dcsimg Scarcity triggers innovation - Ramboll Group

Scarcity triggers innovation

The shortage of resources is a global megatrend that demands creative solutions, pushing the boundaries of the possible. In the Arctic Circle, an innovative, safe and profitable deep-water pipeline between gas rich areas in the Norwegian Sea and Europe will be crucial to securing future energy supply. 

By Kristine Barenholdt Bruun & Jesper Toft Madsen

How do you build a Lego house if you are running out of bricks? You get creative.

On a slightly bigger scale, securing future energy supply represents a tremendous, yet similar challenge. We have to search longer and farther to find natural resources and use them more flexibly. And the pressing need for cost-efficiency only reinforces the need for inventive minds that can develop new techniques.

The coming Polarled pipeline deep down in the Norwegian Sea demonstrates just how Europe’s growing energy scarcity has combined with the extreme conditions of the Arctic to spark an innovative solution. As old gas fields become depleted, the new pipeline can secure the continent’s future gas supply by transporting energy resources from remote areas.

In 2012 alone, 12 new gas fields were discovered in the Norwegian Sea, spurring optimism that the region’s inherent potential could secure the European energy supply for many years to come.

World’s largest deep-water pipeline

The 481-km Polarled pipeline will be the first step in developing the new gas region and, as such, the backbone of future connections. The 36" pipeline is the world’s first of its size to be built at water depths reaching 1,300 metres.

Visualisation of Polarled, 481 km pipeline, to be installed on an extremely uneven seabed

The cost-effectiveness of transporting gas depends on the size and length of the pipeline, and at such depths, this poses a challenge that calls for innovative thinking. Statoil ASA, the owner of the Polarled project, has engaged Ramboll’s specialists to design the pipeline.

“If we want to make transporting gas cost-effective, we need to have as much gas running through the pipelines as possible. In deep water, the extreme external pressure makes the largest pipelines difficult to use,” says Per Jørgensen, Senior Director at Ramboll Oil & Gas.

Technology as inaccessible as the gas

So how do you build a large and cost-effective pipeline at such extreme water depths?

It takes highly demanding technical optimisation and advanced technology to reach the hard-to-access gas resources. But only a few engineers possess the knowhow needed to design a subsea project of this scale and complexity. To meet the challenge, specialists have developed new models for assessing complicated 3D design.

Ramboll Project Manager Lars Eriksen explains:

“The project size offers huge possibilities for optimizing the various technical solutions. In particular, we have developed finite element models for assessing very complicated 3D designs. The models give us an exceptional understanding of the true physical behaviour of the pipeline, thus enabling us to optimise its design.”

Ongoing innovation of software solutions

Ramboll is constantly developing new software tools to model the complexities of the Polarled pipeline and streamline its design. One such tool under development will determine the fatigue life of the free-spanning pipeline, as the pipeline has to run through rough, uneven seabed terrain. The tool will use ANSYS to analyse Eigen frequency and Mathlab to classify Eigen frequency and calculate hydrodynamic loading and fatigue.

“The investment made in developing these tools in-house will become extremely valuable in future projects, as we can activate them on new projects, too. You simply cannot buy these tools on the market. They will enable the fast execution of projects in a wide array of design disciplines,” says Kristoffer Bergholt, Project Engineering Manager and Team Leader in the Pipelines & Subsea.

The software tools enabled the team to deliver a comprehensive Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) to Statoil, who will use it as an example for future projects to follow.

About the Polarled pipeline project

  • The Polarled Pipeline Project comprises a 36", 481 km gas transmission pipeline from the Aasta Hansteen field, located in the Norwegian Sea, to the Nyhamna gas facility in western Norway• A pipeline to the Barents Sea is expected to be a natural expansion of the Polarled pipeline, potentially adding another 1,000 km
  • Ramboll’s work encompasses FEED, detailed design, route optimisation, pipeline tie-in, geotechnical foundation design, risk and safety, environmental impact assessment (EIA) and interface coordination
  • Project period: 2013–2016
  • Budget: NOK 25 billion

Read more

Response #2 2014: Optimising resources
The second issue of Response addresses how global society can approach resource scarcity by bringing smart, efficient and sustainable solutions to the table.


Per Jørgensen, Ramboll Oil & Gas
Senior Director, Business Development, Denmark
T+45 5161 8776
Lars Eriksen, Principal Project Manager
Lars Eriksen
Principal Project Manager
T+45 5161 8777