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Curtin University

Projects

Supervisor: Professor Khac Duc Do

The project develops methodologies to design novel inverse optimal modelers and controllers for inverse modeling and control of ocean dynamics governed by stochastic distributed parameter systems such as velocity field, temperature, and salinity in the ocean. For implementation of these modelers and controllers, new methods are developed for motion control of underactuated ocean vessels under realistic environmental loads. The theoretical developments do not only apply to ocean dynamics and ocean vessels but also find applications in geography, environmental protection, and meteorology. The theoretical results are implemented on both model and full-scale vessels for verifying the modeling and control developments.

Supervisor: Professor Khac Duc Do

As entering ever-deeper waters, offshore exploration and production of natural resources are facing with a much higher risk of failure in marine riser systems equipped with existing controllers. The project develops novel inverse optimal controllers and inverse modeling observers for stochastic distributed-lumped parameter systems. Apart from effectively preventing marine riser systems from failure, the results find applications in various areas such as environmental protection, civil engineering, oceanography and geography. The developments result in innovative contributions to Systems and Control. The controllers and observers are evaluated on a scaled riser model and to be implemented on full-scale riser systems.

Supervisor: Prof Euan Harvey, Dr Jennifer McIlwain, and Dr Stephen Newman

Parma mccullochi are a large and dominant reef fish on the temperate Western Australian reefs. They are a herbivore that actively farm algae and brood eggs and young within ledges and crevices close to their algal farms. They aggressively defend their territories from both other herbivores and potential predators. The age of Parma mccullochi is unknown. However similar species in New Zealand have been demonstrated to live for up to 100 years. Given that the species is endemic to Western Australia is important to start understand the ecology of the species. It is one of five closely related species that are found within Western Australia and one of the things that we wish to do is understand the genetics and evolutionary history of the species in comparison to the other four species. Given the species has a distribution which is limited to temperate Western Australia we wish to investigate the how changing sea surface temperature, ocean acidification and increasing sediment will effect the distribution and survival of Parma mccullochi. This will involve a series of experiments manipulating temperature, salinity and sediment in the Curtin Aquatic Research Laboratory.

Curtin project

Supervisors: Prof Hong Hao, Dr Jun Li

Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) can be used to assess the structural performance, identify the possible damages, evaluate the safety and reliability, and predict the remaining service life of offshore platforms. The process of SHM involves the observation of a structure over time using periodical measurements, the extraction of damage-sensitive features to determine the current state of structural health. For long-term SHM, the output of this process is periodically updated information regarding the ability of the structure to continue to perform its intended function in light of the inevitable aging and damage accumulation resulting from the operational environments. Under an extreme event, such as an earthquake or unanticipated blast loading, SHM is used for rapid condition screening. This screening is intended to provide, in near real-time, reliable information about system performance during such extreme events and the subsequent integrity of the structure.

The proposed PhD projects focus on the SHM of offshore platforms and will cover, but not limited to, the following topics:

  1. Dynamic vibration monitoring
  2. Sensor and smart sensing technologies for condition monitoring
  3. Nonlinear system identification for extracting structural vibration properties
  4. Monitoring the structural condition change due to climate change, such as temperature, humility and corrosion
  5. System identification and damage detection under ambient vibrations
  6. Stochastic damage identification considering uncertainties
  7. Reliability and life-cycle analysis of offshore platforms
  8. Fatigue analysis

Supervisor: Prof Hong Hao, Dr. Yifei Hao

With a large volume of proven oil reserves in the deep sea, offshore structures have been intensively used by energy companies to tap into these valuable sources of energy. Offshore oil and gas platforms are subjected to the risk of severe loading conditions due to blast loads caused by accidental explosions. The past few decades have seen a wide range of major accidents with a number of fatalities, economic and life losses and damage to the environment. Examples of accidents in the offshore oil and gas industry include the structural failure and loss of the Alexander Kielland in Norway (1980), the flooding and capsize of the Ocean Ranger on the Grand Banks (1982), a blowout on the Vinland off Sable Island (1984), the process leak leading to fires and explosions on Piper Alpha in the UK (1988), the explosion and sinking of the P-36 production semi-submersible off Brazil (2001), and the recent explosion and oil spill on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico (2010).

