I joined the 1st cohort of the Renewable Energy Marine Structures (REMS) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in 2014. At that time there was a feeling of reserved optimism in the developing European offshore wind sector that the CAPEX and OPEX price would incrementally reduce over the subsequent years and as a result the industry would grow at a steady pace. Four years on, in 2018, and now offshore wind is a booming global industry, with tumbling costs resulting in zero-subsidy offshore wind farms becoming a reality.
As part of REMS, I am undertaking a DEng at the University of Oxford, while working at Fugro GB Marine Limited within the GeoConsultancy service line. My aim is to develop practical constitutive models for the numerical modelling of offshore foundations. I selected this as my topic area for research as, based on my time working as a geotechnical consultant on finite element analysis (FEA) projects, it was clear that there was a large gap between industry and academia. I felt the proposed DEng format within a CDT offered the perfect environment for this research to attempt to bridge the gap. Being part of the REMS CDT offers the opportunity to work at the interface between industry and academia in a highly dynamic exciting industry. A DEng is similar to a traditional DPhil (or PhD) in many ways, with the main difference being a practical industry tilt to the research and the opportunity to work on live industry projects. Some components of my DEng have involved development work for live offshore wind projects and others have involved more long term academic focused developments. In my opinion, this mix of academia and industry research offers a unique opportunity for short to medium term innovation within the industry. During the programme I have had many unique opportunities; including, spending 2 months at the University of Western Australia (UWA); undertaking a wide range of renewable energy focused doctorate level technical taught modules; applying my research on a number of commercial offshore wind projects; presenting at conferences and more academic focused research, steered by highly respected Professors from the University of Oxford.
A recent week of work for me in March 2018 within REMS is shown below which I think highlights the diverse opportunities available to me while undertaking my DEng within an engineering consultancy.
My week starts at the Fugro office in Wallingford where, first thing in the morning, I attend a weekly design meeting for an offshore wind monopile foundation design project I have been working on. The consultancy project has been ongoing for 6 months and we are reaching the final stages. The project, which forms a section of my DEng portfolio, has been very challenging and has involved development of a number of new models and scripts to run and post-process a large number of 3D FEA. As part of the project we have some stress path tests running in the Fugro laboratory in Wallingford that are to be used for model calibration, so I spend some of my day checking the results completed so far to ensure they are as expected. The rest of my day is primarily spent running verification analyses for a new constitutive model I have implemented. I have been working on the model, termed the MSurf-ACE model, for many months with my supervisors, Prof. Chris Martin and Prof. Harvey Burd from the University of Oxford and Dr. Mike Rattley from Fugro.
Figure 1: Visiting the Fugro laboratory to inspect some ongoing stress path tests
I am working from my office in the University of Oxford today where I am continuing to run verification analyses for the MSurf-ACE model. I manage to drag myself from the computer to take a break at lunch time and attend the weekly civil engineering seminar in the university.
I spend Wednesday putting the finishing touches to slides I have prepared for a presentation I am to give in Holland for the Royal Netherlands Society of Engineers (KIVI). The presentation includes work from my research and additional recent innovations from the wider Fugro group.
I arrive in Holland and spend most of the day meeting colleagues at the Fugro office in Nootdorp to discuss innovation ideas across the Fugro group. In the evening I give my KIVI lecture titled: Foundation Optimisation for Ever Larger Turbines: Geotechnical Perspective. The lecture was attended by over 80 engineers and seemed to be well received, with several very interesting questions from the audience. I also had the opportunity to relax at the social event after the presentation and have some very interesting technical discussions with other engineers from the offshore industry.
Figure 2: Presentation at the KIVI lecture
I arrive back in the UK early morning and go to the office to start preparing a draft journal paper to describe the new MSurf-ACE model I have been developing. I attend a meeting in the afternoon with my supervisors to discuss the structure of the planned journal paper and some recent results I have produced. After this I head for some much-needed rest!
Figure 3: Presenting results at a supervisory meeting