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Sea-Bird's Inductive Modem System: Providing Real-Time Data from NOAA PMEL Ocean Climate Station Moorings

Exchanges of heat and moisture between the ocean and the air have a tremendous impact on global weather and climate. To improve satellite products and forecast models, as well as our understanding of air-sea interactions, NOAA gathers meteorological and oceanic data from autonomous platforms. The resulting data empower the world to adapt to climate variations, while improved forecast models help reduce our vulnerability to weather and climate extremes.

Space: Finland’s New Frontier

As the initiator of several technological revolutions, including the mobile phone and wireless wearable technology, Finland and high-tech go hand in hand. Now, they have their sights set on revolutionizing a new technological frontier—space.

On 18 April 2017, history was made as Aalto-2 became the first Finnish-built satellite to be launched into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Then on 23 June 23, Finland’s Aalto-1 carried the world's smallest Hyperspectral imager into space on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle sent up by the Indian Space Research Organization. The Aalto-1 and Aalto-2 missions have ignited the rise astropreneurship and the establishment of a NewSpace sector in Finland. Independent space companies, the first space law, and a Finnish space program are set to reshape traditional technologies, develop faster and cheaper access to space than ever before, and advance earth observations far beyond today’s satellite capabilities.

Invented at California State Polytechnic University and Stanford University at the turn of the century, CubeSats have made space missions affordable for university departments and small independent companies. For Aalto University, CubeSat technology enabled their students to make history by building the satellites for the first-ever Finnish space mission. The first satellite, Aalto-1, had two initial goals: 1) a technology demonstration of the state-of-the-art payload and 2) serve as a learning curve in the operation and management of space missions for future launches.

Antti Kestilä, head of the Aalto-1 mission operations at Aalto University, explains: “Aalto-1’s mission was first of all educational—we wanted to teach, and learn ourselves, how to start and design from scratch, manage, build, and operate a complete space mission. Thus, besides the actual satellite, we have our own ground station as well. We did not have much experience of this kind of project before, and never in the past has this kind of ‘complete’ mission been done in Finland.”

At the start of the project, Aalto University contacted several other Finnish institutions interested in contributing a payload to the mission. The Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) provided the hyperspectral imager camera, Helsinki University and Turku University together built the radiation monitor, and the Finnish Meteorological Institute created the more exotic plasma brake—a modified concept based on the principle of an electric solar sail aimed at reducing the amount of space debris.

“The Aalto-1 is a fairly complex satellite with its three main payloads. If everything works well in the long term, a science campaign is planned with the hyperspectral imager and radiation monitor,” said Kestilä. “We built most of the satellite bus system and the ground station in-house with a student workforce that was sometimes volatile in terms of dedication. Throughout its duration, the project included almost a hundred people.”

The launch was initially scheduled with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 at the end of 2015. On two separate incidents, the Flacon 9 rockets exploded, causing a launch delay by over 1.5 years. In the end, it was changed to the Indian PSLV, which launched the Aalto-1 along with 30 other small satellites this past June.

a1 poster standing alphaWorld’s Smallest Hyperspectral Camera

While traditional cameras measure three colors, hyperspectral cameras can measure dozens of freely selected narrow color channels. The measurement wavelengths are also software programmable—the same camera hardware can be easily scaled to different applications, even after launch. For this reason, it can be utilized for a range of earth observation missions such as algae monitoring, water pollution, and vegetation health.

The potential for hyperspectral imaging to progress ocean and coastal science has been recognized for many years. In 2009, NASA launched the HREP-HICO experimental payload into space, providing scientists with an exceptional new view of the coastal ocean and the Great Lakes.

In 2022-23, the NASA satellite mission PACE (Plankton, Aerosols, Cloud, ocean Ecosystems) aims to deliver the most comprehensive look at global ocean color measurements in NASA's history. But, the hyperspectral imager on board Aalto-1 could make it easier than ever before.