In the year 2010-11, there were 42 offshore exploration wells and 40 offshore appraisal and development wells in Australia alone. The global demand for oil and gas is predicted to increase over the next few years and with this comes an increasing trend of drilling from deeper water. Protection of offshore structures against natural and man-made loads, including accidental explosive loads is therefore very important for life, environment and economy protection. The dynamic properties of materials that are used in construction of offshore platforms, as well as fire/heat-resistant materials for passive fire protection purpose, need a better understanding so that the dynamic response and resistance to blast loads of the offshore structures can be more accurately evaluated. Retrofitting/strengthening techniques of offshore structures need also be proposed, evaluated and utilised to increase the blast load resistance to contribute to explosion risk reduction. Moreover, techniques that are able to reduce the magnitude of the loading can be effective measures for risk reduction.

Research projects in this area include modelling and prediction of fuel and gas explosions, shock wave propagations in complex environments, dynamic properties of materials such as carbon fibre polymer and polyurea that are possible candidates for strengthening the offshore structures, nonlinear dynamic structural response and damage analysis, and offshore structural strengthening and protection techniques. The research works will involve experimental tests and numerical modelling.

Supervisors: Prof Hong Hao, Dr Kaiming Bi

It is of great importance to utilize ocean spaces and marine renewable energies as land-based resources are increasing depleted. Ocean structures such as offshore platforms are constructed to extract and process ocean resources. For a typical offshore structure located in seismically active region, sea waves and earthquake ground motions are two main design loads. The offshore structure will interact not only with the surrounding water and sea waves, but also subsoil. The dynamic loads acting on structure develop high dynamic forces on the foundation.

Most of previous studies on the dynamic responses of offshore structures considered the earthquake and sea wave loadings separately. Some researchers investigated the influence of soil-structure interaction (SSI) on the seismic responses of offshore structures. Very limited effort was placed on the simultaneous effect of earthquake, sea wave and SSI due to the complexity of the problem.

Possible PhD research projects in this area include investigating the earthquake ground motion characteristics at the seabed, coupling effects of seismic waves with water waves, nonlinear dynamic responses of offshore structures subjected to simultaneous random earthquake ground motions and random sea waves, influences of dynamic soil-structure interaction (SSI) and the nonlinear hydrodynamic damping effect due to sea waves on offshore structural responses to seismic excitations.

Curtin project

Supervisor: Prof David Antoine

Infrastructure projects in the coastal and marine environment span oil and gas exploitation platforms, bridges, off shore windmill parks, harbour construction or extension, artificial beaches and islands, pipelines. Such activities unavoidably have an environmental impact due to changing bathymetry and structures, dredging operations and changing patterns of material loads, e.g. nutrients. Therefore, in connection to large infrastructure projects, measures of expected impact must be provided, design and operations at sea must be optimised to reduce the impacts to an acceptable level and the impact during and after construction works must be monitored in order to document compliance. The parameters we propose to study here in order to characterize the environment and to possibly assess impact of infrastructure projects are the water transparency (clarity) and surface currents. Water clarity is also crucial for scuba diving and submarine operations involving divers or cameras on board ROVs or AUVs. Therefore water clarity pertains to recreational and professional diving, submarine search and rescue operations, and naval operations.

Besides the practical aspects mentioned above, water transparency has also a fundamental role in determining how heat is deposited in the upper oceanic layers. Sea surface temperature is differently affected when heat is distributed over depth when the water is clear or is confined into the very surface when the water is turbid.

An efficient monitoring of these parameters requires availability of observations of the environment over large areas and at the highest possible frequency, which cannot be provided by low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that have a typical revisit of 3 days. Sensors aboard geostationary (GEO) platforms, however, are capable of providing the high temporal revisit that is needed here. A step forward is possible with the GEO observations thanks to the dramatic increase in revisit, allowing monitoring of rapid temporal dynamics of relevant phenomena.

