Flexible Pipes Lifecycle Challenge

How might Australia’s oil and gas industry re-purpose flexible pipes from depleted fields to reduce waste and emissions?

Challenge Overview

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!


Challenge Guidelines

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?

Figure 1: Layout of the sub sea and production infrastructure connected by multiple flexible pipes (flowlines, risers, umbilicals). Illustration is not to scale.

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).


Technical Background

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.


Winning Solutions 

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

Total $16,000

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

Total $7,500

Honorary Mentions

At the judges’ discretion, up to 3 additional teams will be selected 

$500 Prize up to 3 winners

Total $1,500

 Total $25,000

 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

Not Reuse

This is not about reusing the materials for oil and gas production. Woodside is looking for solutions outside of the oil and gas industry. 

Not Recycling 

According to OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms

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
  • Be scored higher than your competitors!

Solutions must, at a minimum:

  • 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


Judging Criteria



Proposal QualityIs 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?


FeasibilityHow feasible is this Solution, including availability of resources, readiness of Research & Development at the time of execution, timeline, and participation by needed stakeholders


Net Cost

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)


Environmental Impact

How significant is the positive impact on the environment?

How positive is the net impact on the environment?


Waste Management Market ImpactHow 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?





Participation Eligibility:

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. 

Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States and Australia federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (see: and

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 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.

Judging Panel:

The determination of the winners will be made by Woodside.

Additional Information

  • 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.
  • Void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.
Updates 4

Challenge Updates

Working from Home

Dec. 14, 2021, 9 a.m. PST by Natalie York

If you’re used to working in an office environment, the process of working on a crowdsourced project can be daunting. Luckily we’ve been doing this for a while, and we’d like to share with you the tips that we’ve learned along the way.

Here are three tips to optimize your work from home experience:

  1. Focus on results, not time spent working

In an office environment, we’re often led to think that we should be working eight hours a day, five days a week. In reality, not all of these hours are productive. When you’re able to control your own time at home, it’s a good idea to structure your day around specific tasks and goals.

  1. Find the tools that work for you

If you’re working on your project with a team, you’ll need to find a way to connect with them remotely. Your team members may be from all around the world, and it’s important to figure out an effective communication strategy. Slack is a great tool for instant messaging, group chats, document sharing and reminders. For video calls, Zoom is a good go-to.

  1. Boost your team’s morale

It’s easy to feel isolated while you’re working remotely. If you’re working with a team, it’s a good idea to schedule regular check-ins to connect with each other and boost morale. Zoom meetings don’t have to be all work, all the time. Take the time to connect with your team and find ways to support one another.

Teamwork makes the Dream Work

Nov. 30, 2021, 9 a.m. PST by Natalie York

Have you thought about forming a team to compete in the Flexible Pipes Lifecycle Challenge?

At this point in the challenge, it’s normal to start feeling a bit overwhelmed. Perhaps you’ve hit a roadblock, or you’re noticing the gaps in your own skillset. Forming a team is a great way to overcome these hurdles.

It will take time to form a team, so start reaching out to people now. You can connect with people in the forum, or you can browse the whole HeroX community by specialization at

Why form a team? 

  1. Keep each other accountable

We all know that deadlines are tough, and it’s especially difficult to commit to a schedule by yourself. Creating checkpoints and milestones with your team members will help you keep each other on track.

  1. Share skills

Everyone’s got a different set of skills. Have a great idea for a project, but need someone to help make it a reality? Got an innovative technical idea, but need help pulling it into an overall project? You need a team!

You can share expertise and specialized knowledge with your teammates. You’ll learn a ton, and your project will be all the better for it.

  1. Reduce the workload

Why do all the work yourself? Divide and conquer the workload to save time and ease burnout. If you have an off week, your team can pick up the slack — and vice versa.

  1. Make it fun

Your team will be by your side through all the highs and lows of the process, and they will make it all the more fun. This is also a great way to meet people with a shared set of interests. Just think, these may be your new best buds.

Get Talking on the Forum

Nov. 16, 2021, 9 a.m. PST by Natalie York

Feeling stuck? Have questions, thoughts, or ideas about the challenge so far, and need a place to take them? That’s what the Flexible Pipes Lifecycle Challenge forum is for.

The forum is a great way to gain insights and generate ideas about different aspects of the challenge. Use the forum to ask questions, help out your fellow innovators, and maybe even make a few friends along the way. 

You can browse through the forum to see what people have already been saying. To ask a question, click “New Topic” and write out your message.

HeroX checks the forum regularly, so it’s a good way to touch base with us directly.

See you on the forum!


Nov. 4, 2021, 6:01 a.m. PDT by Natalie York

And so it begins! Welcome to the Flexible Pipes Lifecycle Challenge by Woodside. We are excited to hear all of the wonderful ideas from innovators across the world. 

To begin, click the orange “Solve this Challenge” button. Once you’ve accepted the legal agreement, you’ll be officially signed up as a competitor.

If you’re ever feeling stuck, the challenge forum is the first place to go. The forum is there for you to ask questions and seek advice. Bounce ideas around, get to know your fellow innovators, and maybe even form a team (more on that later). 

Now get cracking! We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Forum 8
Teams 222
Technical Summary