Traditional cameras weigh around 100 kg, but the hyperspectral imaging camera built by VTT for remote sensing weighs just 600 g. “VTT’s hyperspectral camera uses novel Fabry-Perot based sensor technology that enables us to miniaturize it without losing much performance. It can even image up to 60 separate spectral channels at one time, creating very high-contrast images. There have been several hyperspectral imagers in past missions, but none this small,” explains Kestilä, who was part of the team that created the system for Aalto-1 as well as for the PICASSO and the upcoming Reaktor Hello World nanosatellite missions.

“The imager could pick out things like seaweed growth in a sea, metal in a forest, etc.—stuff that separate-channeled imaging enables. This imager is the first of its kind, so it can only image an area roughly 150 km2 [in size] with an approximately 100-m resolution, but future ones can be improved significantly in spatial performance.”

In July this year, the team downloaded the first image sent by Aalto-1, which is also the first ever image taken from a Finnish satellite. It was taken while orbiting over Norway at an altitude of about 500 km and shows the Danish coast as well as some of the Norwegian coastline.

Also onboard is the radiation monitor. RADMON is a technology derivative from the Bepi-Colombo ESA mission to Mercury. The Aalto-1 team aims to measure radiation in a selected energy spectrum, studying the radiation environment in low Earth orbit (LEO). The South Atlantic Anomaly—an area over the south Atlantic that affects aircraft and satellites due to the Van Allen Radiation Belts—is one such target phenomenon they will be studying.

“The RADMON is a tech demo as well. If it works, the South Atlantic Anomaly is a good way to show this. In a later science campaign, it'll have other phenomena that it can hopefully be able to detect, and maybe even reveal new and interesting properties about them and, for example, how space weather driven by the sun affects them,” said Kestilä.

“If everything works as expected, we’ll try to do a science campaign with images of selected parts of the planet and chart large portions of the LEO radiation environment. After maybe six months to one year, we then intend to significantly change the satellite attitude so that we can start with the plasma brake mission—this requires the satellite to be pointed in a different orientation to that required by the spectral imager and RADMON.”

image001Antti Kestilä (right) and Tuomas Tikka (left) preparing Aalto-1 satellite for thermal vacuum tests. Photo credit: Antti Näsilä

The Launch of Finland’s Space Industry

Finnish scientists are not new to space technology. In fact, there are already over 300 Finnish employees in 60 companies in the space systems and applications industry. Finland has also contributed to almost every major European Space Agency (ESA) mission to date, demonstrating their abilities in producing complex, compact, and superior space technology. Now, the emerging trend towards nano- and microsatellites perfectly align with Finland’s unique position—they will no longer just contribute, but build their own space empire.

From the Aalto-1 project, two spin-off companies have been formed with plans to launch their first small satellites within the next year. The students who built Aalto-2 now work at Reaktor Space Lab, a start-up company that designs, manufactures, and tests small satellites.

Smaller satellite platforms and sensors will allow one rocket launch to carry dozens of satellites, significantly reducing launch costs and opening the sector to more independent companies and individual departments. With more players in the industry, the next decade will likely be an exciting one for space industries. We could see a boom in technological advancements across the sector and witness the swift expansion of capabilities beyond today's reach.

Furthermore, small satellites can form large constellations, extending the data network and information infrastructure to remote areas such as the Arctic Ocean. Finland’s space strategy highlights an interest in projects that will respond to the Arctic’s growing demands, such as accurate navigational data for vessels, or changes in natural conditions, such as the melting of glaciers and permafrost.

Aalto University is launching another CubeSat, the Finland 100-satellite, later this year. The satellite sports a wide-field white light (“normal”) camera and a low-frequency (1 to 10 MHz) radio payload with which it can record a range of “natural” radio-signal emitting phenomena, such as the northern lights. Notably, the satellite was also partly 3D-printed, which is rapidly growing in popularity in the space community.