We propose to use hourly observations from the Korean "GOCI" sensor, which has been launched on the geostationary COMS satellite in June 2010. These observations allow a detailed monitoring of water transparency (clarity), as related to their sediment and phytoplankton content, and also allow surface currents to be determined from following hourly displacements of horizontal patterns. Products already exist and are distributed by the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST). They will be used to start the activity, and improved products could also be proposed in case availability of field data makes possible the development of specific algorithms. A 4 year time series of GOCI data already exist and will be used. Combination with other satellite observations of a different spatial resolution could also be envisaged.

Curtin project

Supervisor: Dr. Peter Fearns

Massive Ulva prolifera blooms have been observed in the Yellow Sea, and these blooms have on occasion drifted north and washed up on the shores of the Shandong Peninsula. The most notable event was the impact of these algal blooms on the 2008 Olympic Games. The source of the algal blooms has been shown to be in Jiangsu Province where nori (Porphyra yezoensis) is cultivated on the extensive sand flats. We have developed an approach to monitor and map the extent of the floating algae using MODIS data (Garcia et al 2013).

There is great potential to utilise data from the Korean "GOCI" sensor, which was launched on the geostationary COMS satellite in June 2010, to improve the monitoring of floating algae. Of interest is development of an approach to estimate biomass.

This project will aim to improve the current MODIS-­‐based approach and investigate the potential of GOCI, and possibly other environmental monitoring satellites, to monitor the extent and biomass of floating algae. It is envisaged that the approach will be applicable in regions worldwide. We will endeavour to undertake a component of field work in China to measure bio-optical characteristics of the floating algae.

Garcia, R., P. Fearns, J. K. Keesing, and D. Liu (2013), Quantification of floating macroalgae blooms using the scaled algae index, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 118, 26–42, doi:10.1029/

Curtin project

Supervisor: Prof David Antoine

Infrastructure projects in the coastal and marine environment span oil and gas exploitation platforms, bridges, off shore windmill parks, harbour construction or extension, artificial beaches and islands, pipelines. Such activities unavoidably have an environmental impact due to changing bathymetry and structures, dredging operations and changing patterns of material loads, e.g. nutrients. Therefore, in connection to large infrastructure projects, measures of expected impact must be provided, design and operations at sea must be optimised to reduce the impacts to an acceptable level and the impact during and after construction works must be monitored in order to document compliance. The parameters we propose to study here in order to characterize the environment and to possibly assess impact of infrastructure projects are the water transparency (clarity) and surface currents. Water clarity is also crucial for scuba diving and submarine operations involving divers or cameras on board ROVs or AUVs. Therefore water clarity pertains to recreational and professional diving, submarine search and rescue operations, and naval operations.

Besides the practical aspects mentioned above, water transparency has also a fundamental role in determining how heat is deposited in the upper oceanic layers. Sea surface temperature is differently affected when heat is distributed over depth when the water is clear or is confined into the very surface when the water is turbid.

An efficient monitoring of these parameters requires availability of observations of the environment over large areas and at the highest possible frequency, which cannot be provided by low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that have a typical revisit of 3 days. Sensors aboard geostationary (GEO) platforms, however, are capable of providing the high temporal revisit that is needed here. A step forward is possible with the GEO observations thanks to the dramatic increase in revisit, allowing monitoring of rapid temporal dynamics of relevant phenomena.

We propose to use hourly observations from the Korean "GOCI" sensor, which has been launched on the geostationary COMS satellite in June 2010. These observations allow a detailed monitoring of water transparency (clarity), as related to their sediment and phytoplankton content, and also allow surface currents to be determined from following hourly displacements of horizontal patterns. Products already exist and are distributed by the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST). They will be used to start the activity, and improved products could also be proposed in case availability of field data makes possible the development of specific algorithms. A 4 year time series of GOCI data already exist and will be used. Combination with other satellite observations of a different spatial resolution could also be envisaged.

