Tag Archives: oil and gas

Delivering expertise for Australia’s critical infrastructure

Pipelines are not something at the front of everybody’s mind, but the crucial piping infrastructure that invisibly links our national, regional and city areas is an integral part of the energy industry and a key focus of the Energy Pipelines Cooperative Research Centre (EPCRC).

A return in excess of $4.50 for every dollar the EPCRC spends is a tangible measure of the success of this well-established CRC.

Now in its seventh year, the EPCRC is currently working on four key program areas: more efficient use of materials; life extension of new and existing pipelines; advanced design and construction; and public safety and security of supply.

“The suite of topics is quite broad. We cover projects from basic materials research, and welding, corrosion and crack management, through to age maintenance, quality of coatings of pipelines, and cathodic protection [a mechanism used to reduce and prevent corrosion]. And how you do that is a mixture of both science and real-world experience,” says EPCRC CEO David Norman.

“What we have set up to deliver is an agenda of applied research driven by industry needs.”

The National Facility for Pipeline Coating Assessment (NFPCA) is a perfect example of how the EPCRC works via research to assist industry. An initiative of the CRC, the NFPCA is an independent facility established to perform oil and gas pipeline coating testing services.

“One of the things that industry needed was an ability to test coatings and one of the things we’ve been able to do is to satisfy that local need,” Norman says.

Prior to the establishment of the NFPCA, companies had to send coatings overseas to have them assessed. Now samples can be sent to Victoria to be tested, saving shipping costs and wait times, as well as growing local industry.

The EPCRC is now planning its next 10 years and is looking at how it can continue to add value to industry and the nation through its research projects. The organisation is also reaching out to the broader industry to identify the new challenges for which targeted research can assist with solutions through to 2030.

“By pooling our resources more widely across a whole industry, we have achieved things that never would have occurred if left to just one or two companies,” Norman explains.

“The CRC Programme is an excellent mechanism to bring together groups to tackle challenges and deliver solutions,” he adds.

The three key themes developing for the future are: life cycle management of pipelines, including research to better optimise how pipelines are designed and built, operated and decommissioned; security of supply with regards to urbanisation, public safety, and management by planning authorities; and future fluids and pipeline opportunities in the future energy transition.

As the world moves to lower carbon and potentially zero emissions, pipelines will have a critical role through their use for services other than for what they were originally designed – such as the role of storing gas in pipes rather than just transportation.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate that we provide in dollar terms in excess of what the average CRC provides for every dollar invested,” Norman says.

“We are excited for what the future holds as we continue to work closely with industry.”

– Penny Pryor

Maths researchers optimise Woodside’s vessel efficiency

Improving vessel efficiency featured image credit: Woodside Energy Ltd

Oil and gas company Woodside is streamlining its offshore operations with the assistance of new mathematical models developed in collaboration with a team of Curtin University academics.

This collaborative research project has focused on scheduling the support vessels that service Woodside-operated offshore facilities. The vessels are used for delivering supplies and for assisting with oil off-takes to oil tankers.

The most cost-efficient vessel routes are influenced by various constraints, including time windows – most facilities are only open during daylight hours – along with vessel speeds, vessel cargo capacities and the capability of each vessel to assist with oil off-takes, as not every vessel in the fleet is equipped for this operation.

Despite an industry-wide push into ‘big data’ computer technology over the past few years, the mathematical models in this project were so large that state-of-the-art optimisation software packages struggled to find good solutions, and in some cases couldn’t even begin processing the model.

New solution algorithms were consequently devised by the Curtin team and this work has been accepted to appear in the Journal of Industrial and Management Optimisation.

“One outcome of the project was providing Woodside with strong evidence for a business case to reduce the support fleet from four to three vessels – this is a significant saving since the cost of running an additional vessel is considerable,” says Curtin’s Associate Professor Ryan Loxton, who led the project.

“Another outcome was modelling the implications of changing the vessel schedule from a ‘taxi-style’ service whereby vessels would service facilities on demand, to a regular fixed schedule that is easier to deliver in practice.”

The Curtin team’s current focus is on developing more powerful optimisation algorithms that will allow for ‘on the fly’ dynamic optimisation of day-to-day and week-to-week vessel schedules.

“Major challenges include the current dynamic and uncertain operating environment, and the computational demands required. The standard solution algorithms are too slow for the problems that we encounter,” says Curtin’s Dr Elham Mardaneh, who worked on the project.

Although the models were highly customised to suit Woodside’s offshore operations, Mardaneh says that there is also considerable potential to adapt the technology to make optimal routing decisions in other industries such as mining.

“Mine sites also involve difficult vehicle routing problems, such as how to route haul trucks among different locations in the most optimal manner.”

– Blair Price

This article on vessel efficiency was first published by Science Network WA on 24 September 2016. Read the original article here.