Kestilä comments: “After the delays to the Aalto-1 mission, we are very delighted and somewhat relieved to launch and have it operating as intended. For Finnish space efforts and technology, finally launching Aalto-1 and getting its first image down was a historical event. And it has been a tremendous experience to be a part of it! I’ve now been part of a complex space project from the start, giving valuable insight into such types of missions and the challenges we face. These missions are a culmination of years of work, learning, and waiting. It also gave validation to the efforts of the hundreds of people who took part, helping us and the Finnish space industry continue with newer and braver projects.”

Professor Jaan Praks, project director and co-founder of Reaktor Space Lab, added: "These small satellites have started a new and exciting space era in Finland. The young CubeSat generation has brought innovation and new strategies to the commercial sector and, at the same time, the Finnish scientific space program is emerging. The newly founded Center of Excellence on Sustainable Space—uniting [the] University of Helsinki, Aalto University, University of Turku, and [the] Finnish Meteorological Institute—is planning a series of CubeSat missions and technology development in the coming years. Now, space is more accessible and popular in Finland than ever before."


Antti Kestilä, head of the Aalto-1 mission operations at Aalto University.

Professor Jaan Praks, Aalto project director at Aalto University and co-founder of Reaktor Space Lab.

SeaSense Serial Protocol: Improved Control

While developing their next generation of subsea products, DeepSea Power & Light uncovered limitations in existing EIA-232 and EIA-485 serial protocols used throughout the subsea industry. Some systems use binary protocols difficult to operate without additional software, and others are limited in functionality and extensibility. In response, DeepSea developed the SeaSense™ protocol, an innovative serial protocol offering access to advanced on-board monitoring, diagnostic, and control technologies while improving usability and flexibility over other protocols.

The Race for The Deep

Under glistening blue waves lies a dark, inhospitable world unlike anywhere else on our planet. Although the harsh conditions make it impossible for humans to survive there, the deep ocean is far from devoid of life. The largest ecosystem on Earth is home to many bizarre species and unique habitats. It is also rife with valuable metals, rare elements, and hydrocarbons yet to be harvested by humankind.

Plastic Oceans: A Cleaner Future With Ocean Engineering

By: Kira Coley

As Earth’s natural hoarders, the world’s five gyres have transformed the oceans’ landscape from crystal blue waters to vast fields of plastic dispersed over millions of square kilometers. Over the last decade, the “ocean garbage patches” have brought attention to the plight of our plastic-covered world. But, the challenge of removing human waste from these large, remote zones is enormous, and conventional methods—vessels and nets—would take thousands of years and tens of billions of dollars. Founded in 2013, by the then 18-year-old Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup has been developing innovative technologies as part of a mission to remove plastic from the world’s oceans. After raising $31.5 million in just four years, the latest design of the world’s first passive clean-up system, built in collaboration with science and industry experts, has been announced. Now, at a fraction of the time and cost of conventional methods, half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch could vanish in just five years’ time, giving hope to a cleaner future for a delicate and fragile ecosystem already under pressure.

Located between Hawaii and California, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of the five global Garbage Patches. In May 2017, The Ocean Cleanup team unveiled the latest improved design that will enable the start of the extraction of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the next 12 months—two years ahead of schedule.

According to Ocean Conservancy, it has taken 20 years for over 6,000,000 volunteers to remove 116,000,000 lbs (53,000 metric tons) of debris across 211,460 mi of shoreline in 127 nations (1986-2008). According to The Ocean Cleanup, this new technology will remove the equivalent from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just two years, collecting 10 times more than all beach clean-ups combined.

Boyan Slat How to rid the oceans of plastic 

Installation of the North Sea prototype, 23 June 2016. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup. 2 of 5

Installation of the North Sea prototype, 23 June 2016. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup.


Computer Renderings The Ocean Cleanup

In June 2016, they deployed a 100-m long barrier segment in the North Sea, 23 km off the coast of The Netherlands. It was the first time the initial concept was tested, and the pilot led to several fundamental changes that have been incorporated into the new design revealed this May.

