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May 15 (2) Visit tothe Federal University in Rio de Janeiro
Lauren Miller, Alex Swithers and Rachel Woody

The second half of the day consisted of visiting the materials, environmental, and dynamics labs at the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute for Graduate Studies and Research in Engineering (COPPE) at the Federal University at Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). The majority of the labs are dedicated to materials research, but their focus was split between transportation and petroleum extraction applications. The transportation materials labs performed cyclical loading, hardness and fatigue tests to examine the stress-strain behavior, toughness and durability of new eco-friendly green materials. For petroleum applications, heat and pressure tests were performed to simulate the immense pressures and stresses characteristic of deep water environments. COPPE is a world leader in energy and transportation research. Its graduate studies and engineering research programs rank number one in Latin America and are globally respected.
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May 14 (2) Visit to the Sudeste Superport
Rishabh Jain, Carem Habayeb, Caroline McClelland

Geotechnical aspects of the Sudeste Superport:
It is very essential to understand the geotechnical aspects associated with the construction of this port. In order to understand these geotechnical aspects, a brief discussion of the site investigation and soil parameters, geotechnical design, instrumentation, and data acquisition is needed.

Investigation clusters were used to understand the soil profile at locations of interest, which comprised of conducting several tests, like the standard penetration test (SPT), piezocone test (CPTu), and field vane test (FV) on the soil. Samples collected were tested in the laboratory for their strength and compressibility. These clusters were installed at different locations throughout the port to understand the soil properties of the respective region. Given the presence of soft clay at the site, the geotechnical designs for both road embankments and the stockyards relied on installing stone columns all over the port using the vibro-substitution method. In this method, holes are drilled and filled by compacted gravel. The cost of each column was approximately $500; 33,000 of these columns were installed in this port. The main function of the stone columns was to increase the strength of the ground, allowing it to support the embankments and the stock piles of mineral. Another advantage of stone columns is that they accelerate drainage, which leads to quicker stabilization of the improved ground. The column spacing in the stockyard is 1.75 m, while the expected settlement (or deformation) is 1.13 m in the central area of the stock piles. However, for the road and railway design, the column spacing is 1.40 m and 1.75 m, while the expected settlement is around 0.15 m and 0.40 m.

Several instruments are used to collect and analyze the data at regular intervals. Some of these instruments are a profilometer (measures the surface profile), depth extensometer (measures settlement in depth), inclinometer (measures the complete horizontal movement), piezometer (measures porewater pressure in the soil), and cell pressure (measures the vertical stress). Once all the instruments are installed, then the data collected is stored in an online database system, which is protected by a password and can be accessed by anyone (with the password) from anywhere. This form of data acquisition allows for multi-user access; all the reported data is in the form of graphs, which makes it easier for the user to understand the relevance of the collected data.

Overall, the geotechnical work is more concentrated towards soil strengthening and better drainage. To achieve these goals: soft clay improvement (through vibro-substitution method), site investigation and design (stability and settlement calculation), instrumentation, and data acquisition is done using State of Art (SOA) procedures. Rock slopes are rated based on factors such as, geologic factors and human exposure for computing the relative risk of a rockfall-related accident that could occur at the port. Apart from this, some other SOA procedures used included aerial photographic review of the port and ground penetrating radar (GPR) investigations. Construction at this scale requires extensive research and effort, with essential contribution from all engineering fields. Therefore, it was made sure that latest technology and top minds from all across the globe were used for the construction of this port.

Images: Vibro-substitution technique and Keller company machine used for creating the stone columns.
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A selection of our photos from Iguassu Falls, our first destination!
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May 15 (1) Visit to Petrobras Research Facility in Rio de Janeiro
Lauren Miller, Alex Swithers and Rachel Woody

Petrobras is Brazil's largest petrochemical and petroleum company, grossing nearly 86 billion dollars a year. Founded in 1953, the company has made major technological contributions to the oil industry. The company has been leader in offshore exploration and production. More recently, it has focused on extraction methods and production systems for reservoirs located under sea salt beds (the so-called Pre-Salt reservoir that was recently discovered). It is estimated that the shores of Brazil hold a reserve of nearly 80 billion barrels, making them one of the 15 largest oil producers in the world. A publicly traded company, Petrobras is primarily state-owned. State oversight helps the company navigate Brazil’s strict regulation and approval process.

Petrobras focuses on finding, extracting, refining and exporting petroleum and petrochemicals around the world. They advocate environmental stewardship and emphasize the need to produce in eco-friendly ways. Petrobras invests in wind and small-scale hydroelectric power and uses solar power to run some of the company’s petroleum facilities. In the long term, Petrobras seeks to transform from a petroleum to an energy enterprise.

The company began offshore production in 1954 in the Dom João Mar oil field at a depth of merely 3 meters. In the 1980's, the company progressed to more advanced methods of production and to greater water depths, exceeding 800 meters. The Campos Basin, accessible only by deepwater drilling, became the primary production region for Brazil and continues to provide oil resources to much of the world. Currently, Petrobras has the ability to drill in water as deep as 1886 meters, as illustrated by the Roncador production system.