Curtin project

Supervisor: Dr. Peter Fearns

Some sensitive coastal environments may be impacted by increased water turbidity. This increase in water turbidity may occur due to episodic rainfall and associated river flood events, severe storm events resuspending sediment from the substrate, or anthropogenic activities including coastal development, harbour dredging, and major engineering projects.

Suspended sediment can increase the attenuation of light through the water column, thus limiting the energy available for photosynthesis of benthic flora. Also, suspended sediment may deposit at the substrate, affecting benthic chemistry and nutrient fluxes, and in extreme cases smothering benthic marine organisms. There is great interest in monitoring the extent and impact of the various high turbidity events, both from the scientific standpoint of improved understanding of ecosystem dynamics, and from the perspective of regulating and managing the impact of coastal projects on sensitive marine environments. Also, efforts are being directed at improving the predictive skill of hydrodynamic models within the coastal development, oil and gas, and dredging industries. Remote sensing imagery and data are an invaluable source of model development and validation for hydrodynamic models.

This project will aim to improve remotely sensed estimates of suspended sediment in extreme turbidity environments, and study the potential of using a suite of available sensors to improve spatial and temporal monitoring resolution of turbid events. We will endeavour to undertake fieldwork to gather optical and physical in situ data to data across a range of water and sediment types.

Curtin project

Supervisors: Assoc. Prof. Monique Gagnon, Dr Christopher Rawson

Oil spills frequently occur around the world, but rarely cause massive fish kills. Rather, effects caused by spilt oil on individual fish and fish populations are long term and often go undetected due to inter-annual variability.

Recently developed biochemical and molecular tools allow the assessment of metabolic effects caused by oil spills. Biologically meaningful parameters such as DNA damage, aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, detoxification activity and reproductive hormones can be measured in exposed organisms to assess the sub-lethal, chronic impacts of exposure of fish to petroleum hydrocarbons. The project aims at exposing developing fish embryos to the water soluble fractions of Australian light crude oils, with and without dispersants, to assess survival, deformities, and a suite of biochemical and molecular parameters informing on the health status of exposed eggs and young larvae.

Results from this research will translate into crucial information for decision-making during operational oil spill management, especially when an oil spill occurs close to spawning areas, or during the reproductive activities of a rare/endangered or commercially-important fish species.

Curtin project

Supervisors: Assoc. Prof. Monique Gagnon, Dr Christopher Rawson

Large cities around the world have historically developed around protected bays where ships were sheltering and trading goods. These protected bays were often areas of high ecological value providing habitat to multiple species. Modernization and population increases resulted in contamination of these bays mainly by petroleum compounds but also by pesticides carried by run off waters from urban and agricultural areas. As a result, most protected embayments close to a metropolis have lost ecological integrity and biodiversity.

In Australia, Port Philip Bay is shallow, 2 000 sq km embayment hosting the city of Melbourne and associated industries. A previous study conducted over a decade ago has shown that fish health was severely impacted in some parts of the Bay, with several older fish not reproducing. A refinery located on the shorelines has discharged liquid effluents saturated in petroleum hydrocarbons in the Bay for over 50 years, which is the location where fish health was the most severely impacted. This refinery is currently in the process of closing down permanently. The aim of the project is to assess the current status of fish health at various location s in Port Phillip Bay, and compare the results to previous assessments to demonstrate a deterioration or an improvement in the status of fish health. This will be done by the determination of biochemical and molecular parameters measured on biopsies collected from originating from Port Philip Bay.

Curtin project

Supervisors: Prof Brian Evans/Dr David Parks

Background

As the development of deeper water oil and gas fields continue in the future, the equipment needs to be stronger but lighter, because deep water hydrostatic pressure and cold temperatures cause the deposition of hydrates and issues to do with gas transportation. Consequently much larger equipment is conventionally used with some pieces of equipment weighing 500 tonnes. As a result, large cranes and barges are required for hoisting the equipment into position but often these have to be specially manufactured resulting in the costs of installation increasing enormously. The solution is the development of composite panels and pipelines which are as strong as heavy steel, but one third of the weight of steel. If such panels and pipelines can withstand long term fatigue of working in cold, deep water on the seabed for decades, then the building of a new subsea equipment industry is possible using composite panels and pipelines.

