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Thursday, 03 December 2009 20:05

CSIRO scientists hit the waves virtually

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Australian scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have created virtual ocean waves over twenty meters tall in order to test how different types of oil and gas rigs withstand the real monster waves that impact them in the open sea.


These virtually designed ocean waves crash into virtually made semi-submersible oil and gas production platforms in order to compare how the different mooring designs stand up to the force of the impacts.

The offshore platforms (sometimes also called oil and gas rigs) are large structures that house workers and equipment needed to drill wells into the ocean bed.

The wells are then used to extract oil or natural gas for processing on the mainland. These platforms may be fixed to the ocean floor or may float on the ocean surface.

The oil and gas rigs have to withstand rogue waves, which are sometimes also commonly called monster waves, killer waves, and other such descriptive names. These monster waves are extra large ocean surface waves that are serious threats to offshore platforms, along with ships sailing the seas.

For example, in 1942 the RMS Queen Mary was broadsided by a rogue wave that was about 28 meters (92 feet) in height. It survived the encounter. In 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald wasn’t so lucky when it sank on Lake Superior after being clobbered by a monster wave.

Most rogue waves originate in deep water or within conditions that contain strong winds and fast ocean currents. When these conditions occur, several waves come together to form a rogue wave.

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The 12/3/2009 CSIRO article “CSIRO researchers create giant waves” states that these complex computer models have been generated in order to reduce the risk of damage and loss of these offshore structures, along with the associated injury and loss of live to personnel living and working on such ocean structures.

CSIRO scientist Murray Rudman commented on these gigantic ocean waves. Dr. Rudman states, “Rogue waves are huge waves that sometimes seem to come out of nowhere and, in recent years, they’ve been a major topic of scientific research.”

And, “Waves are extremely difficult to predict, especially when they begin to break. Also, the movement of the wave and the oil platform influence each other in complex ways.”

Thus, CSIRO scientists developed fluid-flow mathematics and computer modeling to help in designing better oil and gas platforms.

Dr. Rudman adds, “We use a mathematical technique called Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics originally developed in astrophysics to model stars forming and galaxies exploding. In CSIRO, we’ve extended the methods to a whole range of industrial applications.”

The technique allows CSIRO engineers and scientists to see what effect simulated ocean waves have on the platform, its legs, cable mooring system, and other on-site materials.

See images of the computer modeling at “Images from ‘CSIRO researchers create giant waves’.”

Learn more about the mathematical technique called Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) at: “SPHC (SPH Code) Images” and “Physically-Based Fluid Modeling using Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics

And, check out the YouTube video: "Huge Wave hits cruise ship."


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