Several methods of offshore drilling are in use around the world, but each system requires a method of anchoring the platform to the sea floor. While some systems are rigid, such as a fixed production platform, others are mobile, such as the semi submersible production platforms, whose legs are raised or lowered to proper height. FPSOs (floating production, storage and offloading systems) and semi submersible systems are used by Petrobras in the Campos Basin and Roncador field, respectively.

Cables and risers are used to stabilize the platform of a floating structure. Complex stresses from currents must be accounted for when designing these stabilization methods. The cables take the shape of a catenary rigid riser. For a mooring system of semisubmersible structures, an angle of 45 degrees is used to support horizontal and vertical containment. Both polyester and steel cables are used together to give a better response to the wave, current, wind, and other oscillation and displacement forces. These are typically used for high water depths, as seen in the P-35 system. Ideally, it utilizes 8-12 mooring cables adequately designed for each situation.

Unfortunately, with greater depths came greater challenges in petroleum production. The engineers at Petrobras met these challenges by developing new methods of sensing, analyzing, anchoring and stabilizing. New tools help engineers find the optimal location for new platforms, and develop the right stabilization and anchoring methods. Some vital data collection methods include Doppler accustom currentometers, anemometers, satellites to sense water temperature, and new soil tests to characterize the ocean floor. Custom software was specifically developed to organize, analyze, and model the parameters collected by these methods to facilitate the launch of platforms and decide where to drill based on depth, current and weather.

A successful example of this process is Petrobras’ FPSO ship with torpedo piles, moored off the Campos Basin. To install this platform, engineers conducted a wide array of tests to ensure the stability of the mooring area. Isotopic dating shows the change in topography over thousands of years, while a probabilistic analysis of these data helps predict the likelihood that the ocean floor will move again in a significant way. Creep analysis is performed to estimate the nonlinear effect of creep in the soil to see if permanent deformation occurs. Creep, deformation under constant stress, may over time overload components associated with oil production, such as pipelines. Use of an FPSO also allows Petrobras to opportunity to recycle and refurbish older tankers for new uses.

After listening to the technical presentation, our class toured and experienced Petrobras’s $250,000 virtual laboratory. This lab allows users to experience firsthand what it feels like to be on an oil platform through a sophisticated 3D visual display. 3D Projectors generate images of a platform or ship on three walls and the floor in order to simulate the experience of walking through the ship. Students were able to get a feel for the cramped nature of the ship while exploring some the technical equipment onboard.
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May 14 (1) Visit to the Sudeste Superport
Rishabh Jain, Carem Habayeb, Caroline McClelland

Sudeste Superport is owned by MMX Corporation, which is a part of the EBX group. Its main activity is iron ore production and its transportation to shipyards. The port has two stockyards at 6 m and 32 m above sea level with storage capacity of 1.3 and 1.2 million tons. A tunnel, which is 11 m tall and 20.5 m wide, connects these stockyards to the sea, and conveyer belts are used throughout the port for the movement of iron ore. The broad working of the port includes dumping of iron ore using car dumpers, which turn over railway cars to unload the ore onto a conveyer belt that has two exits: one at the stockyard at level 6 and the other at the stockyard at level 32. Once the iron ore is dropped off at the two stockyard locations, then, using other conveyer belts, they are transported to the sea through a tunnel. At the end of the tunnel there are bridges that provide different loading locations for the arriving ships. Different contractors were used to construct the port separately. For instance, the tunnel was constructed by ARG and J Danias, while the offshore structure was made by ARG and CivilPort. The main highlight of the project is that it is highly flexible and the operating conditions can be modified anytime. Efforts have been made to minimize the environmental damage and optimize the port’s efficiency. MMX conducts environmental education activities for employees and third parties who are working in the construction of Sudeste Superport. This initiative highlights the efforts made by MMX to promote the social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues.
Photos: Stockyard level 6, Iron bars placed inside the wall, Tunnel connecting the stockyard to the sea, and bridges connecting the tunnel to the sea.
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A great video put together by Taylor Granat of our 10 days in 3 states and six cities in Brazil:

Brazil 2012: Purdue Study Abroad in Review!
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We had a great time in Rio de Janeiro, despite the weather!
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A great photo and video montage of our vacations and site visits by Taylor G!
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Purdue study abroad engineering course on infrastructure

Check out who we are

Check out our itinerary

The Course

There are three central themes for the Brazil energy Infrastructure course:

  • energy (offshore oil production, offshore wind farms, ethanol production process, hydroelectric energy)
  • transportation (Sao Paulo subway line and the soon-to-be largest port in the world, both  under construction, and aerospace technology)
  • environmental and sustainability in energy and transportation projects (Itaipu dam and the work done to mitigate impact of construction of this large dam, ethanol production)
The program is a multi-city program, with sites in Foz do Iguacu, Sao Carlos, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Campos dos Goytacazes.

Lectures by both faculty -- emphasizing concepts, theory and design -- are combined with overviews of the projects and specific discussion by engineers involved in the design and planning of different components of these projects.  Strong emphasis will be placed on the differences between the U.S. and Brazilian engineering practices and cultural contexts.


Rodrigo Salgado, Professor of Civil Engineering

Monica Prezzi, Professor of Civil Engineering


Mary Schweitzer, GEP Manager

Cindy Lawley and Kathy Heath, Civil Engineering Study Abroad Staff

Page Managers

Rodrigo Salgado

Isaac Emery

Sang Inn Woo