Research that will support decommissioning by exploring approaches to the recovery of subsea structures is to be carried out by the University of Dundee on behalf of Xodus, with support from the Oil & Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC).

The project is being undertaken to develop analysis methods and design guidance for the removal of subsea structures. It will examine the decommissioning of shallow foundations on clay seabeds.

Aberdeen-based OGIC has paired the company with the University of Dundee’s School of Science and Engineering, which will carry out a series of small-scale model tests of uplift operations in a controlled environment.

Tests will investigate a range of variables including the effect of on-bottom time and skirt configuration on the required recovery loads for subsea structures.

OGIC provides a single access point to the knowledge and capabilities of Scottish universities for the oil and gas industry. It can also part-fund and provide management support to projects with the potential to deliver technology solutions to the exploration, production and decommissioning challenges facing the UKCS.

Ian Phillips, chief executive officer of OGIC, said: “Decommissioning is a relatively new industry in the UKCS and offers significant opportunities for the supply chain to develop new processes and technology which will be needed globally.”

“Carrying out research in a controlled laboratory environment will produce data which would be challenging to gather in the field. The fact that the University of Dundee has the R&D capabilities to support this work is testament to the expertise which exists in Scottish universities.”

Dr Andrew Brennan, senior lecturer in civil engineering at the University of Dundee, said: “Civil engineering activity within the offshore oil and gas sector has seen a growth in the emphasis placed on decommissioning in recent years, but extracting foundations from the seabed poses major engineering challenges due to the number of variables on which recovery loads depend.

“By performing a series of small-scale model tests, we can understand better how each of these variables controls the process and hence improve the efficiency of foundation extraction in the future.

“At the University of Dundee we have world-class laboratory facilities and a long history of testing geotechnical models, and we are delighted to be the academic partner for this important project.”

Andy Small, principal geotechnical engineer with Xodus said: “Decommissioning of subsea structures presents significant challenges for engineers.

“The potential for overall project cost increases due to unknowns is high, especially with regard to seabed uncertainty.

“This research will produce invaluable knowledge and understanding of the recovery process and associated risks and will likely result in significant cost savings and operational efficiencies for future decommissioning projects.

The transfer of knowledge and experiences through projects like this is crucial to enable the industry to continue to develop efficient and effective decommissioning practices.”

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