Woodside is Australia’s leading natural gas producer, committed to providing sustainable energy solutions. In the next few years, Woodside is planning to remove oil production infrastructure from an offshore oil and gas field that has ceased production: 26km of flexible flowlines (3400 tonnes) and 15km of umbilicals (310 tonnes). These are both flexible pipes, cylindrical pieces of equipment made of composite metals and polymers. As part of its commitment to providing sustainable energy solutions and creating opportunities for the communities where it operates, Woodside is focused on finding alternative applications to repurpose these materials. The large volume and condition of the materials being removed creates an opportunity for innovation.
Woodside Energy is sponsoring the Flexible Pipes Lifecycle Challenge with a total prize purse of $25,000 for up to 12 innovators with the most compelling ideas.
The goal of this challenge is to find options to repurpose or upcycle these pipes into applications outside of hydrocarbon production. If you have actionable ideas for how to re-purpose these materials, we want to hear about them!
The removal of umbilicals and flexible pipelines will occur as a consequence of the end of the productive life of the oil or gas field, and is not triggered by the end of life of the components themselves. This challenge asks you to imagine how these pipes can be diverted from both ocean floor and landfill to be cost-effectively and safely repurposed.
A great deal of the industrialised world is operating in a linear economy in which raw natural resources are transformed into products that are designed under the assumption that they will ultimately become waste. Disposal of this waste may be associated with undesirable environmental outcomes. In contrast, efforts toward sustainability call for a circular economy that “employs reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system, minimizing the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.” In March 2020, Australia passed a waste and recycling law which places limits on the export of plastics for recycling from Australia. To avoid building new landfills to handle waste that formerly was exported, Australia must innovate including by redirecting waste streams by repurposing and/or building recycling capacity.
In keeping with its commitment to sustainable solutions, Woodside, Australia’s leading natural gas producer, is interested in options to redirect more than 3000 tonnes of flexible pipes towards alternative uses. These pipes are made of composite metals and polymers, and were used to transport water, oil, and gas from an offshore field that has ceased production. In total, 26km of flexible flowlines (3400 tonnes) and 15km of umbilicals (310 tonnes) will be removed in the next few years.
Woodside has experience in safe and reliable oilfield operations and therefore is not seeking solutions that suggest reusing these pipes in another oil and gas production project. Of great interest in this challenge, is the possibility of repurposing the components -- high grade, corrosion-resistant steel tubes, copper, and polymers -- for other applications outside of oil and gas production, thereby reducing the manufacture of new materials.
Woodside is seeking innovative, alternative uses for the materials that can be executed within 5 years after removal so as to divert them away from landfill. What are the opportunities to upcycle the flexible flowlines and umbilicals outside of an oil and gas application?
In the first instance, Woodside will remove the pipes from the seabed and may keep them in storage onshore to allow for time to mature solutions. Storage may be at least 1200km from a major city but relatively close to other industrial and agricultural centers. Storage may also be located closer to a major city if conducive to an appropriate metropolitan repurpose application. The pipes may have minor marine growth on the exterior. Contamination is expected to be low, apart from some minor hydrocarbon residue.
Any applications outside of oil and gas production will be considered. However, the Solution should be applicable and scalable in Australia as there are legal limits on the export of plastics from Australia. The Idea/Solution can change the form of the pipes (eg. cutting) for the purpose of transformation into another form or structure. The Idea/Solution should not create substantial forms of emissions in its execution (e.g. intense carbon emissions in the atmosphere).
Flexible flowlines are composite tubes made of layers of metals and polymers used for the transport of fluids in oil and gas production. Umbilicals are composites of metals, copper wire, fibre optic cable, and polymers used to transmit electricity, hydraulic controls, and data across various production installations. Flexible flowlines and umbilicals are both cylindrical, mixed media of metals, plastics, and other materials. More details on these materials can be accessed in the technical summary.
The Challenge Breakthrough
This challenge seeks to crowdsource sustainable solutions for Australia.
While this challenge may provide ideas to improve outcomes in one decommissioning project for Woodside, the winning Solutions may have a much greater, far-reaching impact. There are many other oil and gas producers in Australia and the world who can repurpose their materials in the same way or be inspired to identify other purposes that fit their local situations and economies. The exploration of repurposing ideas and subsequent iterations may lead to innovations in the initial design of oil and gas infrastructure that streamlines reuse and lengthens the lifecycle of the materials. This may also inspire innovation in design and reuse in other industries as consumers and governments see what is possible through these efforts. Ultimately, this challenge contributes to sustainable outcomes in energy infrastructure globally.
Woodside is looking, first and foremost, for the most pragmatic Solutions that it can implement in Western Australia within 5 years after removal of the flexible pipes. It is also interested in highly innovative Solutions that are applicable to other parts of Australia or even outside of Australia and perhaps not feasible in the 5 year time frame.
