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Ocean science for offshore and coastal engineering

Western Australia's coastal and offshore regions have many types of infrastructure including offshore platforms and pipelines, ports and coastal protection structures. 

The design of these structures requires a thorough understanding and prediction of the physical oceanographic processes, particularly under a changing climate. 

The waters off WA’s North-West coast – 2000 kilometres along the coast from the North West Cape to the Timor Sea and 500 to 600 kilometres offshore – are of national strategic significance.

The region is also home to the offshore oil and gas industry, one of the most significant components of the State and national economies. Thousands of kilometres of oil and gas pipelines have been laid in this area and thousands more are expected to be laid in the future.

Researchers have:

  • begun a review of the historical data from the Browse Basin in the Kimberley;
  • analysed past field observations of internal tides at a number sites on North-West Shelf;
  • built laboratory models to study internal tide generation and dynamics;
  • built hybrid numerical models linking global ocean circulation models (BLUElink) with regional scale ocean models (ROMS);
  • developed high resolution non-hydrostatic numerical ocean models to couple with regional ocean models;
  • built high resolution benthic boundary layer instruments for ocean measurements at diverse sites on the North-West Shelf;
  • obtained an understanding of internal tide dynamics in southern portions of North-West Shelf;
  • are working with Woodside Energy, who have funded the development of six different climate models to measure wind and pressure fields, tropical cyclone storm tracks, air temperatures and humidity, to assess the impacts of storms on the North West Shelf;
  • appointed a postdoctoral researcher;
  • completed a journal article on internal waves; and  
  • deployed ocean gliders to monitor to obtain near-real time data from the continental shelf and slope regions.   

Results will be used to:

  • provide tools to understand the behaviour of the physical ocean environment on the North-West Shelf;
  • provide tools to predict the behaviour of the physical ocean environment in as yet unexplored ocean regions on the North-West Shelf and elsewhere;
  • predict the effects of climate change on the WA ocean environment on 25 to 50-year timescales; and
  • develop new instruments and technologies to support current and future marine development.