‘Fracture predictive technology’ models cracks in Macondo riser

MIT’s lab floats ‘substantial’ research program in oil country tubular failure analysis.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have used technology developed for automobile crash testing to investigate the broken riser pipe of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident. Tomasz Wierzbicki, professor and director of the MIT Impact and Crashworthiness Lab believes that these simulations might help identify stronger or more flexible pipe materials that would minimize the impact of a future large-scale accident. Wierzbicki has developed a technique called ‘fracture predictive technology’ (FPT) through his work in car-crash safety testing. FPT combines physical experiments with computer simulations to predict the strength and behavior of materials under severe impacts.

The computer model of the riser, developed in a custom implementation of Dassault Systèmes’ Abaqus, included a simulation of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the sinking of the rig and the bending moment on the riser. The predicted failure points closely matched imagery from the ROVs. The researchers believe that although no material could have survived the Deepwater Horizon disaster, many improvements could be made to enhance oil and gas tubulars.

Wierzbicki told Oil IT Journal, ‘About the time of the Macondo incident we received a small grant from Shell and we have invested some of our own resources to prepare a paper for the ISOPE conference held at Maui last June. Our presentation triggered interest from the oil and gas industry and we are now in contact with three majors. It is hard to predict the results of this initial excitement because old and traditional methods are deeply entrenched in this industry—as well as the API standards. We are now working on a fundamental paper that will compare advantages and disadvantages the different approaches.’ A two-day fracture workshop will be held at MIT on October 6 and 7, 2011, participation is free. MIT is floating the idea of a ‘substantial research program supported by a JIP.’ More from www.oilit.com/links/1109_36.

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