The continuously increasing demand for energy has pushed hydrocarbon exploration into Arctic and northern environments. While industry is evolving in this relatively new area of expertise, knowledge gaps remain in the engineering of oil and gas infrastructure to withstand ice loading. Sea ice is a complex material that can be found in a number of different shapes and forms. Ice rubble is an accumulation of ice fragments formed when an intact ice sheet comes into contact with another ice sheet or an obstacle. Common features in the Arctic are sea ice ridges, which occur when huge piles of rubble form. Due to the size of these features, they often impose the greatest loads on structures and vessels, and as such, they are of great concern to industry. In addition, they can gouge the seafloor endangering pipelines and subsea infrastructure. At present, it is not possible to reliably estimate what load a ridge can exert on a structure since this depends on the age and composition of the ridge, the type of structure and the mode of failure. This is in part due to lack of understanding of how the physical and mechanical properties of ice rubble affect these parameters and how these vary with time and location. Understanding these processes at each scale (individual ice block strength, inter-block bond strength, ice rubble strength) and linking with ice ridge load models is vital to address current gaps in knowledge and methodology, and is the primary focus of this work.
The Mechanics of Saline Ice Rubble is a five year project that has been set up to gain a greater understanding of the fundamental mechanics and key physical parameters that contribute to the ice rubble strength when it interacts with a structure or the sea floor. The project team will conduct numerical simulations and laboratory tests to study the thermo-mechanical behavior of the ice rubble. Results from this project will help to develop new engineering methods that give rational estimates of ice ridge loads, which reflect underpinning physics and are suitable for practical design. The program will also help to grow Newfoundland and Labrador's research capability through the training of new HQP, which is important for the region's continued leadership in ice-related engineering design and development.
More information about this project can be found here.