Jeremy Parsons: User-Centered Design, Mechanical Engineering and Product Development
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Royal Dutch Shell

Senior Design: Researching Thermal Fatigue in Oil & Gas Pipelines

During my final year of undergraduate at CU, I was part of team of seven engineers on a Shell-sponsored senior design project. The project researched an important safety issue by focusing on how thermal/fluid mixing behavior and heat transfer can induce thermal stresses and fatigue in oil and gas pipeline systems. This fatigue in the pipelines was causing premature failures, putting Shell employees at risk and driving up costs to test and replace the pipeline. During the course of the research, I served as the technical lead for thermal design and manufacturing teams.

A pipeline system was designed and manufactured to reproduce the target pressure and temperature conditions. Once fabricated, the thermal/fluid inputs could be carefully controlled to match the same operating conditions as the refineries during the data collection. All experimental results were simultaneously validated with Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations.

Once the cause for the fatigue was diagnosed, the resulting documentation was was provided to Shell to inform the implentation of safety equipment onsite at their refineries.