ARC Centre of Excellence Geotechnical Science & Engineering

RIGSS JIP now underway

A Joint Industry Project (JIP) led by the Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems (COFS), the University of Western Australia (UWA) node of the Centre for Geotechnical Science and Engineering (CGSE), has kicked off with 5 industry participants – Benthic Geotech, Fugro, Shell, Total and Woodside.  The JIP, entitled Remote Intelligent Geotechnical Seabed Surveys (RIGSS) will deliver new sensors, tools and engineering design methods that will enable more intelligent and efficient geotechnical seabed surveys.

The aim of the JIP is to advance geotechnical site investigation technology through improved control and instrumentation, new types of sensors – penetrometers and other tools – and new engineering design methods that apply the SI data more directly to geotechnical design.  The remote and intelligent sensors will be deployed from a seabed frame or ROV-based platform, or be deployable into box core samples on deck.

These arrangements will allow SIs to be more effective, gathering better geotechnical data and making more efficient use of survey time.  The new sensors, including novel penetrometers invented at COFS, will provide more detailed measurements of soil response, through seabed interactions that are more directly relevant to engineering design.  For example, a compact instrumented pipe-like penetrometer such as the COFS-developed toroidal device is more suited to the determination of pipe-soil friction factors than the traditional cone penetrometer.

COFS has worked closely with industry for the past 15 years,  during which time, Professor Mark Randolph has pioneered the development of new seabed penetrometers including the T-bar and piezoball devices, which are now widely used offshore.  This new phase of research, supported by both Operators and Survey Contractors, includes other new penetrometer devices, such as the larger hemiball and toroid devices.  These tools are particularly suited to near-surface characterisation for pipelines and shallow foundations.

The RIGSS JIP has 6 Work Packages, targeting different technologies that have been chosen for their potential to impact on survey practice and engineering design.  These packages cover (i) control, actuation and acquisition, (ii) surface and deep penetrometers, (iii) free fall penetrometers, (iv) in situ erosion and scour measurements and also (v) blue sky sensors.

The JIP has a particular, but not exclusive, focus on shallow seabed site investigation over extensive areas, such as for pipelines and subsea infrastructure, where low-cost, remotely operated site investigation tools and smart testing techniques offer potential improvements relative to current practice.

The deliverables include recommended practices for planning, executing and interpreting tests using the new sensors, and new methodologies to perform engineering design based on the gathered data.  Also, COFS will deliver blueprints of the optimised designs of the new sensors, allowing Contractors to fabricate their own devices, to suit their proprietary equipment.

The COFS researchers are building prototype versions of the new tools that will be proven in the field during the JIP, and will also deliver interpretation routines to allow rapid deployment in offshore practice.

The research will be underpinned by experimental and numerical modelling at COFS, including centrifuge model testing, as well as field-scale trials at Australia’s national soft clay test site, located at Ballina in NSW.

For more information please see

Media enquiries: 

Professor David White, Shell EMI Professor of Offshore Engineering (Project Manager)

Dr Sam Stanier, Research Fellow (Lead Researcher)