New fibre-optic technology, jointly developed by Nasa with Astro Technology (ATI), has successfully decreased the risk of spills on two oil platforms off the coast of West Africa, thereby demonstrating its ability to enhance the safety of workers.

The new Tendon Tension Monitoring System (TTMS) can detect slight changes in tension as a result of tides, wave activity, storms and routine boat docking operations.

Installed in March on the two platforms in the Atlantic Ocean, the TTMS uses a fibre-optic strain gauge system and a series of sensor clamps to determine the tension on subsea risers and pipelines.

According to Nasa, the system can sense any stresses along the platform’s four legs and streams the data in real time, allowing operators to make alterations required to maintain platform’s stability.

ATI and Nasa engineers have worked jointly at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to design an underwater adhesive-style clamp prototype for the research.

During the offshore research, the team attached 16 clamps to two separate drill platforms by commercial divers, using fibre optic cables to send real-time data streaming to a control room on each drill platform.

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By GlobalData
"The new Tendon Tension Monitoring System (TTMS) can detect slight changes in tension."

Nasa chief technologist, Mason Peck, said: "What we learn from testing this technology on the oil platforms will benefit a broad range of terrestrial and space applications, and shows Nasa’s technology investments support America’s future in space and improve our lives here on Earth."

The technology was developed through a Space Act Agreement, which Nasa uses as a method for partnering with external groups and companies that allow them open access to a wider range of technologies and capabilities.

Image: Aerial view of the complete Johnson Space Center facility in Houston, Texas; Photo courtesy of Nasa.