Led by ARC Future Fellow, Professor David White, researchers at The University of Western Australia (UWA) are collaborating with national and international industry partner organisations, including Woodside and Chevron, to improve modelling of ocean-pipeline-seabed interactions.

Until recently, interaction forces between pipelines and the seabed were poorly understood. However, UWA researchers have overturned conventional thinking by demonstrating the seabed is less stable than the pipeline, meaning that the pipe will generally become buried through scour and sediment transport. This has transformed how the seabed is characterised and how pipeline-seabed interactions are assessed.

Their research has been adopted by every major recent Australian offshore project, as well as numerous international projects. The geotechnical design of new pipelines planned in Australia now relies on this research. The UWA pipeline research program is also becoming embedded in international design practice.

The development of offshore petroleum contributes $25 billion annually to the Australian economy. After applying this research to a first project, Woodside found it had already yielded a benefit-to-cost ratio of 10:1. In the long term, the anticipated savings for industry extend into the hundreds of millions of dollars, as Australia’s offshore pipeline network grows.

This collaborative research has led to more accurate, reliable and cost-effective design of pipelines, resulting in safer and more reliable energy supply in Australia and worldwide.

Image: Researchers with subsea pipeline in the lab.
Image courtesy: The University of Western Australia.