A new inspection vehicle to monitor the condition of subsea pipelines will be designed and developed by a Flinders University engineering team to meet the growing needs of the offshore petroleum sector.
With integrated sonar and video sensing, the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) will not only assess the integrity of pipelines that lie up to 2.5km below sea level but will also evaluate the changing conditions of the sea-floor.
Joint team leader, Associate Prof Karl Sammut from the Flinders School of Informatics and Engineering, said a number of challenges faced the petroleum sector as oil and gas resources were increasingly developed a long way from shore.
‘At present more than 80 per cent of Australia’s gas resources exist in remote areas that can lie up to 300km offshore and extra-long pipelines will be required to transport the oil and gas from the deep sea environment safely back to shore,’ Prof Sammut said.
‘However, offshore there are many challenges facing the safe transportation of these elements, including the integrity of the pipe itself, shifting seabeds, strong currents, overheating due to sand coverage and pressure – all of which are to be examined through this project.’
The AUV concept is being developed as part of a $3.5m research project by the CSIRO Wealth From Oceans Flagship, which is aimed at finding solutions for the safe and economic design and operation of subsea pipelines in Australia’s deepwaters.
Flinders is one of six universities taking part in the Subsea Pipeline Collaboration Cluster, including the University of Western Australia, Monash University, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and Curtin University of Technology.
The Flinders’ Intelligent Systems Research Group received $409,000 in funding to develop the AUV concept vehicle that could be used to monitor the performance of offshore pipelines.
The group, jointly led by Associate Prof Sammut, Associate Prof Fangpo He and Dr Jimmy Li from the School of Informatics and Engineering, will work on the project together with colleagues from the University of Western Australia and Curtin University.