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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Research project: Use of cryogenic buoyancy systems for controlled removal of heavy objects from the seabed

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R. Nicholls-LeeProf. R.A Shenoi, Dr S.R. Turnock, Dr M. Tan and Dr P.C. McDonald

The concept design of a lightweight cryogenic marine heavy lift buoyancy system has been investigated. The approach makes use of a novel cryogenic system for provision of buoyancy within the ocean environment. The objective is to be able to lift or lower large displacement objects under full remote control. The nature of subsea lifting and lowering operations requires a high degree of precise control for operational safety, reasons and to preserve the structural integrity of the load. The lift operation occurs in two phases: Development of lift to overcome seabed suction, and then rapid reduction of buoyancy to maintain a controlled ascent. Descent involves controlled release of the buoyancy. The proposed buoyancy system consists of a buoyancy chamber and an integral cryogenic gas generation unit. The application of an on-board gas generation unit allows the removal of the engineering challenges associated with use of compressors and the concomitant complex manifold of connecting umbilical pipe work. It provides for a fully remote system completely eliminating all risk associated with extensive physical surface to subsea connection throughout the entire lift operation.

The opening stages of the project work include the development of a system that will operate efficiently and effectively to a depth of 350m. An initial general arrangement for the buoyancy system has been developed. A number of these systems involve considerable design and development, these include: structural design of the buoyancy chamber, mechanical systems to control and connection to the lift device, the cryogenic system itself and overall process control systems. A prototype system is under construction, ready for testing in 2012.

A poster with more details about the project is available in pdf format under Useful Downloads.

Use of cryogenic buoyancy systems for controlled removal of heavy objects from the seabed
Use of cryogenic buoyancy sytems

Related research groups

Fluid Structure Interactions
Engineering Materials

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