NRC leads the way in arctic technology r&D
For nearly 100 years, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has built a reputation as a results-focused R&D performer, capable of adapting to meet the most critical challenges. With comprehensive test facilities across Canada, including in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Ottawa, Ontario, NRC addresses the needs of its clients by providing solutions to complex problems involving marine vessels, structures and environments.
With a usable sheet of ice measuring 76 m X 12 m, NRC’s ice tank, situated in St. John’s, is one of the largest facilities of its type in the world, Fig. 1. With the ability to generate temperatures ranging down to -25°C, this indoor, refrigerated tow-tank facility simulates realistic Arctic and northern marine conditions, with the ability to grow ice, at the rate of 2.5 mm an hour, to a maximum thickness of 200 mm. All types of full-scale ice conditions can be modeled, from grey ice to multi-year ice, as well as level ice, drifting pack ice, columnar ice, ice ridges, glacial ice, bergy bits and growlers, among others. NRC has widely validated expertise in recreating the material properties of sea ice at model scale, which is crucial to the evaluation of vessel and structure performance in ice conditions.
At 90 m long, 12 m wide and 3 m deep, the tank’s size allows offshore structure and ship models to be tested at higher speeds and for longer durations, thus providing more data per run. The tank’s width makes it possible to perform maneuvering studies, and conduct multiple trial runs for each sheet of ice.
The National Research Council’s ice tank is equipped with a very large tow carriage, which is particularly well-suited to the testing of fixed and floating structures in ice. Typically, for fixed structure testing in ice, the carriage moves the structure through the ice, which remains stationary in the tank, and this produces an equivalent ice loading effect to moving the ice past a stationary structure. Testing combinations of floating and fixed structures is a challenge, due to the size of the models required, and only the largest ice-modeling facilities have the capacity to test the combined vessel and terminal infrastructure together.
This versatile ice-modeling facility has been used to study dozens of challenges, including navigation in Arctic conditions and model tests of ice structure interactions using model ice. NRC has a unique ability to combine physical scale modeling, advanced numerical modeling and extensive field testing to produce a unique offering to their clients that cannot be found elsewhere.
NRC’s Arctic program aims to ensure sustainable, low-impact development in the north, while increasing the quality of life for northerners. Through this program, researchers worked on a vital research project to improve challenging offshore emergency evacuations in the Arctic. The overall goals of the project focused on the potential for towing evacuation crafts (i.e. life rafts and totally enclosed motor propelled survival crafts) in rough weather and recovering them (singly), to the deck of a support vessel, without transferring personnel individually at sea, thereby reducing the risk to towing and rescue operations when compared to current operations.
Through this project, the effectiveness of three new towing concept designs (i.e. pre-attached towline, cradle and retrieve net/mesh) were assessed in a variety of wave conditions, ranging from benign to extreme. The towing concept designs were deployed from an offshore standby vessel.
With this research completed, NRC hopes to increase the operational window, and reduce the risk of towing and rescuing personnel from life rafts and totally enclosed motor propelled survival crafts. These results will translate into:
Rescuing the entire craft to the offshore standby vessel, without exposing personnel to the environment.
Extending the window of operation to cover 95% of the annual environmental conditions expected offshore Newfoundland (i.e. significant wave heights of about 6.7 m), in a region where current methods expose personnel to the environment and have an upper operational limit of about 4 min.
Following up from recent experiments involving evacuation from an FPSO vessel, NRC is working on a test program to investigate the potential for ice management to facilitate evacuation from a gravity-based structure. Remote control models of an offshore supply vessel and lifeboat (1:13 scale) will be used to simulate ice clearing and escort scenarios in pack ice. This work will involve Natural Resources Canada’s Program of Energy Research and Development and several industry partners. Ultimately, this research will help workers safely evacuate from a gravity-based structure, when surrounded by sea ice, and it will also help set operating limits.
The National Research Council offers the competitive advantage of world-class, customizable testing facilities combined with the broad knowledge, boundless networks and experience of its results-driven scientists, engineers, and technologists. NRC is working diligently to develop sustainable and targeted solutions for Canada’s Arctic. With almost a century of proven innovation, NRC is the hub for Canadian science and technology, and we are at the forefront for research and development for the Arctic.