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Dr Matthew Kuo

Dr Matthew Kuo

Sharjah Fellow in Petroleum Resources

Matthew Kuo is available for consultancy.

Geomechanics Offices ISG-79
Cambridge University Engineering Department
Trumpington Street

Cambridge CB2 1PZ
Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 746975


Matthew graduated from the University of Western Australia in 2003 with a double degree in Geology and Civil Engineering with Honours, and was awarded the Australian Geomechanics Society Prize. He then worked in the Perth office of WorleyParsons Services Ltd for three years as a geotechnical engineer. Matthew completed his PhD at King's College, Cambridge in February 2011 under the supervision of Professor Malcolm Bolton, funded by the Poynton Scholarship, Cambridge Australia Trust.

Matthew has obtained experience in project management, site investigation, geological logging and soil characterisation, design of onshore and offshore foundations and pipelines, rail alignments and embankment slope stability. This experience has been gained by working on projects located in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and offshore West Africa. These projects have been undertaken for consultants, mining and resource, government and oil and gas clients.

As the Sharjah Fellow in Petroleum Resources, his current research interests include biological influences on the behaviour of deep ocean clay sediments; soil-structure interaction, specifically related to hot-oil pipelines and suction caissons; and understanding the micromechanics of shearing rough and smooth structure interfaces on soil.

Departments and Institutes

Department of Engineering:
Senior Research Associate

Research Interests

In water depths of 500 m to greater than 2000 m off the coast of Angola, West Africa, surficial sediments comprise very soft clays with extremely high water contents and plasticities. In situ CPT and T-bar testing in these areas have encountered ‘crusts’ of unknown origin, with undrained shear strengths typically rising to beyond 10 kPa at 0.5 m below sea floor, before dropping rapidly back to about 2 kPa by 1 m. Hot oil pipelines that undergo hundreds of thermal cycles during operation are laid on these crusts. Therefore adequate characterisation of these surficial sediments, including an understanding of their origin, is required.

An interdisciplinary investigation into the origin of the crust has uncovered that the crust's strength is linked to the presence of robust burrowing invertebrate faecal pellets that are randomly located within the sediment. These pellets range in size from 10s of micrometres to several millimetres in diameter. Crust material has been found to comprise between 25% and over 50% pellets.

Numerous burrows are also observed through X-ray computer tomography.

Invertebrate faecal pellets are not the only biological component of deep ocean clay crusts. Bacteria exude extracellular polysaccharides (EPS) that may bind together and structure clay platelets whilst allowing very high water contents to remain. Through the application of microbiological techniques, the culturable bacterium Marinobacter aquaeolei has been identified in these sediments.

The influence of M. aquaeolei on the shear strength has been found to not significantly influence the sediment strength, however, over several years of operation, the effect of higher-than-ambient temperatures at the pipeline-soil interface may play a role in accelerating bacterial activity. The influence of this increased activity is presently unclear and is the focus on ongoing research. Matthew has formed links with the Department of Biochemistry and the McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research to complete this research, and is very grateful for the assistance given by Dr Ellen Nisbet and Dr Diane Lister.

Research into the micro-mechanics of pipeline-soil interfaces is the key current research, and has the objective of understanding the relative friction coefficients that may be achieved using rough and smooth pipeline coatings. The widely-accepted assumption that rough interfaces produce higher interface friction has been observed to not necessarily hold true for deep ocean, highly structured soft clays. This ongoing research is supported by BP, and has links with the National Oceanography CentreFugro Pty Ltd and Fugro (France).

Research Supervision

Matthew currently advises two PhD students on microbially induced calcite precipitation and associated bio-geo interactions.


Matthew lectures on environmental impact assessments for offshore oil and gas developments at the American University of Sharjah, UAE and lectures components of the third year elective Engineering Geology and Surveying.

He currently supervises for the third year units of Geotechnical Engineering 3D1 and 3D2, and has also demonstrated for the third year unit Environmental Geomechanics 3D6.

Other Professional Activities

Matthew consults for the oil and gas industry, including BP Exploration, Total and in collaboration with Fugro (UK and France) in matters relating to the behaviour of hot-oil pipelines situated on soft seabed environments in deep-water locations.

Key Publications

Journal papers
  1. Kuo, M.Y-H. & Bolton, M.D. (2012), The nature and origin of deep ocean clay crust from the Gulf of Guinea. Geotechnique, in press.
  2. DeJong, J.T., Soga, K.S., Kavazanjian, E., Burns, S., van Paassen, L., Fragaszy, R., Al Qabany, A., Aydilek, A., Bang, S.S., Burbank, M., Caslake, L., Chen, C.Y., Cheng, X., Chu, J., Ciurli, S., Fauriel, S., Filet, A.E., Hamdan, N., Hata, T., Inagaki, Y., Jefferis, S., Kuo, M., Larrahondo, J., Manning, D., Martinez, B., Mortensen, B., Nelson, D., Palomino, A., Renforth, P., Santamarina, J.C., Seagren, E.A., Tanyu, B., Tsesarsky, M., Weaver, T. (2012) Biogeochemical Processes and Geotechnical Applications: Progress, Opportunities, and Challenges. Geotechnique, in press.
Conference papers: refereed
  1. Kuo, M.Y-H., Puech, A. & Bolton, M.D. (2012) Interface shear testing of Gulf of Guinea sediments: implications for the design of hot-oil pipelines and suction caissons, Proceedings of the 7th SUT OSIG, London, UK.
  2. Kuo, M.Y-H. & Bolton, M.D. (2011) Faecal pellets in deep marine soft clay crusts: implications for hot-oil pipeline design, Proceedings of the 30th International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Artic Engineering, OMAE, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
  3. Kuo, M.Y-H., Hill, A., Rattley, M. & Bolton, M.D. (2010) New evidence for the origin and behaviour of deep ocean ‘crusts’, Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on Frontiers in Offshore Geotechnics, Perth, Western Australia.
  4. Kuo, M.Y-H. & Bolton, M.D. (2009) Soil Characterization of Deep Sea West African Clays: Is Biology a Source of Mechanical Strength? 18th International Society for Offshore and Polar Engineering, Osaka, Japan.
Conference papers: not refereed
  1. Kuo, M.Y-H. & Bolton, M.D. (2008) Preliminary Investigation into the Bio-Geomechanics of Marine Sediments, 1st Bio-Geo-Civil Engineering Conference, Delft, The Netherlands. 76-81.

Other Publications

  1. Kuo, M.Y-H. (2011) Deep ocean clay crusts: behaviour and biological origin, PhD thesis, Cambridge University.
  2. Bolton M.D. & Kuo, M.Y-H. (2011) Site Z: Pipe- and suction caisson-soil interaction testing using the Cam-shear device. SC-CUTS-1102-R0. University of Cambridge. Confidential report prepared for Fugro (France).
  3. Bolton M.D. & Kuo, M.Y-H. (2011) Site Z: Pipe-soil interaction testing using the Cam-shear device. SC-CUTS-1101-R0. University of Cambridge. Confidential report prepared for Fugro (France).
  4. Bolton M.D. & Kuo, M.Y-H. (2009) Greater Plutonio Development: Axial pipe-soil interaction testing using the Cam-shear device. SC-CUTS-0901-R0. University of Cambridge. Confidential report prepared for Fugro Ltd and BP Exploration.