Advanced Software Has Designs For Energy
Tuesday, Jan 20, 2009

Advanced technology is being deployed in many sectors of the energy business. Here we cite three examples that demonstrate the use of Dassault Systèmes software in the fusion, oil exploration and wave power industries.

Title: Designs on Energy with Dassault Systèmes Technology


Fusion power could be the fuel of the future, generating limitless amounts of energy with little environmental impact. But fusion requires technology so complex that the scientists who began working on it 30 years ago are still laying the groundwork for its continued advancement by future scientists ­– who are currently just starting school. The world’s leading fusion research programme is being carried out at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire, where developers use Dassault Systemes’ CATIA V5 and ENOVIA SmarTeam PLM, supplied and supported by Applied PLM Solutions Limited, to create and maintain the vast amount of engineering data required to ensure that future generations can benefit from the work carried out today.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has been based at Culham since the 70s, when the experimental fusion energy machine was first designed and built as part of the Joint European Torus project (JET) – the flagship of Europe’s integrated fusion programme. The same machine still forms the basis of the UKAEA’s research today, though of course the design has gradually evolved as knew technologies and techniques become available. ‘CATIA V5 is used to model the entire device itself, plus the building and facilities which house it,’ explains Paul Carman, CATIA Manager at Culham. ‘This is a huge digital mock-up of JET, which consists of over a million parts built.’

Positive reaction

Having been CAD users for the past 20 years, one of the biggest challenges facing Carman and his team is the amount of legacy data that exists for every detail of the project. ‘The thing that sets this project apart from other big OEM users of CATIA is the fact that we have a single large experimental machine which has remained in use, slowly evolving since it was built,’ explains Carman. ‘So we never have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean as they do in the automotive or aerospace industries.’


Future proof

In conjunction with CATIA V5, the UKAEA has also invested in ENOVIA SmarTeam, creating an extended enterprise level system that enables the effective storage, sharing, maintenance and retrieval of engineering data between researchers and different agencies now and into the future.  This capability is set to become increasingly important, as the European fusion community prepares itself for the next phase of its research: the construction of a new, international and even more advanced facility at Cadarache in France. The International Tokamak Experimental Reactor (ITER), will be the link between today’s studies of plasma physics and tomorrow’s electricity-producing fusion power stations.

Twice the size of JET, with over 10 million parts to design and construct, involving an increasing number of global participants (the project already includes Russia, China and Korea, as well as the rest of Europe), each with their own collection of domestic research agencies, ITER will be a collaborative engineering project on a truly epic scale. However, since the reactor is not expected to become operational for the next 35 years, the ongoing work of research centres such as Culham, and the effective collection, maintenance and storage of the engineering data produced remains absolutely vital. ‘Until ITER is built, JET will remain the only machine of its level of sophistication in the world,’ says Carman, ‘and it’s important that we retain our world-class status ready for the transition to ITER. Effective PLM is a vital part of that process.’

Applied science

In order to establish the most effective PLM system possible for such an important project, Carman and his team called on the expertise of Dassault Systèmes’ VAR, Applied-PLM. ‘Finding the right systems provider is critical for a project of this scale and potential longevity,’ explains Carman. ‘Any mistakes made in this business tend to live with us for a very long time, so we have to have reliable solutions and integrators we can trust.”

In addition to the close support required for an effective PLM implementation, Applied has provided training and consultancy as well as bespoke software solutions to further enhance the integration process.

Shaun Clark Applied MD added. “ Providing technical support, and training on this project has given us valuable experience and knowledge of the power generation sector and its PLM needs at the very highest level.  With this valuable experience gained in such a complex environment we are confident that applying V5 PLM to others in the power generation industry will produce the kind of benefits that have been experienced by the UKAEA at Culham”

Lifetime guarantee

In the 30 years that Carman has been working at Culham, since the centre was first built, he has witnessed unimaginable changes in the technologies used to evolve the fusion project. ‘But,’ he says, ‘there are still some big changes to come. We won’t quite see anything as dramatic as the move from 2D to 3D full digital mock-up, but PLM offers amazing potential, and we intend to make the most of it”

JP Kenny – Pioneering FEA Technologies

In this example of the application of technology in design verification, international pipeline and sub seas engineering and management contractor JP Kenny is pioneering the application of finite element analysis (FEA) software in the upstream operations of one of its major Western Australian gas field projects.

Pipeline Design Challenges

With the gas field located in an area between 130km and 200km off the west coast of Western Australia, JP Kenny is applying state-of-the-art technologies to the design of the sea-bed pipeline, its route mapping and the proposed carbon dioxide sequestration project. In addition to the great length of the pipeline, other critical issues affecting the pipeline design are the depth of the sea bed at up to 1350m, the high temperature of the gas at up to 130°, and relatively high pressure at 360barg.

The addition of FEA technology to the computer aided design suite used by JP Kenny was driven by its ability to minimize the design time for components, minimize the number of prototypes that have to be fabricated, and provide a virtual test facility that can measure a number of criteria at once. Indeed, the application of the advanced technology is an important factor making the project economical.

Key elements of the project are:

§        Construction of a network of sea-bed manifolds and pipelines from the gas fields to an offshore island.

§        The sub sea structures will be large and require specialized installation technology.

§        A gas processing facility on the island.

§        Gas sequestration in formations deep below the island.

§        LNG shipping facilities to transport products to international markets.

The two largest upstream investments are the line pipe and pipe lay. According to Pipeline Business Leader, Gordon Cowper, the mix of high pressure and high temperature make pipeline material selection and corrosion management a key design issue. Pipeline wall thickness, corrosion inhibitors and claddings all impact costs, and FAE analysis is helping in the selection of alternative materials. “The deepwater location of part of the gas field presents clear challenges for the design and installation of large diameter pipeline,” said Cowper.“ The pipeline requirements include about 260km of large gas delivery line and some 520km of small diameter pipe connecting the wellheads, manifolds and other equipment.

