Battelle is launching a new study to examine the impacts of biological organisms on marine and deepwater equipment for the oil and gas industry. The project was commissioned by DeepStar, a joint industry group dedicated to advancing new deepwater technologies.
Drilling platforms and other deep-sea equipment provide compelling environments for ocean organisms. Mooring chains, flow lines and other underwater equipment often become encrusted with oysters, corals, barnacles and other tiny creatures in a process known as “biofouling.” While a single barnacle’s weight may be negligible, large masses of living organisms can add significant weight, drag and mechanical stress to underwater structures and cables. Engineers need to be able to estimate the growth rate and impact of these living creatures in order to determine the strength requirements for underwater structures and equipment.
Current guidelines for estimating marine growth rates in the Gulf of Mexico date back to the 1970s and 80s and are based on data gathered primarily from near offshore environments. Since then, the environmental conditions in the Gulf have changed substantially and the industry has moved into more remote deepwater locations. New data on the rate and impact of biofouling in today’s Gulf of Mexico environments is desperately needed to inform engineering guidelines for offshore oil rigs and equipment.
The new study will analyze recent data from structures at different locations in the Gulf to develop better statistical models for biofouling. In phase one, researchers will compile and evaluate data collected from routine company inspections. In phase two, Battelle will use the data to develop a multivariable statistical model to predict growth rates based on material, geographic area, depth of water, temperature, pH and other covariates. The same methods could eventually be used to develop biofouling models in other parts of the world.
Battelle was selected for its combination of marine biology, materials science and analytics expertise. Battelle has a long history of biofouling and environmental exposure studies at its Florida Materials Research Facility near Daytona Beach, Florida. The Battelle data analytics team applies world-class statistical modeling, simulation and analytical methods to turn large data sets into understandable and actionable information.
DeepStar is a joint industry program made up of operating companies and suppliers in the oil and gas industry and administered by Chevron Energy Technology Co., a division of Chevron USA Inc. The group was founded in 1992 in order to identify, develop and validate new technologies for deepwater oil exploration and production. Battelle has been a DeepStar member since 2012.