Existing teaching and research strength

Curtin University Department of Petroleum Engineering is already testing the fatigue level of composite panels and steel drilling pipes for drilling applications on-shore. However, the concept of the use of such panels and pipelines within a high hydrostatic pressure and cold temperature is marred by the possible deterioration effects on composites by the micro-ingress of sea water into composite material pores. Curtin University has an established fatigue testing program, which in part is linked with the new Master of Subsea Engineering program. This is closely linked with the industry, which teaches much of the new technologies program.

Project

This project will involve the student in manufacturing composite panels and pipes, and then subjecting these to fatigue, particularly bending forces. If the composite panels and pipes are to be used in the manufacture of subsea equipment, then fatigue effects must be tested and compared with equivalent steel panels and pipes under the same subsea conditions. Testing and optimizing the panel and pipeline manufacture will be required in order to replace the steel equipment with stronger but lighter composite carbon fibre-type materials. If this is proven to be successful, a new subsea equipment manufacturing industry could be developed, negating the need to build bigger barges and cranes to lower them into position in deep waters, and reducing the cost of offshore seabed structure operations.

Supervisors: Prof Brian Evans/Prof Xiangyu Wang

Background

The future development of the offshore oil and gas industry will depend on how far and deep offshore that oil and gas fields can be developed. Due to developing deep water technologies, strong economic considerations to move production equipment offshore, local environmental and political issues and other considerations, the global petroleum industry is moving to put gas processing plant on both the seabed and on-board floating production facilities. Over the next 10 years, Norway will move towards fully autonomous, independent seabed processing operations, as Statoil moves their exploration and production operations underneath the Arctic ice-cap. There is consequently a requirement for better planning, design, management, operation, monitoring and decommissioning of surface and subsea structures from their conception until beyond the duration of their existence.

Existing teaching and research strength

Curtin University has recently joined the need to develop more engineers and technologies associated with subsea engineering requirements by developing a new Master of Subsea Engineering program. This is closely linked with the industry, which teaches much of the new technologies program. Curtin University also has a major Lean Construction Institute which develops software for the oil and gas processing construction industry. This project therefore will be associated with Lean developments but will commence a totally new area of software involving the optimization of maintenance schedules of the industry.

Project

This project will involve the development of software which requires subsea equipment to be marked in its memory, in which all of the issues about servicing, including the original equipment building, where it is located, how it has been built, when it needs servicing or general maintenance will be in memory. Once this software is developed, the equipment may automatically flag the operator to ensure the maintenance program has been maintained in the correct time frames, in order that equipment built to last 40 years on the seabed can be automatically monitored from a servicing aspect at a remote monitoring station, and maintenance issues optimized. This will result in new subsea production software which will be used by the subsea industry for the next 50 years. This software does not exist at present, nor is it planned for by the industry.

Supervisors: Prof Brian Evans/Prof Xiangyu Wang

Background

The development of future offshore oil and gas subsea production industry depends on production from deep offshore oil and gas fields. Deep water equipment will be designed and built with the requirement that the production lasts for up to 50 years, and equipment may be recycled from one site to another. As a result there is consequently a requirement for better service planning during operations, monitoring and decommissioning of subsea structures from their installation until the full depletion of the field and movement of equipment to other field production.

Existing teaching and research strength

Curtin University is developing more engineers and technologies associated with subsea engineering requirements by developing a new Master of Subsea Engineering program. This is closely linked with the industry, which teaches much of the new technologies program. Curtin University also has a major Lean Construction Institute which develops software for the oil and gas processing construction industry. This project therefore will be associated with Lean developments but will commence a totally new area of software involving the optimization of servicing schedules for the industry and establish a new area of technology.