Other issues to be considered in the design of the pipeline are the effects of the local marine environment, which features steep escarpments at the continental shelf, the annual cyclone season, large tidal movements, and strong currents, which impact on the seabed and the pipeline itself. A number of design criteria and equations fall outside the current design codes, so specialized engineering assessments are being applied.

Meeting the Challenges with FEA Software

To study the performance of alternative designs, J P Kenny is leveraging Abaqus, a complete suite of unified finite element analysis software from SIMULIA, the Dassault Systèmes brand for realistic simulation. Abaqus has a strong history with leading product development companies to optimize designs through virtual testing. Abaqus provides solutions for modelling and visualizing a design's behaviour for structural integrity when the structure is subjected to loads and contact. 

JP Kenny is pioneering the use of the software in seabed pipeline development. Abaqus is being used to evaluate conceptual designs, Front End Engineering Design (FEED) studies, and detailed design of the pipeline, because the software capabilities are readily applied to the deep water environment – its water and sea bed movements and pressures – and the high-temperature, high-pressure gas product.

The characteristics of the high-pressure/high-temperature gas flow and the natural seabed behaviour could combine to make predicted pipeline end expansions of 7m for the main line. The forces associated with this expansion include lateral displacement cycles of the pipe on the seabed of up to 10m. The Abaqus suite is helping the engineers develop and test designs to withstand the pipeline dynamics and the forces operating at the continental shelf crossing.

For example, detailed lateral buckling analyses are being done to assess forces, moments, strains, etc. across the full range of behaviours, including ratcheting due to start up and shut down cycles, the cumulative effect that pressure and temperature fluctuations have on the highly stressed apex of the buckle, and to investigate the potential for pipeline creep or walking.

Pipeline Seabed Interaction

“Pipeline and pipeline-to-seabed interaction is being modelled using the Abaqus contact surface option, and is helping to define appropriate locations for built in buckle points. It is also helping to identify expansion spool sizes and Abaqus elbow elements are used to predict bending and ovalization of the pipeline,” Gordon Cowper said.

In addition to helping the pipe lay team understand the loads on the pipeline due to pressure and seabed contact, Abaqus is being used to confirm the location where the pipeline should span the sea floor escarpment at the continental shelf, which drops from 200m to 800m water depth. Crossing the escarpment at the optimum point will reduce the pipe lay for the project by up to 40km – a significant cost saving.

The pipe lay team successfully integrated the Fledermaus interactive 3-D visualisation system with the Abaqus FEA tool to accurately map the escarpment. At the scarp crossing there is a potential pipeline span of 200 to 300m, so it is crucial that the pipeline has the structural integrity to span the escarpment. In addition to the usual lay tension, pressure, temperature, submerged pressure and axial spring tensions to be calculated, there were additional elements defining the local geo hazards, including mudflows on the scarp face.

FEA analysis is being done for a complete range of conditions, including with the pipeline empty, with operating contents, and with flushing media. The sensitivity cases being considered are different pipe outer diameters, wall thicknesses, addition of concrete coating and residual lay tension. Results from the span analysis reveal bending moment distribution, longitudinal strain profile and spanning pipeline profile along the route, and modal shapes and frequencies. The team is also exploring deepwater trenching to reduce this span.

“To make the undersea infrastructure more secure, we have used Abaqus FEA software to plan for major event scenarios, including the impact of cyclones on pipeline dynamics,” explained Gordon Cowper.  “Abaqus has reduced simulation times, and improved the efficiency and accuracy of pipeline design and route mapping since the team switched from ANSYS as the standard FEA tool.”

The state-of-the-art technologies being applied to the design and development of these gas fields are helping to make these huge energy assets commercially viable. In addition to helping to identify the potential to reduce the pipeline length by 40km, the software is also helping to make this asset safer and more environmentally responsible as it supplies vital energy and earns valuable export income for Australia.

Wave Power

In this example, Pelamis Wave Power uses Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA in another role where Abaqus Unified FEA evaluates the precision and reliability of wave power converters for clean, renewable energy

 Pelamis Wave Power Ltd (PWP), creators of an innovative wave energy converter, is performing rapid design evaluation and optimisation of its power generators with Abaqus Unified Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software from SIMULIA.

To generate electric power, Pelamis Wave Energy Converters (PWEC) are linked together into a “wave farm” on the ocean’s surface. Hydraulic rams resist the motion of the waves and pump hydraulic fluid through electricity-producing generators. A wave farm of 40 Pelamis machines, covering a square kilometre of ocean surface, is capable of generating electric power for 20,000 homes.


“The PWEC is an extremely innovative machine for harnessing the ocean’s energy,” stated Jon Benzie, senior engineer at PWP. “Abaqus FEA software from SIMULIA is, by far, the best solution available to accelerate the evaluation and optimization of our product’s performance.  It is a vital part of our development program as it enables us to perform highly focused, realistic performance studies on the sub-parts of our machines for stress, contact, and fatigue.”

“We are extremely pleased that our realistic simulation solutions are enabling the efficient development of clean, renewable energy,” stated Ken Short, vice president, SIMULIA strategy and marketing. “Abaqus Unified FEA provides robust real-world analysis capabilities that help innovative companies such as Pelamis Wave Power to create completely new products, while meeting the highest standards of safety, quality, and performance.”


Pelamis Wave Power uses Abaqus FEA software for initial concept analysis, general design work, and detailed functional analysis of its Wave Energy Converters. Engineers leverage the software’s material modeling capabilities and incorporate data from hydraulic systems tests, electrical layouts and production assembly requirements, to make their Wave Energy Converters efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound.



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