TE SubCom: An Interview With Mark Enright, Vice President, Customer Solutions
By: Rhonda Moniz
TE SubCom, a TE Connectivity Ltd. Company, announced in January that it has begun manufacturing C+L optical transmission technology, a significant advancement for cable system operators seeking ultra-wide, low-latency transmission.
Ocean News & Technology recently spoke with Mark Enright, vice president, customer solutions at TE SubCom about this new development in undersea fiber optic technology.
Subsea company Kystdesign AS has had the Norwegian continental shelf as its nearest neighbor for 20 years and has demonstrated the ability to deliver complete ROV solutions to the oil and energy industry at a time of rapid change in the market in terms of both water depths and technological demands.
Optical fiber has enabled greater bandwidth, more safety, and more configurability in subsea oil and gas systems. Wet-mate connector evolution launched widespread fiber use in the early 1990s, while the development of high-pressure fiber penetrations increased the reach of optics into subsea wells and pressure vessels in the early 2000s. Advancements in optical connector design, such as angled endfaces, have recently enabled a new era of optical sensing.
Tampnet is a Norwegian-based global operator of oilfield telecommunications, wholesale capacity, and mobile LTE services. Tampnet operates the largest offshore multi-terabit, low-latency optical network in the North Sea, which reliably serves over 240 offshore assets such mobile rigs; floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) platforms; and exploration rigs. Reliable, high-speed, low-latency network services are the primary goals of their network, which includes 2,500 km of subsea fiber optic links, multiple strategically located 4G LTE base stations, and a multitude of traditional point-to-point radio links. The state-of-the-art optical network employs an all-optical Colorless-Directionless-Contentionless (CDC) design that achieves the lowest latency possible with a Layer 0 Control Plane that is both OTN and mesh capable for sub-100G services rates.
EU SWARMs: Intelligent Cooperation Of Underwater Vehicles With Evologics Modems
EvoLogics GmbH, Berlin, Germany, designs and manufactures underwater information and communication systems as well as smart robotic solutions. The company’s core technologies stem from bionic concepts that fuse state-of-the-art engineering with the best ideas found in nature. EvoLogics’ “ecosystem” of products includes several series of underwater acoustic modems, underwater positioning systems (USBL, LBL, SBL), and an advanced framework for developers. Development, research, and innovation are the cornerstones of the company—it is an active collaborator of several EU-funded projects, focusing the efforts on communication and positioning for distributed underwater networks.
Due to their strategic and economic importance, critical national infrastructure (CNI) such as nuclear power plants, dams, LNG terminals, and offshore oil platforms represent attractive targets for sabotage. While these CNI installations have stringent above-the-water security measures, including physical barriers, access control, radar, and long-range opto-electrical sensors, they are not generally equipped to detect intrusions from below the water. That’s why constant, real-time underwater monitoring using a diver detection sonar (DDS) can help ensure a facility is fully protected.
By: Peter Elliman, Director Product Marketing, Liquid Robotics
Think back 25 years when autonomous maritime systems were futuristic and found only in the most prestigious academic U.S. institutions and Navy R&D laboratories. Due to the state of technology, they were designed for single, special purpose applications. Mission durations were measured in hours or days, not months or years and data were retrieved only once the systems were recovered, if they were recovered at all. Meteorology, oceanography, and defense organizations were the early pioneers leading the charge to use unmanned systems to advance research and surveillance capabilities.
Today, unmanned maritime systems have matured from prototypes and proofs-of-concept to workhorse systems relied upon to handle the dangerous, remote, and repetitive observation and monitoring missions. Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) are now multi-purpose and able to support multiple sophisticated sensor payloads and real-time communications. Advancements in system endurance, reliability, power systems, and autonomy make possible longer missions that are now measured in months vs. days/weeks. These advancements enable meteorologists and oceanographers to collect data over longer time periods (seasons), in harsher environments, and from more remote geographic areas.
An excellent example is the recent Arctic mission conducted by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the University of Michigan. The research team deployed Wave Gliders<sup>®</sup>, unmanned surface vehicles, to gather measurements for weather, climate change, biological, and other environmental monitoring. Their task was to measure the Arctic waves in the Beaufort Sea. Cumulatively, these USVs spent 900 days at sea surveying over 36,000 nautical miles. An accomplishment, that less than a decade ago, would not have been possible.
Dual-use METOC Missions Across Industries Across the defense, oil and gas, and commercial markets, there is an increasing demand for unmanned systems capable of supporting METOC data collection in conjunction with their primary mission. The ability to collect and communicate accurate, in-situ weather data for real-time situational awareness is vital to ensure safe operations and mission success.
