Offshore drilling has the potential to uncover massive untapped oil beds, but the conditions of the sea and the depths at which the rigs must drill can make offshore drilling very challenging and extremely dangerous. As we saw from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, catastrophes can happen in a matter of moments.
Fortunately, offshore drilling can be made safer through the use of advanced technologies.
Improving Safety with Computer Simulations
Los Alamos National Laboratory is a mechanical and thermal engineering company that is devoted to solving the problem of ocean currents impacting the infrastructure of floating offshore oil rigs. Los Alamos recently teamed up with a computer-based engineering simulation company to study the effects of ocean currents on offshore rigs.
The problem at hand is called vortex-induced motion (VIM). VIM causes the oil rig platform to move as a result of vortex shedding from ocean currents. This can negatively impact crucial components of the platform such as the riser and mooring system. Both systems are vital to the overall safety of the drilling process. While it is widely agreed that current methods of handling VIM are inadequate, more understanding of the problem is needed to engineer a better system.
Insights from Computer Simulation Allow for Better Design
Using the computer simulation, Los Alamos was able to see exactly how the offshore rigs are affected by the ocean currents. They were able to perform sensitivity studies using different turbulence models which revealed some insights into the physics of VIM and vortex shedding at various time scales and lengths. These insights will allow engineers to design better strategies for improving safety process for handling VIM.