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Preparing for harsh conditions


The Arctic is poised to be a strategic location for transportation and other industrial activity. Offshore oil and gas, shipping and fishing companies will need to know how the harsh operating conditions will affect valuable equipment on ships and offshore structures, making a project such as Sustainable Technology for Polar Ships and Structures (STePS2) a valuable and essential research project.

The STePS2 project is leading research in ice-structure interaction that could play a significant role in the way companies and individuals approach working in the Arctic. The researchers of STePS2 are working to improve the understanding of high energy collisions between marine ice and steel structures, while gaining an improved knowledge of the resistance and/or failure characteristics of man-made structures under high loads from ice.

The project aims to develop validated practical design tools that will permit the safer design and assessment of ships and offshore structures for Arctic conditions.

Claude Daley, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Memorial University, is the principal researcher on the STePS2 project. He and a team of faculty along with graduate and undergraduate student researchers have been conducting an extensive set of laboratory experiments covering ice crushing, structural response to ice loads and the hydrodynamics of submerged ice blocks.

"These experiments are being used to validate high-performance computer (HPC) models. The HPC models, developed on several software platforms, are then used to model and examine full-scale, ice-loading scenarios on both ships and structures," explained Dr. Daley. "With the experience and results from these HPC scenario simulations, we can create simple and robust design and assessment tools that can be used by industry."

Given the harsh conditions in the Arctic, it is understandably a difficult location in which to conduct research. As a result, Dr. Daley and his team of researchers are relying heavily on the use of the high-performance computer models. According to Dr. Daley, the HPC models produce important modeling and simulation data that is vital to the STePS2 project.

"Development of computers and software is enabling increasingly sophisticated numerical simulations of ice-structure interactions," explained Dr. Daley. "Improved ice-load models are being implemented using high-performance computing, validated with laboratory tests using large-scale experimental data."

As the project progresses, the results of the team's experiments will combine to support and verify future phases of STePS2. For the graduate and undergraduate students taking part in the project, the experience is proving to be very beneficial.

"A significant number of individuals have gained, and will gain, new knowledge and experience in the issues, challenges and methods to permit sustainable projects in the arctic offshore," said Dr. Daley.

STePS2 is a five-year project that is funded by the ACOA's Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF), the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC), Husky Energy, American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), Rolls Royce Marine, Samsung Heavy Industries, BMT Fleet Technology, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems (MITACS).