Fleet of Wave Gliders deploying for Unmanned Warrior 2016.
Additionally, by adding weather or other biological sensors to these long, unmanned missions, researchers can gain weather, climate, and other biological data in sparsely sampled portions of the world's ocean. This data can provide valuable insight to ocean conditions rarely observed.
Below are several mission examples of how Liquid Robotics' Wave Gliders<sup>®</sup> have been deployed for dualuse METOC missions. In each case, they successfully supported a mixed payload of METOC and acoustic sensors, cameras, GPS, and communications on long duration, mobile platforms.
• Unmanned Warrior 2016: A semiannual defense training exercise hosted by United Kingdom's Royal Navy and designed to demonstrate the use and networking of autonomous maritime systems. During this exercise, Liquid Robotics and Boeing demonstrated, for the first time, the use of a network of persistent USVs to detect, report, and track a live submarine in a naval demonstration. Equally valuable, the USVs from Liquid Robotics were equipped with meteorological and oceanographic sensors and were deployed to the North Atlantic to gather data that ultimately contributed to sensor prediction models for the entire Unmanned Warrior and Joint Warrior exercise. These systems operated 24/7 in harsh conditions unfavorable for manned operations—waves in excess of 6.6 m and winds of more than 60 knots—to autonomously provide real-time data on the weather and ocean conditions critical to the safe operation of the Unmanned Warrior systems.
Wave Glider providing real-time METOC data.
• Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing: USVs are beginning to be used to combat the escalating threats of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. Working in concert with other manned and unmanned systems, Wave Gliders<sup>®</sup> have patrolled remote, vast areas of the ocean to detect the presence of surface vessels around Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
A Wave Glider<sup>®</sup> patrolled the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) MPA in the Pitcarin Islands. Image below is an image of a vessel detected by the Wave Glider<sup>®</sup> while on patrol around the Pitcarin Islands. After successfully completing its mission around the Pitcarin Islands, the Wave Glider<sup>®</sup> was remotely piloted more than 2,808 nautical miles (5,200 km) —through strong equatorial currents, doldrums, and challenging sea states—back to port in Hawaii. Along the way, it collected 9,516 measurements of meteorological, oceanographic, and marine biodiversity data and was continuously at sea, untouched, for 213 days while traveling a total of 7,205 nautical miles (13,344 km) through seas rarely sampled.
• Seismic Surveys and Weather Condition Surveys: USVs, specifically Wave Gliders<sup>®</sup>, have been used to monitor ocean currents for activities such as seismic surveys as well as the weather conditions around offshore oilrigs. Having the capability to support mixed payloads of METOC sensors, current sensors, acoustic receivers, and communications devices on one platform provides operators with a way to enhance situational awareness and ensure safe maritime operations around multi-billion dollar oil operations.
Changing Climate and Forecast Capabilities with New Systems
Autonomous, unmanned systems provide meteorologists, oceanographers, and scientists with a new and more efficient platform for gathering measurements. While buoys, ships of opportunity, and satellites will continue to play roles in data collection, vehicles like the Wave Glider provide the foundation for cost-efficient systems for long-duration data collection.
Liquid Robotics' Pitcarin Google Earth Journey Map.
They are being used in multiple ways:
• Extended duration sampling with other platforms for climate research – The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-led Southern Ocean Carbon Climate Observatory (SOCCO) program in South Africa has been using Wave Gliders and buoyancy gliders on multi-month missions to advance climate research in the Southern Ocean.
• Existing long-duration sampling program – Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) recently published a paper on the use of Wave Gliders for pCO² and pH observations (i.e., temperature, salinity, oxygen, pCO², pH, wind speed, and direction). They demonstrated how USVs can provide quality datasets that compared favorably to traditional moored and shipboard systems already in use since 1993, offering lower cost data acquisition and greater spatio-temporal coverage¹.
• Long-term observation networks – Today, when a buoy or buoy-based system breaks, the effort to repair it is typically expensive and time consuming, resulting in long periods without measurements. Even when the budget exists, getting boat availability and fixing a buoy can be hampered by weather and resource availability. Unmanned systems that are both mobile and capable of holding station provide a flexible way to increase system uptime. When a system or node has problems, another one can swim out to replace it, which typically allows one showing problems to swim home for inspection or repair.
