A joint research project between The University of Western Australia and the oil and gas industry which investigated the effect of tropical cyclones on offshore oil and gas pipelines, and developed design improvements to prevent damage in such events, has won the 2014 AIRG Medal for Australasian Major Industry Technological Innovation.

The award was presented for the development of the O-Tube program, a world-first facility which rapidly circulates 60 tonnes of water to simulate underwater conditions during tropical cyclones.

The Australasian Industrial Research Group (AIRG) presented the annual medal last to the STABLEpipe Joint Industry Project (JIP), saying the cutting edge O-Tube program – developed and funded with the support of the project – had allowed for significantly improved designs of offshore oil and gas pipelines while ensuring cost savings for the Australian offshore oil and gas industry.

The STABLEpipe JIP participants are Woodside Energy Ltd, Chevron Australia Pty Ltd, Wood Group Kenny Pty Ltd, Atteris Pty Ltd and UWA, which is the lead researcher.

A UWA in-house technical team led by Winthrop Professor Liang Cheng, of the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering, and Winthrop Professor David White, of the Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems, designed and built the program’s large and mini O-Tubes – oval recirculating flumes through which water is rapidly circulated, simulating extreme underwater wave and current conditions.


Winthrop Professor John Dell, Dean of UWA’s Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, said the faculty was proud its partnership with industry had been recognised with the award.


“The O-Tube program uses engineering solutions to optimise the competitiveness of industry while ensuring the safety of our offshore infrastructure,” Professor Dell said.  “It is not only a great example of how UWA’s research innovation changes how companies globally do engineering, but also of our work for the wider community and the environment. These are the kinds of partnerships that benefit everyone.”

AIRG President Leonie Walsh said the JIP project and O-Tube program provided significant economic benefits to Woodside and its partners in the project and advanced industrial research with the potential to attract overseas investment.

“It is a great demonstration of industry-academia collaboration with successful translation of the research outcomes,” she said.

Woodside senior vice president of health, safety, environment and technology Shaun Gregory said that by working together, the project partners had been able to significantly improve the future design of offshore oil and gas pipelines.

“This is a practical example of how embracing technology can achieve real cost savings for oil and gas companies,” Mr Gregory said.

Chevron Australia asset development manager Gerry Flaherty said the project was helping to give the industry a better understanding of pipeline reliability and helping to reduce stabilisation costs for subsea pipeline owners.  The O-Tube had been used for studies to optimise pipeline design for Chevron’s Wheatstone Project, providing significant savings.

A team including Professor Cheng, Professor White, and partner members Nino Fogliani, Adam Czajko, Terry Griffiths and Eric Jas received the AIRG medal during the AIRG’s National Summer Meeting in Perth.

*The medal is awarded annually to a current industrial research manager, researcher or group of researchers making the most outstanding Australasian industrial research management and/or industrial research contribution during the previous year.

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