Best Western Australia Solutions
These Solutions rely on:
Technologies that are proven or can be proven and incorporated in the time frame and
Experts, staffing, and other resources that are already in or can dependably be brought into Western Australia at the time of execution to repurpose a significant proportion of the pipe materials. The new purpose can be exported outside of Australia as long as the materials are not exported as waste.
First Prize: $5,000 1 winner
2nd Prize: $3,500 up to 2 winners
3rd Prize: $1,000 up to 4 winners
Judges’ Choice Innovative Solution
This Solution has the potential to create greater environmental impact and/or transformation to new and innovative products, but does not meet 5 year time frame and/or cost requirements
First Prize: $5,000 1 winner
2nd Prize: $2,500 up to 1 winner
At the judges’ discretion, up to 3 additional teams will be selected
$500 Prize up to 3 winners
In addition to the $25,000 prize purse for this challenge, there are other non-monetary incentives for participating:
Winners will be featured in marketing materials. Additional public recognition of the winners may be offered through other organizations and opportunities.
Winners may be offered an opportunity to work with Woodside to implement their Solution.
See the Official Rules section below for more information about eligibility, prizes, and restrictions.
What This Challenge Is Not
This is not about reusing the materials for oil and gas production. Woodside is looking for solutions outside of the oil and gas industry.
Recycling is the processing and use of wastes in production and consumption processes, for example, melting of scrap iron so that it can be converted into new iron products. Context: The re-introduction of residual materials into production processes so that they may be reformulated into new products.
Generally, recycling requires more energy than repurposing.
This Challenge is not a recycling challenge in which the pipe materials (composite metals and polymers) are reduced to their basic monomers or base materials. For example, the Solution cannot include melting the plastic down to be transformed into another form. On the other hand, the Solution can include cutting and/or smashing to transform the pipes for another purpose, for example, cutting the pipe into 1 foot sections for a construction purpose where tensile strength is required.
If your Solution involves recycling, do not despair! Woodside is offering a separate challenge for recycling Solutions.
Open to Submissions: November 4, 2021 @ 9:00 AM ET
Submission Deadline: March 7, 2022 @ 11:59 PM ET
Judging: March 8 to April 26, 2022
Winners Announced: April 27, 2022
How do I win?
To be eligible for an award, your proposal must, at minimum:
Satisfy the Judging Scorecard requirements
Thoughtfully address the Submission Form questions
Purpose: Be different than selling the pipeline to another energy company for use in oil and gas production
Impact: Be better than placing the materials in a landfill
Health, Safety and Environment: Not introduce significant risk to health or safety risk to people or infrastructure
Timeline: Ready to execute within 5 years of the materials being removed from the seabed, except the Innovation and/or honorable mention prizes
Scale: Handle at least 10% of the volume of materials, except the honorable mention prizes
Is the submission complete and responsive? Is the writing clear, concise, and compelling? Are the ideas and information presented thoughtfully and in an easy-to-follow manner?
How feasible is this Solution, including availability of resources, readiness of Research & Development at the time of execution, timeline, and participation by needed stakeholders
How cost-competitive is this Solution compared to other forms of disposal?
This takes into consideration both costs and revenues (if the Solution has commercial value)
How significant is the positive impact on the environment?
How positive is the net impact on the environment?
Waste Management Market Impact
How much potential impact on the waste management market does this Solution have, including scalability, participation by multiple stakeholders, application in the future, building new capacities and/or industry within Australia?
The challenge is open to all individuals over the age of 18, private teams, public teams, and collegiate teams. Teams may originate from any country. Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.
No specific qualifications or expertise in any fields such as engineering, material science, waste management, and/or environmental sustainability are required. Prize organizers encourage outside individuals, students, and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions.
To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.
Registration and Submissions:
Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the HeroX.com website, on or before 11:59 PM ET on March 7, 2022. All uploads must be in PDF format. No late submissions will be accepted.
This challenge allows multiple submissions per individual/team. Should you have multiple entries to submit to this challenge, they will be considered separately. Whether or not multiple entries from the same individual or team may be chosen for a prize is up to the discretion of the Challenge Sponsor. You are not required to submit multiple entries if that option is available.
Intellectual Property Rights:
As detailed in the Challenge-Specific Agreement, the Innovator will retain all intellectual property rights to their technology. Should the innovator win an award, the Sponsor will require the Innovator to provide Woodside with a licence to the intellectual property contained in the Submission. The licence will be for a nominal amount and will allow both the Innovator and Sponsor to independently use the intellectual property for their own use.
Selection of Winners:
Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the Judging Criteria section above. In the case of a tie, the winner(s) will be selected based on the highest votes from the Judges.
Awarding of the Prize:
The Individual Submitter or Team Captain is automatically designated as the Recipient of the prize monies. The Individual’s or Captain’s name must also match the Authorized Person on the receiving Bank Account. No changes are permitted to the prize Recipient after the Submission Deadline date. If you wish to change who would receive the prize monies, those changes must be completed prior to the Submission Deadline. View our Knowledge Base article here for how to change Team Captains.