On the Horizon, the Digital Ocean
The use of autonomous systems has proven invaluable as a way to lower the costs and risks of collecting data needed to advance weather modeling and forecasting. The latest technological advancements that provide intelligent, long-duration, dual-use systems will further help researchers better understand the complex weather conditions driven by the ocean.
As we look to the future, unmanned systems will further transform the way we interact and learn about ocean and, in turn, our planet. Over the next decade, systems will continue to advance in levels of endurance, power, intelligence, and autonomy. However, the scientific breakthroughs required to address weather and global climate change, ocean preservation, maritime security, and other grand challenges will be different. Systems and data will be more interconnected, making the ocean more digital and instant access to ocean data a reality. Imagine the breakthroughs in forecasting for climatologists and meteorologists. With collaboration and continued innovation, it's possible and just over the horizon.
¹ Chavez, F.P., J. Sevadjian, C. Wahl, J. Friederich, and G. E. Friederich. 2017. Measurements of pCO2 and pH from an autonomous surface vehicle in a coastal upwelling system. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography.
Leaning over the side of the 22-ft boat and pulling up the first line of temperature sensors, oceanographer Jamie MacMahan described the state of the line as the worst biofouling he had ever seen. It was slimy and smelly. One down, 34 more to go.
This was only a pilot project, but MacMahan's mantra of .go big or go home' meant that more than 300 instruments were attached to the arrays of moorings his team deployed offshore California's Point Sal State Park.
MacMahan, an associate professor of oceanography at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, is studying how water moves in the nearshore, the region from 20 m of depth to where waves start to break at about 4 m. He wants to know how and if water is transported from the deep to the shallow and vice versa.
Temperature as a Tracer
To track water movement, MacMahan identifies volumes of water by temperature. With data like those collected at Point Sal, MacMahan can identify physical ocean dynamics, such as rip currents, upwelling, and internal waves (enormous slow-moving waves that ride a density boundary below the ocean's surface).
“From a processes point of view, temperature's a great tracer. It's not perfect though,” says MacMahan. If a volume 's temperature only changed through direct contact and mixing with water of a different temperature, the team could account for all changes. Instead, the sun heats the water during the day, and it cools at night, so sampling must be done at a relatively high frequency in this case 1Hz so that the mass of water being followed isn't lost in other changes in temperature.
Challenges Instrumenting the Nearshore
Beyond choice of tracer, there are several inherent difficulties studying this shallow and energetic ocean region. Waves, heavy currents, and the motion of sand on the bottom make the area ideal for deployment using a large vessel, one equipped with a winch. But, big vessels can not safely travel into the shallow areas, where MacMahan was headed. “The idea was, how are we going to deploy 30 stations from a small RHIB (rigidhulled inflatable boat) and ensure that they will survive for two months, and at the same time, if something went wrong, what checks would we have in place to determine if the system failed?”
It came down to design. The common solution is for scuba divers to jet poles into the sand as anchors to which lines would then be attached. “That is almost 100% return on your data, but then that's logistically expensive,” MacMahan says. “It would probably take five days, maybe more. Based on the weather patterns, we felt we only had a two-day window to deploy or recover.” Instead, they used 35-lbs barbell weights as anchors (one in shallow water and two where it was deep), attached their lines to crab buoys for buoyancy, and dropped the moorings off the side of the boat.
Usually an oceanographer who wants to measure temperature at a number of depths would use a t-string, a line with integrated temperature sensors at preset positions along its length. MacMahan did something different.
“I wanted to attach temperature sensors to lines so I had flexibility. You're always designing something. If you would buy the t-strings ahead of time and then the project changes, or you go, .oh, there's this cool rocky outcrop. Wait, we're all set up for this standard system,' you can't adjust to that. As scientists doing fieldwork, you're always re-evaluating your design, even to the last minute. You want to optimize it. So I wanted to go with independent temperature sensors.”
Attached to each of the 35 lines were six to 12 RBRsolo T temperature loggers, which sample at up to 2Hz for up to six months. The lines also had a tilt sensor midline, which would indicate if the line remained vertical in the water, and a pressure sensor at the bottom to indicate movement of the mooring. Using “regular key rings,” MacMahan and his team attached the temperature sensors to the lines by feeding the key rings through the hole on the top of the RBRsolo Ts and through the line. “Then we taped the RBRs to the line so they're basically part of the line.”
The reason MacMahan wanted the sensors to be part of the line is simple: kelp. It's a constant hazard to instruments along the California coast. “If you have anything that can snag the kelp, it will get stuck on the line, and because the kelp is so massive, eventually it's going to start dragging your mooring.”
