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Channel sinuosity control on submarine-fan evolution

Academic lead
Prof William McCaffrey, School of Earth and Environment
Industrial lead
This project is attached to the Turbidites Research Group Joint Industry Project (JIP), which runs out of the School of Earth and Environment*
Dr Alan Burns, School of Chemical and Process Engineering, Dr Robert Dorrell, School of Earth and Environment
Project themes
Environmental Flows, Geophysical flows, Particulate flows, sediments & rheology

Submarine fan systems form some of the largest sedimentary deposit and they incorporate hydrocarbon reservoirs of critical importance to global industry and economy. Submarine fan systems are constructed from the deposits of meandering channels, themselves built over geological timescales by deposition from successions of density driven flows (turbidity currents). However, the physical controls on the structure of submarine fan systems, e.g. their lateral spread, driven by channel avulsion, and longitudinal scale, driven by flow run-out length are poorly understood. Recent research has identified that critical flow processes, namely super elevation and overspill, turbulence production and the flow pressure field are interlinked to the degree of channel sinuosity. It is speculated that channel sinuosity is a key control on system evolution. However, there is a lack of scaled experimental and computational modelling of such processes and their controls. This project will seek to develop experimental and numerical datasets of how changing channel sinuosity effects said key flow dynamic processes. Through these datasets the research will attempt to answer fundamental research questions pertaining to the size and structural development of submarine fans.

*This project is attached to the Turbidites Research Group Joint Industry Project (JIP), which runs out of the School of Earth and Environment and is supported by Anadarko, BG, BP, ConocoPhillips, Dana, Maersk, Nexen, OMV, Petronas, Statoil, Tullow, Woodside.   As well as regular engagement with sponsors at bi-annual meetings, the student will have direct engagement with one sponsor company, either through external supervision and/or by spending a period working directly with that sponsor during an internship (a one to three month paid suspension of study).