Centre of technology: How C-CORE’s R&D is making it a leader to those working in harsh environmentsBy: Suzanne Rent
In the mid 1970s petroleum exploration was expanding in Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore. But it wasn’t without its challenges, namely cold water, sea ice and icebergs.
To address those conditions, Memorial University in Newfoundland founded the Centre of Cold Ocean Resources (C-CORE), a not-for-profit organization that are experts in remote sensing, ice engineering and geotechnical engineering.
“Memorial president Dr. Moses Morgan and Dean of Engineering Dr. Angus Bruneau understood that to realize the potential stranded in these vast, poorly understood territories, an extraordinary research effort would be needed to understand our cold-ocean environment, and an almost unimaginable technology development initiative would be needed to address the environmental challenges, once we understood them.”
C-CORE’s technologies have a number of industry applications beyond the offshore. Remote sensing is used in image processing, integrity monitoring in hoist systems, including those in mining, as well as for radar expertise in surveillance systems used in the defence market.
Ice engineering helps to protect offshore production platforms, aquaculture facilities and the moorings of offshore turbines. The technology is also used to monitor hydroelectric dams and rivers for ice build up and movement. In this latter case, C-CORE’s geotechnical team can also assist with the design of the dam and choosing its location.
C-CORE also maintains a world-class geotechnical facility with a 5.5m-radius, 200G payload capacity Actidyn centrifuge. It’s the largest in Canada and the only one in North America designed to model cold region phenomena. The facility also has an adjoining model preparation laboratory and earthquake simulator. Here C-CORE can reliably test scale models of offshore and onshore pipelines, offshore production platforms and subsea installations, as well as onshore structures, including mines and large buildings.
“Actuators simulate a variety phenomena, from ice keel scour to severe wave action to frost-heave to earthquakes, so we can understand their effects on the structures in question,” Randell says.
Randell says almost all technologies C-CORE uses have changed significantly since the group’s founding.
“One aspect would be the increasing availability of computing power for mathematical modeling and algorhythmic analysis, better tools for data discovery and data mining, and much larger Internet bandwidth for faster delivery of remote sensing data, within minutes instead of hours.”
Randell says the increase in number and capabilities of satellites has helped with advancements of remote sensing technology.
“Ten years ago, we might only get a couple of satellite-radar images a week of a particular area or target. Today, we could get a dozen images a day if we wanted. They also have much increased resolution. Where once we could only detect large objects like icebergs or industrial excavators via radar, now we can detect, and even count, things as small as people.”
As companies seek resources in tougher environments, C-CORE has had to adapt, too. The organization has recent projects to help with its future goals, which include looking to the Arctic. C-CORE’s Centre for Arctic Resource Development focuses on longer-term, game-changing research to remove obstacles and advance hydrocarbon development in the Arctic and other ice-prone regions. Under its umbrella are programs such as LOOKNorth, whose goal is to validate and commercialize remote sensing technologies that can facilitate responsible, sustainable development of northern natural resources. Another program, Polar View, Randell says, is likely the world’s largest network for Arctic and Antarctic monitoring using Earth observation technologies.
C-CORE’s continued relationship with Memorial is a crucial one.
“Memorial is not only our founder and home, but we have links and collaborations with the University on every level,” Randell says. C-CORE works with students at Memorial on leading edge research. The group also looks to the university as a source of potential future employees. Its current employees have access to training via the university. And together, the two parties work together to access funding, by the strategic sharing of skills, facilities and research.
For C-CORE working in Newfoundland and Labrador has certainly been an accurate way to test this technology in the real world.
“More than 500 years of cumulative marine experience as well as daily direct contact with the cold ocean environment is a definite advantage,” Randell says. “And the Grand Banks provides a real-time lab for testing solutions. Over the past 15 years, we have gained incredible knowledge by observing and being part of project operations in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin.”
C-CORE has been named one of top 30 places to work in Atlantic Canada. Meanwhile, Atlantic Business magazine recently named Randell one of Atlantic Canada’s top CEOs. While the technology, long-term vision and an entrepreneurial culture is at the core of the company’s philosophy, Randell says the key to their success is their people.
“We have a team of amazing people who are passionate about what C-CORE does and dedicated to finding practical solutions to tough problems. The tougher the problem, the more tenacious the team is to get an answer. They never ask ‘can we do it?’ They just ask ‘How are we going to do it this time?’”