The determination of the winners will be made by Woodside.
By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
Congratulations to the Flexible Pipes Lifecycle Challenge Winners!
This challenge tasked participants with imagining how retired flexible pipes from offshore oil or gas fields can be safely repurposed, diverting the materials from landfill and promoting sustainable development.
The challenge received over 100 submissions, with participants coming from across the globe. The submissions imagined the materials in a variety of different industries, such as utilities, construction, and farming, and proposed using the pipes in a range of different environments, including marine and urban environments.
Judges determined x entries to award a total of $19,500 in prizes across 3 categories.
Best Western Australia Solutions
These solutions presented the most relevant and feasible ideas within the available timeframe and location of the pipes.
First Place - $5,000
Michael van der Bent - Hydro Re-Fertilizing Australia
‘Hydro Re-Fertilizing Australia’ proposes re-using the tubes to transport sea water inland for desalination and reuse
Second Place - $3,500
Jamel M’Hamdi - In ... the fight against marine erosion of beaches
‘In ... the fight against marine erosion of beaches’ proposes using the pipes to fight against beach erosion
Third Place - $1,000
Jovanovic Igor - Cooling For Green Power
‘Cooling For Green Power’ proposes re-purposing the pipes and materials to build and support various elements of solar power plants
Darren Miller - Flexi-Hydro: Flexibles Enable Local (Pumped) Hydro
‘Flexi-Hydro: Flexibles Enable Local (Pumped) Hydro’ proposes re-purposing the flexible pipes to be used in a hydroelectric power system.
Judges Choice Innovative Solution
These solutions have the potential to create a strong environmental impact or transform the materials into innovative and useful products, but may not be as applicable to the specific pipes and materials this challenge is focused on.
First Place - $5,000
Baha Abulnaga - From Flexible Pipes to Ingots of Super Metals
‘From Flexible Pipes to Ingots of Super Metals’ proposes converting the materials into metal ingots through a process of metal melting
Second Place - $2,500
Corey Callahan - Oceanic Pumped Hydro
‘Oceanic Pumped Hydro’ proposes using the pipes to move sea water as a concept for storing renewable energy.
At the judges’ discretion, 3 additional teams have been recognized.
Honorary Mentions - $500
Mirosław Falkowskimirek’s team - Rock and Roll, Belt Roller
‘Rock and Roll, Belt Roller’ proposes re-purposing the pipes into raw material to manufacture belt roller covers
Aires Silveira - Control of Vegetative Fire and Reuse of Pipes
‘Control of Vegetative Fire and Reuse of Pipes’ proposes using the pipes to fight vegetation fires
Naveet Samhotra - Poles, Railings, Crash-Guards, etc.
‘Poles, Railings, Crash-Guards, etc.’ proposes re-purposing the materials to build various structures on roads and urban environments.
Woodside Energy looks forward to exploring these ideas more, and looking at further opportunities to crowdsource.
Lastly, HeroX and Woodside would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who entered the challenge. While we were only able to recognize a small fraction of those who entered, there were so many other insightful and creative solutions.
The following standards and recommended practices are also useful:
[API 17J, 2008] (Non-bonded flexible pipe), equivalent to [ISO 13628-2]
[API 17K, 2005] (Bonded flexible pipe), equivalent to [ISO 13628-10]
[API 17B, 2008] (Recommended practice for flexible pipe), equivalent to [ISO 13628-11]
Ancillary components for flexible pipe systems are described in detail in [API 17L1, 2013] and [API 17L2, 2013]. These ISO standards and API guidelines available for purchase and can be licenced before ideas are translated into prototype projects. However, information available at reputable, publicly accessible websites should suffice to generate ideas to address the challenge statement:
We encourage solutions that can utilize a range of sizes. However, if the solution can only applied to a narrow range of sizes, they will also be judged as valid and competitive.
Flexible flowlines include various designs for various different use cases e.g. type of fluid transported, and whether the pipe configured to be supported by the seabed suspended in the water column. For this project, we have 6”, 8”, 9” and 10” flowlines. These sizes usually refer to the inner diameter. However, depending on the design and number of layers included in each design, the outer diameter and mass can vary significantly. In this project, the dimensions and mass for various flexible designs are in the table below:
Inner Diameter (mm)
Outer Diameter (mm)
Unit weight in air (flooded) (kg/m)
Inner Diameter (mm)
Outer Diameter (mm)
Unit weight in air (flooded) (kg/m)
Unit weight in air (dry) (kg/m)
For the umbilicals, we have two dominant vintages of umbilicals to be considered. The first vintage has an outer diameter of 167.2mm. The second vintage has an outer diameter of 91.9mm. There are however other designs of umbilicals on this project in smaller quantities. The mass per meter of all designs of umbilical installed on this project is 13.6kg/m to 38.2 kg/m.