On two consecutive days in early June 2015, MacMahan, Ph.D. candidate student Thomas (Tucker) Freismuth, a technician, and two volunteer graduate students took the hour-long trip from the nearest boat launch to Point Sal. There, they assembled some of the equipment in the boat and deployed their 35 moorings, in predetermined locations, including six ADCPs (Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers) to measure current velocities and directions.
“We designed various arrays to look at along-shore variability and cross-shore variability. Each mooring provided double duty as far as providing cross-shore and along-shore information.”
At Point Sal State Park there is the eponymous rocky headland jutting into the sea, a sandy beach and rocky outcrop to its north, and a pocket beach and rocky bottom to its south, as well as submerged rocky outcrops off-shore. “It's a really cool, complex area,” says MacMahan. “We're past the point, scientifically, of exploring stuff on straight and parallel beaches.”
There was no beauty in recovery, however. On the first of the two days, the team tried to clean bio-fouled lines as they heaved them aboard, but they quickly gave up the effort and filled the boat with gunk. “It's a nice sunny day, and with the very first one, you're covered in slime and mud. For our moorings in shallow water, so about 12 to 15 meters or less, we used a 35 lb weight. The ones offshore were 70 lbs, so we had to haul in 70 lbs. And pulling those in with a slimy line was very tough. We were disgusting. It was wretched.”
MacMahan handles a biofouled line of temperature sensors during recovery of his team's moorings, July 2015. .
Despite being slimy and stinky, the researchers were also thrilled. Their plan had worked—they had deployed their instruments in a new way that seemed dangerously simple. If they'd judged wrongly, they could have lost their load of instruments, and the season's data. Instead, they found all moorings were intact, and all but three had stayed put against the waves, currents, and kelp.
A Temperature-Rich Environment
On returning to Monterey, Freismuth downloaded the data, found he had a recovery rate of 99%, and began the analysis that will be the basis of his doctoral work. What Freismuth saw in the data, MacMahan describes as “a temperature-rich environment.”
To Freismuth, the biggest driver of temperature variability was a surprise: “When we started analyzing the data, it looked like internal waves coming from offshore were overwhelming our signal. These internal waves are transporting warm water into the inner shelf and potentially into the surf zone.”
Freismuth is working to complete his analysis quickly, because the results of this pilot project will be used to inform the main deployment of fall 2017. The larger study involves over 30 principal investigators. “What we're trying to do is get every measurement from 50 m to the beach,” MacMahan says, “from measuring directly to measuring indirectly.”
Go Big or Go Home
Ever since MacMahan was a postdoctoral fellow under the supervision of Ed Thornton, he has worked alongside his mentor. MacMahan attributes his “go big or go home” mantra to Thornton, which led to success in this and past deployments. Thornton recalls, “I said, .every pilot experiment you do, make sure it's almost as good or better than the real experiment because with nature, you don't always get a second chance.'”
Thornton, whose career as a nearshore oceanographer began in the 60s and hasn't ended (even though he's technically retired), adds: “I learned that the hard way.” “If they hadn't done this comprehensive attempt you wouldn't know what scales to even look at and how those scales would tie into larger scales,” Thornton says. In fact, the team had such success in recovering data, and with such an extensive set, that their 2017 plan involves extending their target area from 3 mi along the beach to 30 mi.
“I don't think we did anything crazy here,” says MacMahan. “The only thing we did that I think was ingenious was to really make this a lightweight package that you can deploy overboard with humans.” Of the systems the team deployed, he says, “I've learned that it's so easy, it's so simple, but it's very robust.”
“I'm a little more of a risk taker in that I considered the risk and odds of doing this lightweight system,” he says, “but the idea is that the return is much better if it's successful. I evaluated the risk versus the reward, and, you, gotta go for it.” Go big or go home. Dr. MacMahan's work is funded by the Office of Naval Research.
Founded in 2007, Seanic Ocean Systems is currently headquartered in Katy, Texas. In 2016, the company completed a state-of-the-art facility located on 10.5 acres that includes a 55,000 sq. ft building and an in-ground wet test tank where Seanic recently completed their largest full-scale in-water test to date. The 3-day test was carried out on behalf of a major operator and engineering contractor and included equipment that was designed and built by Seanic in a full-scale System Integration Test (SIT) environment.
ON&T sat down with Tom Ayars, president of Seanic, to discuss the evolution of his company and its new partnership with Underwater Engineering Services (UES).
Could you tell us a little bit about what Seanic does?
