazards and soil conditions on infrastructure installation approaches. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited themed lecture given to industry and academic experts and insurers interested in offshore geohazards. The presentation generated questions and discussion and requestes for further information and publications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://iconhic.com/2019/
 
Description IET's First Lego Dundee University leg 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact University of Dundee hosted a regional heat of the IET Lego Mindstorms international competition. The competition aims to encourage school pupils into science and engineering, by completing a range of competition tasks using programmable Lego robots built by the pupils.
As a part of this event, a Civil Engineering stall was setup to provide activities for the pupils when they were not competing and over lunchtime. The aim of the stall was to:
• Provide pupils with an understanding of what civil engineering is
• Raise pupils interest in Civil Engineering in a fun and engaging way
• Highlight the importance of Civil Engineering in fields such as renewable energy, infrastructure and earthquake resilience
The display included Lego models of offshore wind turbines and seabed cable ploughs, posters of Civil Engineering topics and leaflets with further information on how to pursue engineering as a career path for those pupils interested.
Practical activities were available for the students focussed on EPSRC funded projects at the University of Dundee:
• Screw piles: Pupils were able to test Lego models of both straight shafted and screw piles embedded in sand and compare the differences in pullout force
• Seabed ploughing: Pupils were able to watch interactive videos of the seabed ploughing process and interact with model Lego cable ploughs
• Earthquake liquefaction: Students were able to design and make their own foundations for a Lego model house and compare how it coped with earthquakes using a miniature shaking table.
100 school pupils visited the stall during the day, with the majority of pupils undertaking all of the activities listed above.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.dundee.ac.uk/scienceengineering/news/2016/article/first-lego-league-takes-place-at-unive...
 
Description UPC Barcelona, Geotechnical Seminar series: Invited presentation to the UPC Barcelona Geotechnics Research Group on Physical modelling of offshore ploughing operations. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact UPC Barcelona, Geotechnical Seminar series: Invited presentation to the UPC Barcelona Geotechnics Research Group on Physical modelling of offshore ploughing operations. Attended by a mixed audience of 30 people made up of senior academics, post graduate and undergraduate students. Sparked questions and discussion and identified as a potential are for future research collaboration with potential for numerical modelling. Request for paers after event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description University of Sheffield Colloqium series on Mechanics and Infrastructure research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 60 post graduate ad undergraduate students attended an invited presentation at the University of Sheffield Engineering School on Physical Modelling for Offshore Energy Infrastructure Deployment which sparked questions and discussion afterwards and raised awareness of the use of physcial modelling and interesting research areas for renewable energy research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016