Shelf seas, the areas of water above continental shelves, often experience extreme currents that can have significant effects on any infrastructure situated in these areas. Such infrastructure usually comes in the form of offshore floating facilities for the oil and gas industry. A combination of engineering, statistics, and computing can help predict and mitigate these hazardous conditions.
Explaining the science
In shelf seas of 50 to 500 metres in depth, ‘solitons’, solitary non-linear waves that retain their shape and speed as they propagate, are the main driver of extreme currents. Generated by tidal forces over continental shelves, groups of solitons typically arrive in 10 to 20 minute bursts with magnitudes exceeding 1 metre per second.
Solitons induce some of the largest stresses on offshore infrastructure, drive sediment re-suspension, and influence dynamic positioning systems. The consequences are significant in terms of both safety and profitability of offshore engineering operations.
Visualisation of 'solitons' propagating along a shelf sea over the course of two days. (Rayson, University of Western Australia.)
This project is a collaboration between the Turing’s programme in data-centric engineering and the ARC Industrial Transformation Hub for Offshore Floating Facilities at the University of Western Australia.
The work aims to bring together recent advances in offshore engineering, physics, statistics, and computing to predict solitons, and the likelihood of hazardous currents. The probabilistic models produced will accurately represent soliton formation, producing a distribution of predicted soliton amplitudes, in order to inform and improve operational decision making for offshore engineering operations.