EPSRC Industrial CASE Studentship: 3D Computational Modelling of Subsea Pipeline-Soil Interaction – for Application in the Design of Controlled Lateral Buckling

University of Oxford - Department of Engineering Science

3.5 year DPhil studentship, available from October 2017

Research Area

This doctoral studentship is a collaboration between the University of Oxford (Department of Engineering Science) and Crondall Energy Subsea Ltd under the EPSRC Industrial CASE scheme. The academic supervisor is Chris Martin, and the industrial supervisors are David Bruton and Malcolm Carr.

Subsea pipelines are frequently required to operate at high pressure and high temperature (HPHT). In deep water, pipelines are laid directly on the seabed, and are therefore susceptible to lateral buckling caused by thermal expansion. A major design objective is to initiate controlled lateral buckles in pre-determined locations. Because pipeline operation involves numerous shutdowns and restarts, lateral buckling is a cyclic process, with the pipe scraping back and forth across the seabed and accumulating differential settlements along the pipe axis. The severe plastic deformation of the seabed soil makes numerical modelling extremely challenging.

Many HPHT pipeline projects face a significant challenge to predict the full cyclic pipe-soil interaction response in 3D, which is inadequately represented by current design tools. This project aims to develop an industry-leading methodology for pipeline lateral buckling analysis that captures enough of the underlying physics to give realistic predictions, yet is efficient and robust enough to be used by pipeline engineers in real design situations. The project is strongly supported by two major oil and gas operators, and will build on the success of the recently-concluded SAFEBUCK Joint Industry Project in which all three supervisors were closely involved.

Award Value

The studentship covers University and College fees at the level set for UK students, plus the standard EPSRC stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) of £14,553 per year, supplemented by a stipend top-up from the industrial sponsor.


The studentship is open to both UK students (full award – fees plus stipend) and EU students (partial award – fees only). Full details of the EPSRC eligibility requirements can be found here.

Candidate Requirements

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

  • A first class honours (or high 2.1) degree in Engineering, Physics, or a related field
  • Strong understanding of structures and mechanics
  • Ability to undertake scientific programming in Matlab, Python, Fortran, C/C++, etc.
  • Excellent written and spoken communication skills in English

The following skills are desirable but not essential:

  • Experience in finite element analysis
  • Experience in structural, mechanical or geotechnical engineering
Application Procedure

In the first instance, interested candidates are encouraged to make an informal enquiry to Professor Chris Martin (chris.martin@eng.ox.ac.uk).

To apply formally for this studentship, candidates must submit a graduate application form and are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria. Details are available on the course page of the University website at www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/courses/mpls/engineering-science.

Please quote CES17_CM in all correspondence to the Department and in your graduate application.

Closing date for applications: Friday 25 August 2017, or earlier if a suitable applicant is found

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