Australia: Cyclone research to improve offshore safety

New research from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, in partnership with the oil and gas industry, is aiming to deliver better tropical cyclone forecasts for offshore facilities to improve safety and reduce costs.

The Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday that the two-year research program, jointly funded by Shell, Woodside, Chevron, and Inpex, developed new meteorological modeling that produces longer range and more detailed tropical cyclone forecasts.

The funding for the project was awarded back in 2015. The Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF) led the collaboration to secure funding for the A$3.2 million ($2.4 million) project carried out by the Bureau.

According to the organization, the industry-driven research should enhance tropical cyclone response planning and public weather forecasting services for the wider community. It could also helps predict the threat of destructive cyclone waves off the coast of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Bureau resource sector manager, Andrew Burton, said: “This new research allows us to paint a much clearer picture of the threat from a tropical cyclone at a particular location, three to seven days ahead of the event.

“For the first time, offshore operators can receive an objective analysis of the risk at their location at timescales that match their operational response planning.

“Another important new capability is guidance around wave conditions associated with cyclones. Offshore operators will now have a better insight into the highest wave conditions that could be experienced at a location, allowing them to safely relocate ships or de-man facilities if required.”

Jan Flynn, lead metocean engineer at Shell Australia, added: “Tropical cyclones cause major disruptions to offshore operations, as well as potential damage to infrastructure. It takes time to prepare an offshore facility for a tropical cyclone, incurring additional exposure for our personnel and in the past we’ve seen facilities shut down and de-manned unnecessarily due to the uncertainty in the forecast.

“The exciting new capability from this joint partnership will allow oil and gas operators to make better-informed decisions much earlier and on a more objective basis than previously possible, reducing the number of events where we respond unnecessarily.”