Home | Contact ST  

Soundings

Alvin Turns 50. Alvin, the iconic research submersible owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), turns 50 this year. Christened on June 5, 1964, the sub has been a workhorse for U.S. scientists, safely taking approximately 2,600 researchers on nearly 4,900 dives, and enabling countless scientific discoveries. “As the U.S.’s only deep-diving research submersible, Alvin is a national asset,” said WHOI President and Director Susan Avery. Alvin proved its value soon after it was built when the U.S. Navy brought it to Spain in 1966 to locate and recover a hydrogen bomb lost in the Mediterranean Sea, which it successfully did. Alvin’s lasting value, however, has been its ability to enable a human presence in the deep ocean, a novel idea when the sub was first conceived in 1956 by its namesake, WHOI geophysicist Allyn Vine. In the early 1970s, Alvin brought scientists for the first time to the midocean ridge, the 40,000-mile-long mountain chain that circles the Earth. In 1977, scientists inside Alvin first explored the lush communities of life thriving without sunlight at seafloor hydrothermal vents—one of the most profound scientific discoveries of the 20th century. Following work in 2010 investigating the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep-sea coral communities in the Gulf of Mexico, Alvin received the most extensive upgrade in its history. It returned to service this year. “For 50 years, Alvin has been at the forefront of ocean exploration,” said Avery. “With its recent upgrade, Alvin will continue to help expand our knowledge of the planet and inspire new generations of scientists, engineers and explorers for decades to come.”

$117 Billion Capex Predicted for Global Subsea Hardware Market. Douglas-Westwood (DW) estimates global subsea hardware capex will total $117 billion between 2014 and 2018, according to its World Subsea Hardware Market Forecast. This represents growth of more than 80 percent compared with the preceding five-year period. In 2013, subsea tree installations were lower than expected, with delays in crucial projects off Brazil and West Africa. However, DW predicts an increase through to 2018, with major manufacturers reporting strong backlogs. The global financial crisis in 2009 and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 to 2011 limited growth in subsea hardware spend in the 2009 to 2013 period. The strong growth forecast in the next five years is due to a favorable outlook for offshore activities in the established deepwater provinces and the start of field development in new frontier areas, such as the Eastern Mediterranean and East Africa. Subsea hardware spend will be the highest in Africa, Latin America and North America, with the three regions combining to form almost half of the global total. Expenditure continues trending towards deeper waters, with around 44 percent of total spend in the next five years targeting projects in water depths greater than 1,000 meters. Subsea production equipment is to attract almost half of all expenditure by component, as high-value projects are set to come onstream after tree awards reached record levels in 2013.

Open Season for Marine Highway Project Submissions. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced that the open season for Marine Highway project submissions ends on September 30, 2016. Since the last open season, the program’s originating authority, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, has been amended to include short sea routes that do not have parallel landside routes. DOT can now review and consider designating Marine Highway routes and projects between all U.S. ports, including U.S. ports with no contiguous landside connection, as well as between U.S. ports and ports in Canada located in the Great Lakes Saint Lawrence Seaway System. There will be five project review sessions during the Marine Highway Project Open Season, and route designation recommendations will continue to be accepted and reviewed at any time.

OCS Wind Energy Takes Step Forward Offshore New York. BOEM is moving forward with wind energy planning efforts on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore New York. It is accepting nominations from companies interested in commercial wind energy leases within a proposed area offshore New York, located 11 nautical miles south of Long Beach. In addition to nominations, BOEM seeks public input on the potential for wind development in the Call Area, including comments on site conditions, resources and existing uses of the area that would be relevant to BOEM’s wind energy development authorization process. In particular, BOEM requests public comment on an LNG facility that is proposed to be located in the same area under consideration for offshore wind development, and on existing commercial and recreational fishing activity in and around the Call Area. BOEM will prepare an environmental assessment of the area. The proposed location under consideration is approximately 127 square miles. It contains 132 whole OCS blocks and 19 partial blocks.

NSRI Forms in UK for Subsea Oil, Gas Sector. The National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI) will be the focal point for the coordination of research and development activities for the U.K.’s subsea oil and gas sector. As a direct link between the subsea community, academia and government, NSRI will facilitate the development of subsea technologies that enable increased recovery of hydrocarbons, as well as innovation. NSRI will play an influential role in making sure the U.K.’s subsea technology needs are understood and met within the increasingly complex and competitive technology strategy and associated funding landscape in the U.K. With countries such as Brazil and Norway continuing to invest significantly more funding in deepwater research, there was found to be a pressing need for an industry-led body in the U.K. to build stronger links between industry and academia.

-back to top-

Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.