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Fully-funded Doctoral Studentship in Offshore Wind Energy related to Geotechnical Engineering at Durham University

Duration: 3.5 years
Supervisors: Prof. Charles Augarde and Dr Will Coombs

Durham University is seeking applications for a PhD studentship as part of our EPSRC Prosperity Partnerships project. This £7.6M project is a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield, Durham and Hull and the two leading industrial companies in offshore wind energy, Siemens-Gamesa and Ørsted. The successful applicant will have close links to the Durham Energy Institute and be able to access training through the University’s Researcher Development Programme.

Project title:
Numerical modelling of drag anchors for cable risk assessment.

Project description:
Current approaches to determine drag anchor behaviour when assessing the risk to windfarm cables of the anchoring of vessels close to the cable route are often based on outdated anchor penetration models and data from trials undertaken many years ago. Concerns exist that for some types of seabeds the guidance, on fluke penetration and drag length, could be over-conservative. Knowledge of the performance of drag anchors is necessary to assess the risk of damage to cabling laid on or in the seabed. Increasing numbers of offshore installations for renewable energy means increased cabling to carry the electricity to land and hence prompts the need for improved risk assessment procedures. In this project, advanced numerical modelling will be applied to the problem of drag anchor embedment in the seabed. The numerical modelling will be based on the Material Point Method, which provides an efficient means to model very large deformations and is ideal for the modelling of soil-structure interaction. The supervisors at Durham have already developed the method to model seabed ploughing. The aim is for the modelling results to lead to improved quantification of risk to assets such as cables.

Assessment criteria:
Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

  • First class honours (or high 2.1 or equivalent) degree in engineering, physics, the mathematical sciences or computer science (project-depending).
  • Strong understanding of engineering applications and problem solving.
  • Excellent written and spoken communication skills in English.

The following criteria are desirable but not essential:

  • A strong understanding of offshore wind energy systems, relevant to the particular project;
  • First degree in civil/geotechnical engineering;
  • Knowledge in non-linear solid mechanics (material or geometric);
  • Knowledge of constitutive models for soils (for example, Critical State Soil Mechanics);
  • Knowledge on finite-element analysis (or other boundary-value solvers); and
  • Experience of scientific programming and implementation of numerical methods in computer code.

Funding and application process:

  • The Department holds an Athena Swan Bronze award, highlighting its commitment to promoting women in Science, Engineering and Technology.
  • Decisions will be made on applicants as they are received.
  • In the first instance, interested candidates are encouraged to make an informal enquiry to the named academic supervisor(s). To apply formally for this studentship, applicants should submit an application using the online system found at https://www.dur.ac.uk/postgraduate/study/apply/.
  • The UK/EU studentships are fully funded for 3.5 years with a tax-free stipend at the EPSRC rate (£14,553 for 2017/18).

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