Technology and Innovation
21 July 2014 |   ByC Debier
Fugro Author
SMARTPIPE® is the only commercially available in situ testing tool that characterises very soft soils in deep water with a real size pipeline section.

Fugro’s SMARTPIPE® consists of an integrated module which is fitted in a seabed frame. The module includes a standardised pipe section that directly measures the pipe-soil interaction forces in three dimensions. The pipe section instrumentation includes force sensors, displacement sensors and pore-water pressure sensors located along the pipe invert and circumference. Supplementary equipment includes a conventional or mini T-bar for shallow monotonic and cyclic soil testing or a CPT for shallow monotonic testing.

The instrumented pipe section consists of a polypropylene-coated steel pipe with interface roughness (Ra) of about 5 µm to 10 µm. Pipe loads, displacements and pore-water pressures during pipe movements are measured in realtime as a result of fibre optic cable. 

Testing in the vertical and axial directions, monotonic and cyclic testing in the vertical direction up to 1.0 m stroke, monotonic or cyclic testing in the axial direction up to 0.5 m amplitude and lateral movements (for example, to mimic lay effects) can be modelled. 
While the system was designed for very soft deepwater clays it has also performed well in silty carbonate sands at shallow water depths.

SMARTPIPE® from concept to construction


Developed in collaboration with BP and the University of Cambridge to meet industry needs and improve understanding in terms of pipe-soil interaction. The challenge: to create an innovative technology that is able to measure pipe-soil interaction forces in the field.


System capability extends to measuring loads, excess pore water pressures and displacements during the movement of a real size pipeline section and in water depths up to 2,500 metres. Easily deployed from the deck of a geotechnical vessel, the SMARTPIPE® system allows remote control and real-time data acquisition.


Extensive trials in soil conditions similar to those expected in deep waters; SMARTPIPE® equipment is deployed offshore. Fugro conducts two site investigations with BP, off the coast of West Africa. Investigations are conducted in very soft sediments in water depths greater than 2,000 metres. The huge amount of data collected is indispensable for the design of the HPHT oil pipelines, which will be interacting with challenging, very soft soil conditions for many years.

A custom-built LARS is developed for safe recovery of the SMARTPIPE® equipment.


A site investigation offshore West Africa provides a pertinent dataset to better characterise the interaction between very soft sediments and infield flowlines. Testing focuses on studying key parameters known to influence the pipe-soil interaction response. A subsequent site investigation focuses on testing carbonate sands and clays offshore Western Australia. The SMARTPIPE® system is deployed from state-of-the-art geotechnical drillship Fugro Synergy to confirm the range of site-specific pipe-soil interaction parameters and justify optimistic assumptions made during the preliminary design phase.

New testing sequences capture the potential for cycling hardening; effects of the laying dynamics and pipeline unloading; and axial resistance at slow pipe velocities. During 24 cumulative days of testing, with minimal downtime, SMARTPIPE® works continuously on the seabed for up to seven days.

To ensure smooth recovery of the SMARTPIPE® frame a dedicated cursor frame is developed.


Most popular articles

Sign up for email updates