3D Computational Modelling of Subsea Pipeline-Soil Interaction - for Application in the Design of Controller Lateral Buckling

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

3.5 year DPhil studentship, starting October 2018 or earlier

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 large lateral displacements and the severe plastic deformation of the seabed soil mean that realistic numerical simulations of the (cyclic) buckling behaviour are 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 industry-leading computational modelling techniques that capture enough of the underlying physics to give realistic predictions, yet are 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 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 a stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) of at least £17,500 per year.


This studentship is open to students of any nationality, though overseas students would need additional scholarship or personal funding to cover the difference between Home/EU fees and overseas fees over the 3-year period of fee liability. Details of this difference are available here under the ‘Funding and Costs’ tab.

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 should send the following documents to postgraduate.studies@eng.ox.ac.uk :

  • Detailed CV
  • Covering letter explaining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the doctorate, and your research/industry experience to date
  • Contact details for two academic or professional referees

Note: A graduate application to the University must be made at the same time as applying formally for this studentship. Further details are available here.

Please quote ENGIN_CM01 in all correspondence to the Department and in your graduate application.

Application deadline: Friday 25 May 2018