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Breaking the ice

CARD Chair in Ice Mechanics focusing on Arctic, sub-Arctic


By Jackey Locke

Dr. Rocky Taylor has had a fascination with ice since he was a kid growing up in a small community northwest of St. Anthony, N.L., known as the iceberg capital of the world.

“Growing up in Raleigh, I developed a high degree of comfort around ice, and also a great deal of respect for the potential hazards it can create as well,” he said. “Many outdoor activities in the winter were carried out on the ice and in the spring we spent a lot of beautiful afternoons playing on the ice in the harbour and on the bay. Sea ice and icebergs were just part of the backdrop of everyday life for much of the year, so working around and with ice is something I became quite accustomed to.”

Ice failure processes

These days; however, Dr. Taylor’s fascination with ice isn’t for playing children’s games. As an assistant professor (mechanical engineering) and the CARD (Centre for Arctic Resource Development) Chair in Ice Mechanics in Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Dr. Taylor now collaborates with industry partners to conduct large-scale experiments and theoretical studies of ice failure processes in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.

“There are some very exciting opportunities here in the new frontier basins that have been discovered offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.” –Dr. Rocky Taylor

Through this chair position, which is funded through the CARD program hosted by C-CORE and jointly funded by Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd. and the Terra Nova project, Dr. Taylor conducts research that focuses on three thematic areas: modelling ice-structure interactions, modelling ice failure properties and behaviour and conducting field programs to help understand and characterize ice environmental conditions.

“There are some very exciting opportunities here in the new frontier basins that have been discovered offshore Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Taylor. “The research we are doing will support the safe, economic development of the vast offshore resources present in ice-prone regions, and support improved efficiency and safety of vessels operating in ice. An essential part of how we achieve this is through extensive collaboration with our industry partners, as well as through partnerships with other world-leading ice engineers and researchers.”

Critical mass required

While many of his projects involve international collaborations, Dr. Taylor also highlights the importance of the strong relationships he has with his colleagues at C-CORE, the National Research Council (NRC) and Memorial, who all play a vital role in maintaining the critical mass needed to sustain a vibrant ice engineering community in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“One exciting area of research we have been working on is investigating the role of temperature, interaction rate, scale and structural compliance in the synchronization of ice failures that can trigger ice-induced vibrations on structures,” said Dr. Taylor. “We have conducted experimental and numerical analyses to improve our understanding of the physics of fracture and localized changes to the ice microstructure (damage), which results in drastic changes to local ice material properties near the contact interface.

“This work has significantly increased our understanding of links between these processes, structural response and associated ice loads. New probabilistic approaches for modelling fracture, as well as estimating local and global design ice pressures have also been developed, which are important in helping link risk-based design methods with the underpinning physics of ice compressive failure.”

‘Confinement and temperature’

Dr. Taylor and his colleagues are also working to develop an improved understanding of how strength develops in ice ridges, which form when large masses of broken ice (rubble) accumulate in nature due to movement and deformation in the pack ice cover.

“Large-scale experiments carried out as part of past collaborations between CARD and the NRC have provided important insights into the influence of factors such as confinement and temperature on the development of overall strength in ice ridges,” explained Dr. Taylor. “The next step is to link the overall strength of these ridges with the physics of the processes by which strength is developed in and between the ice blocks that make up the keel. Understanding and modelling these phenomena are essential in guiding the development of improved methods for modelling loads on structures, ships and subsea facilities that may interact with such ice features when operating in first-year ice environments.”

To help verify that findings from desktop and laboratory studies translate to full-scale interactions, carrying out field tests and data collection programs are crucial. Building on past field work in the Northumberland Strait, the Caspian Sea, and the Barents Sea, Dr. Taylor works closely with his colleagues at CARD to collect new field data offshore Labrador and in northern Newfoundland.

“These ice conditions may impede and beset vessels operating in the sea ice, which may also impact the operations they support.” –Dr. Rocky Taylor

“In our current field work, we deploy various types of instrumentation, which provide vital data needed for the development of next generation ice drift forecasting and ice-structure interaction models,” explained Dr. Taylor. “This research is also closely linked with the development of improved models of pack ice pressure that we are working on. Pressured ice can occur when converging ice conditions arise due to wind, current and pack stresses. These ice conditions may impede and beset vessels operating in the sea ice, which may also impact the operations they support.

“In addition, field experiments are being conducted to improve our understanding of ice-ice interactions and the failure processes that limit pressures during these interactions. This includes the collection of new ice failure strength data to study the effects of scale and in situ conditions on ice flexural and compressive strength.”

Impact of global warming?

When asked about the future of ice mechanics in a warming world, Dr. Taylor replied, “Despite changes to ice regimes around the world, ice will continue to be an essential consideration for ships and structures operating in sub-Arctic and Arctic regions well into the future. The only certainty going forward is uncertainty and it’s here that engineering research plays an essential role.

“Our work aims to enhance the safety and economy of design and operations through the reduction of uncertainties in modelling ice-structure interactions and associated risks. An essential part of this is characterizing ice environmental conditions and understanding how evolving ice conditions may translate into changes in the types of ice features present, the nature of interactions and the corresponding risk profiles for structures, vessels and other infrastructure, so as to support effective decision-making. In nature, variability is always present and the key is to appropriately account for these uncertainties and build in sufficient system capacity to ensure safety is achieved.”

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