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The University of Southampton
Intelligent & Resilient Ocean Engineering – Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging TechnologiesNews and Events

Awards ‘pile’ up for offshore foundations

Published: 24 June 2021
Benjamin and David

This month, Southampton offshore engineers picked up three best paper awards for their work on ‘silent’ piled foundations and offshore risers. Dr Benjamin Cerfontaine and Professor David White were recognised in the awards ceremony for the International Conference for Press-in Engineering (ICPE2021) for two separate papers published on novel ‘silent piling’. Their work has advanced this novel technology that allows foundations to be constructed with minimal environmental disturbance.


Figure 1
A graded particle bed around a group of ‘silent’ piles

Benjamin’s award-winning paper describes how the discrete element method has been used to explore the use of ‘silent piling’ for offshore wind turbine foundations. This work has been carried out with colleagues at the University of Dundee and industrial partners, Heerema, a major marine contractor based in the Netherlands. Benjamin accepted the award online at 2am UK time, in front of an audience of 400 ICPE2021 participants. This research is demonstrating potential ways to install large steel foundation piles without recourse to the hammer systems that can harm marine life.

Figure 2
Animation of inter-particle force transmission around ‘silent' piles
Figure 3
Field testing of pressed-in ‘silent’ piles in Japan, circa 1997

Shortly afterwards, David received the Distinguished Research Award from the International Press-in Association (IPA), recognising the impact of a 2007 keynote paper on press-in engineering. The keynote paper was co-authored with Dr Andrew Deeks, who was a PhD student working with David at the time. Andrew is now with the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, and is a Visiting Fellow to Southampton, involved in both teaching and research. Their paper laid the groundwork for the wider research program of the IPA, which is supported by the Japanese construction technology firm, Giken Seisakusho. David’s collaboration with Giken began during his undergraduate research project and grew into a long term collaboration that supported PhD and undergraduate researchers to visit Japan for fieldwork.

Earlier this month, David also received the Institution of Civil Engineers Telford Gold Medal, which is awarded to the best paper across all ICE journals each year. His winning paper was co-authored with PhD student Zefeng Zhou and Dr Conleth O’Loughlin of the University of Western Australia. The paper is concerned with the fatigue of riser pipes, which is strongly influenced by the stiffness of the seabed on which they rest. The paper provides the first approach for assessing seabed stiffness that accounts for both softening from cyclic loads and also hardening from consolidation. Together, these effects cause the seabed stiffness to vary by up to an order of magnitude through the life of a riser.

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