Project

This project will involve the development of software which requires subsea equipment to be marked in memory, in which all of the issues about servicing, where it is located, where and how it was constructed, when it needs servicing and applicability to other areas of operation in the subsea industry. The software for this equipment will flag the operator to ensure the servicing and equipment replacement program has been maintained in the correct time frames, in order that equipment built to last 50 years on the seabed can be automatically serviced and maintenance issues optimized in preparation for continued life potentially at different sites. This will result in new subsea servicing software which will be used by the subsea industry for the next 70 years. This software does not exist at present, nor is it planned for by the industry.

Supervisors: Prof Brian Evans/Dr David Parks

Background

The cost of drilling deep water wells is dependent upon the depth of water to be drilled. Typically the cost of a drilling ship can be US$100,000 per day, while a deep water semi-submersible ready to drill to depths in excess of 3 km can be US$500,000 per day. As a result there is consequently a requirement to minimize the cost per well in deep water drilling and presently there is no alternative to using such deep water semi-submersible vessels. Statoil, a Norwegian company presently drilling through ice in the arctic, is considering the future potential to drill beneath the water line using automated methods. However, they have not moved forward with any form of technology funding, because the concept requires an in-depth study of technologies available to withstand cold subsea temperatures at high pressures.

Existing teaching and research strength

Curtin University is developing more engineers and technologies associated with subsea engineering requirements by developing a new Master of Subsea Engineering program. This is closely linked with the industry, which teaches much of the new technologies program. Curtin University Department of Petroleum Engineering is involved with a long term research project on the application of cheap, automated drilling for minerals using a coiled tube drilling rig. Curtin currently has a PhD student working on adapting composite laminated pipe for deep hard rock drilling using a coiled tube rig which is owned by a different research project.

Project

This project will involve the development of the concept of automatic deep sea drilling using a coiled tube rig. The PhD student would review conventional drilling technologies, and also become part of the minerals drilling program. However, the student would review how to adapt the automated drilling technologies to application on the seabed in deep water. This may include how to adapt specialized blow-out preventers and coiled tube pipe to be able to automatically drill to depths of 3Km at a water depth of 2Km. Using the concept developed by the PhD student, it then becomes possible to commence a completely new technology in subsea automatic drilling. This in the future will be adaptable for any offshore seabed drilling including drilling for minerals as well as oil and gas, and will formulate a new industry in designing and building automatic seabed drilling rigs.

Supervisors: Prof Brian Evans/Dr David Parks

Background

Great strides have been made over the last five years in electronics, particularly in the area of the use of electronics sensors and micro-electromagnetic sensors (MEMS), such as the use of MEMS accelerometers in the iPhone. The future offshore oil and gas subsea production industry could benefit from using such devices embedded in materials which contain such integrated circuits (ICs). Such sensors can detect if pipelines have moved after initial placement, or when they intermittently vibrate (due to the passage of oil and/or gas through valves), the level of movement may be monitored and a remedial action plan be acted upon. If pipelines were built of composite carbon and glass fibres, it would be possible to embed ICs in these pipes, which could then be used as positioning, gravity or magnetic sensors and allow transmission to the surface of a developing pipeline problem.

Existing teaching and research strength

Curtin University is developing more engineers and technologies associated with subsea engineering requirements by developing a new Master of Subsea Engineering program. This is closely linked with the industry, which teaches much of the new technologies program. Curtin University Department of Petroleum Engineering is also developing technologies which allow the embedment of ICs within panel and pipeline walls. If such panels or pipes could be manufactured, and new industry would develop using panels and pipelines for the offshore oil and gas industry, thereby establishing a new subsea equipment manufacturing technology industry.

Project

This project will involve the development of techniques to embed ICs within panels and pipelines. Ongoing research at Curtin University Department of Petroleum Engineering is presently working in this area, to allow the position monitoring of drill pipe used in hard rock drilling. The technology is adaptable for use subsea. Today, only subsea risers use carbon fibre composites, in the Gulf of Mexico and North Sea. However, they do not embed sensors in those pipelines. This project will develop the basic technology to understand the stress field changes in panels and pipes during manufacture, so that the manufacturing approach can be improved to maintain existing stress relationships, while allow for the first time, position sensing and vibration monitoring of panels and pipelines used for subsea oil and gas production.