Published on: 20 Jan 2022

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has awarded a new research grant to a team led by Dr. Krishna Kumar at The University of Texas at Austin to study submarine power cable burial methods and environmental impacts for offshore wind farms. The project aims to evaluate and improve the current guidelines for installing and operating submarine cables on the United States Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

BOEM Cables

As offshore wind energy expands in the U.S., there is a growing need to assess the suitability of existing submarine cable installation practices for the unique conditions of the OCS. Current guidelines, like those from the Carbon Trust in the UK, are based on European experience and may not fully account for risks from sediment mobility, natural hazards, and environmental impacts specific to U.S. waters.

Dr. Kumar’s team will investigate the performance of various cable burial techniques like plowing, jetting, and cutting for different seabed soil conditions. They will use advanced numerical simulation methods to model disturbance zones and environmental impacts during installation. The researchers will also analyze risks to cables from earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and shifting sediments on the seafloor.

Recommendations from the study will help establish best practices for submarine cable deployment that balance reliability, safety, costs, and environmental sustainability. Dr. Kumar expressed excitement about “having the opportunity to shape the future of renewable energy infrastructure for the United States.”

The UT Austin team includes offshore risk experts Dr. Bob Gilbert and Dr. Andrew Wolford and geotechnical engineer Dr. Chadi El Mohtar. Industry partners Risknology Inc and Parkwind in Belgium will provide technical guidance on assessing cable risks. The project award is part of a broader BOEM initiative supporting offshore wind research and harnessing America’s abundant offshore wind resources.