$329m project takes infrastructure out to sea

Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

$329m project takes infrastructure out to sea

The Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) will provide solutions to meet global demand for seafood and energy by developing new technologies for ocean infrastructure. Macquarie University engineers are set to advance marine-based industries, with the aim of unlocking economic, environmental and technological benefits in aquaculture and renewable energy.

Reported to be the largest CRC in the history of the scheme, the project is expected to generate more than $4 billion for the national economy.

The focus of the first five years of the program aims to develop and test new offshore aquaculture and renewable energy technologies, which will then be brought together on a single platform to demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of co-location.

Australian Maritime College Associate Professor Irene Penesis, Blue Economy CRC Research Director, said, “The offshore research platform will act as a living laboratory where we can vertically integrate renewable energy and aquaculture technologies with other engineering activities, such as autonomous and remotely operated vehicles, in a proof of concept for how we could operate in the future.

“It will be the first offshore research platform of its kind in the world and we’re confident that it will deliver groundbreaking research alongside commercially viable new materials, concepts, prototypes and monitoring systems — all informed by best practice and delivered in an environmentally sustainable way.”

Macquarie University’s Dean of Engineering, Professor Darren Bagnall, explained, “Australia has the third-largest maritime zone in the world. It is around 10 million square kilometres. That’s larger than Australia’s land mass.

“Macquarie University engineers are already working to improve the safety and reliability of oil and gas platforms and of Australian Navy ships. We’re excited about the opportunity to build on this expertise to create new kinds of infrastructure that will operate safely and efficiently far out to sea.”

With $70 million in funding from the Australian Government, the $329 million research project is a 10-year collaboration between six Australian research agencies, 25 industry and government partners and a dozen international partners.

Dr Rouzbeh Abbassi, leader of Macquarie’s contribution to the CRC, said, “We can only move seafood and energy production offshore if we can ensure safe operations under extreme ocean environments.

“We are providing expertise in assessing and evaluating safety, reliability and economic viability of different offshore structures and in different ocean energy resource development.”

Assoc Prof Penesis said the program is unique in bringing together aquaculture, renewable energy and offshore engineering for the first time.

“Industries must be enabled to move from the coast zone into more exposed operating environments before we can secure this major opportunity for the nation,” she said.

Assoc Prof Penesis explained that moving industries to the maritime zone would involve:

  • developing new technologies and infrastructure to allow industries to expand offshore
  • lowering the cost of operations through increased renewable energy
  • making advances in materials and the design of offshore structures to increase longevity and reliability in extreme environments
  • improving the environmental management of our oceans
  • developing and advocating for regulatory frameworks that build confidence for industry to invest
  • ensuring the public has confidence that developments operate at the highest environmental standards.

For more information, visit blueeconomycrc.org.au.

Image supplied by Macquarie University.

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