WASHINGTON, June 1 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ve determined undersea forces produced by strong hurricanes are powerful enough to rupture underwater oil pipelines.
The scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory said the pipelines could crack or rupture unless they are buried or their supporting foundations are built to withstand hurricane-induced currents.
“Major oil leaks from damaged pipelines could have irreversible impacts on the ocean environment,” the researchers said, noting a hurricane’s winds can raise waves 66 feet or more above the ocean surface.
Based on unique measurements taken during a powerful hurricane, the researchers said their study is the first to show hurricanes propel underwater currents with enough force to dig up the seabed, potentially creating underwater mudslides and damaging pipes or other equipment resting on the bottom.
They said they’re not sure what strengths of forces underwater oil pipelines are built to withstand. However, “Hurricane stress is quite large, so the oil industry better pay attention,” said Hemantha Wijesekera, who led the study.
The findings are to appear in the June10 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
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