Tom Ayars: We manufacture what is commonly called intervention tooling, though I am often somewhat hesitant to use that term because we do so many other things. Another way to put it is we build products that allow ROVs to complete tasks—pretty much everything that comes between the ROV and the existing subsea hardware. When we started out, our local competition was two very large companies, and tooling was not their primary focus. So we felt that we could start a business focused on the type of projects they didn't seem to be interested in—which, in the end, is basically what ended up happening. After we recruited our VP of Operations, Andy Guinn, he and I found a little building, purchased the hand tools, computers, and furniture, and hired a couple of engineers.
In the early days, there were five of us. By the fall of 2014, Seanic grew to 60 employees. As we went through the learning curve, we were asked to perform all kinds of other design/build projects. Since that time we've built a diverse and robust product line and participated in a multitude of exciting bespoke engineering solutions. Our new facility has opened up new opportunities, and now, nearly a decade later, we've developed a whole set of competencies beyond intervention tooling.
Can you talk about those expanded skills?
Tom Ayars: Bespoke projects test you in so many ways and are often concepts that are being created for the first time. They typically include elements of deep water, high current, limited space, chemical compatibility, unique materials, a fast-paced schedule, and a host of other things that have to be considered when thinking through what the final product will look like. If you're going excel in this business your engineers have to be creative, fast, accurate, and constantly honing those skills. This is something our engineering team has excelled at, and it's reflected in the unique products we've built over the years. Examples would be our Flex Joint Inspection Tool (FJT) and a unique ROV, operated subsea water blasting system (ECB) that incorporates cavitation technology.
How does the flex joint inspection tool work?
Tom Ayars: Flex joints are subjected to extreme conditions, and any associated downtime can cost operators time and money, so it's important that they be inspected and maintained. Operators tell us that a planned maintenance to change out a flex joint can cost in the tens of millions.
To help operators manage future cost, Seanic developed a tool that has gained popularity as operators want to assess the status of their flex joint and determine the potential life of this very critical component. The FJT is attached by an ROV to a dynamic riser right under a flex joint; it provides a stable platform to safely and effectively clean the marine growth that covers the elastomer rubber. Once cleaning operations are complete we install the inspection package which gathers detailed images that can be used to produce 3D models that allow for future detailed analysis. If an anomaly is detected, this process allows operators to generate a baseline and then track that anomaly over time to evaluate if any further actions need to take place.
How does the subsea water blasting tool work?
Tom Ayars: The ECB is based on cavitation water blasting. It was originally developed to clean marine growth off strakes and fairings, which are used on subsea risers and are often somewhat soft and made from a lightweight material. Over time, they become encrusted with marine growth and require cleaning. If you use a typical 5K water blaster, it won't effectively clean the material. If you use a 10K water blaster, the material has the potential to be damaged.
We came up with a concept that repackaged a proven technology that has been around for a long time. Divers have used cavitation blasting for years; it's basically a high volume of low pressure water flow. Coupled with a cavitation nozzle, this type of blasting has more of a pulsating effect vs. just sheer pounding with high pressure. Basically, we took standard triplex pumps and marinized them so they can be mounted directly to an ROV giving us an effective way to clean these soft materials. Over the years, our ECB has become the industry standard for projects of this type.
Your parent company, Centurion Group, recently merged with ATR Group to create a global player in the oil and gas rental equipment and services market. Underwater Engineering Services (UES) was a division of ATR Group specializing in the supply of marine and subsea support equipment within the offshore energy industries. Can you talk about that partnership with the Aberdeen-based company UES and what that can bring to the table?
Tom Ayars: Seanic and UES are joining forces. UES has always been more focused on deck equipment and standard tools in support of the diving industry, so they haven't typically participated in what you would call ultra deep water.
Seanic, on the other hand, has been all about deep water in support of ROVs, so working together seems to be a natural fit. The ability to share people, equipment, and capabilities to provide like services in both the Gulf of Mexico and Aberdeen is not only exciting, but I think it will be well received by our mutual clients.
It sounds like you will now be able to offer services throughout the entire water column by bringing these two companies together, since UES is working in depths conducive to dive operations and Seanic works in much deeper depths.
Tom Ayars: Absolutely. The two companies complement each other very well, and it really won't take much time to cross-pollinate our skills. Going forward, we will collectively market the reliable products and services we've been known for over the years. Aberdeen is a big hub for world-class vessels that sail all over the world to perform oil industry projects. So, between the Gulf of Mexico and Aberdeen, we can effectively serve two of the biggest markets in the world.