A representative of The Ocean Cleanup explains: “The system is in constant flux. The engineers continually test to ‘poke holes’ in the design and are constantly changing components such as materials, connections between the elements, and dimensions. But, the biggest visible change is the switch from a moored to a free-floating system. The idea came from experience in offshore engineering and deep-sea mooring—we knew that the more static a system needs to be, the higher the costs involved. We learned that changing the design has many advantages—along with reduced cost, there is a higher plastic capture efficiency and lower pressure on the barrier from wind, waves, and currents. We also knew that if we want to catch plastic, we need to act like plastic.”

Researching the forces of the mooring system in the water column, engineers came up with the idea to use the diminishing current speeds at deeper levels to the technology’s’ advantage. This provided an opportunity to slow down the system versus the ocean’s surface using sea anchors. By using sea anchors, the boom moves slower than the plastic while on the same route, increasing the capture efficiency.

North Sea prototype. Photo credit: Erwin Zwart/The Ocean Cleanup. 3 of 5

North Sea prototype. Photo credit: Erwin Zwart/The Ocean Cleanup.


The new design revealed this year includes a U-shape floater 1 to 2 km in length—a huge reduction in size from the original that stretched across 100 km. The floater will be a continuous hard-walled pipe made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), an extremely durable and recyclable material. Instead of using nets, a solid screen will catch the sub-surface debris and allow sea life to pass underneath. The plastic will accumulate in the center of the U-shape floater, allowing vessels to easily collect and transport the debris back to land for recycling.

“From the North Sea prototype, we learned about the dynamic behavior of a barrier system in the open sea as well as the assembly, installation, and operation of such a system. We now believe the newest solution is a much more robust and efficient way of cleaning the oceans. It will not be perfect yet, but it will be a good starting point in the process of testing and improving the system in the Pacific.” By late 2017, The Ocean Cleanup aims to launch the first operational pilot system in Pacific waters. The upcoming pilot will represent the most significant milestone to the world’s first ever full-scale clean-up of marine plastic pollution. The team will continue to address design challenges and further optimize the system over the coming months.

“The project is full of engineering challenges. Since we changed to the mobile system, we now face substantially fewer forces on the system compared to when it was static. But, the ocean is still a harsh environment, and the system remains large. It will be subject to constant wear and tear by water, currents, and sun exposure. So, all the parts and the connections holding the parts together need to be durable. For that reason, we also continuously try to keep the design as simple as possible, built up from as few parts and moving connections as we can. Besides this, the system, of course, needs to capture plastic efficiently. By reviewing all the options and continuing our testing, we can make the operation successful and bring the world a step closer to a less polluted ocean.”

The Ocean Cleanup will also be researching environmental impact. By conducting field studies, they hope to reveal any unexpected effects on include the accumulation of plankton, the “FAD” (Fish Aggregation Device) effect, and the interference with migration pathways of, for example, tuna and whales. As part of this research, an Environmental Impact Assessment Board has been established comprising internationally renowned professors.

Ghost net aboard the Mega Expedition mothership R/V Ocean Starr. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup. 4 of 5

Ghost net aboard the Mega Expedition mothership R/V Ocean Starr. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup.


A selection of large objects observed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch during the aerial expedition. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup. 5 of 5

A selection of large objects observed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch during the aerial expedition. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup.


A Cleaner Future for the World’s Oceans

After the pilot, the first fully operational clean-up system will be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the next 12 months. More systems will be gradually added, until reaching full-scale deployment by 2020.

“We will not be able to get every last gram of plastic out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but calculations show we can remove 50% in just five years from deployment of our system. An 80% to 90% reduction should be possible by 2050. And, if the technology we are building is combined with source reduction initiatives, an even more significant drop of floating marine litter in the convergence zones of the oceans can be reached.” As humanity begins its journey to reverse our damage on an already pressured ecosystem, it cannot be achieved without the support of science and industry. By developing innovative technologies to lessen the presence of human waste, the oceans’ natural landscape can slowly return along with the benefits that a healthier ecosystem offers.

“Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges humankind faces today. Millions of tons of plastic have entered the oceans, damaging ecosystems and entering the food chain. Although it is essential to prevent more plastic from entering the oceans, the plastic that’s already trapped in the oceans currents will not go away by itself. Although most of the plastic is large debris, UV radiation will break it down into smaller particles—particles that are much more dangerous to our environment. If we wait another few decades before we act, the number of microplastics will increase 50 times. By then, we would be in even more trouble.”

Deepwater Downturn Leads To Challenging Marine Construction Market

By: Krystal Alvarez

New Oil Price Effects

The Upstream Supply Chain group at Wood Mackenzie has been closely following the repercussions of the past two years of depressed deepwater activity on operators, suppliers, and contractors. Ongoing adverse market conditions have incentivized operators to explore ways of making their prospective investments viable in the new oil price environment. As such, the industry is experiencing muted tender activity for deepwater installation services, which has left marine contractors dependent on their strong backlogs that are now nearly exhausted (Figure 1). Decreased deepwater demand coupled with the increased supply of vessels in the offshore subsea construction market segment have led to lower utilization rates in a deteriorating market, even with contractors divesting and stacking assets.

The downturn has severely affected several subsea vessel contractors who have been forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, including the most recent filing of Emas Chiyoda Subsea. Cecon ASA, Ceona, Harkand, and Reef Subsea are all marine contracting companies who have filed for bankruptcy, and many of which have been dissolved. The Ceona Amazon was recently acquired by McDermott for an estimated $52 million, which is a drastic discount compared to the $350 million it cost to build in 2014. The diminishing backlogs of marine contractors led to reduced day rates in 2016 for deepwater installation assets—and as tender activity remains uncertain and at low levels, we expect these rates to fall even further in 2017.

Figure 1. Tier One Marine Contractor Backlogs Q4 2011-2019e. 2 of 5

Figure 1. Tier One Marine Contractor Backlogs Q4 2011-2019e.


Preferred Operator Relationships

Top tier contractors such as Technip, Saipem, and Subsea 7 have formed critical alliances and built preferred contractor relationships with operators, which has strengthened their business during the ongoing downturn (Figure 2). Each of the three contractors has partnered or merged with a subsea equipment supplier, giving them the ability to design, develop, and provide integrated subsea development solutions. Technip and FMC Technologies have merged to form TechnipFMC, Subsea 7 and OneSubsea have partnered and formed a global alliance, and Saipem has partnered with Aker Solutions. As these contractors are working on the development of integrated SPS and SURF services, they have the opportunity through collaboration and the elimination of bottlenecks to establish better, more cost-effective ways to work together and with operators. There will be significant potential for integrated projects moving forward in the new lower for longer price environment.

Figure 2. Top 11 Operators Preferred Supplier Relationships – Project Award Count 2010-2017. 3 of 5

Figure 2. Top 11 Operators Preferred Supplier Relationships – Project Award Count 2010-2017.


Solitaire pipe-laying vessel. Photo credit: Eva Sleire, Statoil. 4 of 5

Solitaire pipe-laying vessel. Photo credit: Eva Sleire, Statoil.

There are many factors that drive operator's contracting strategies, including project location, complexity, and vessel preference; however, preferred contractor relationships play a large role. Based on the number of pipeline and umbilical project installation awards, Subsea 7 is the market share leader with 38% of the contracts from 2010 to 2017. Technip follows close behind with 36%. If you were to look at the same top 10 operators in Figure 2 but from a kilometre-of-pipeline-installed perspective, this graph would look different, with Allseas and Saipem having a larger share of the pie, given that a significant portion of their project portfolio includes installation of long export lines. Although operators now have the opportunity to contract one integrated contractor for subsea development solutions, these key relationships will still prove to be valuable when operators are considering project dynamics. We saw an example of this with ExxonMobil's Liza development where Technip- FMC was chosen for the subsea equipment supplier and Saipem as the installation contractor (Saipem is historically their preferred installation contractor).

Figure 3. Regional Marine Construction Demand in Kilometres, 2010-2022. 5 of 5

Figure 3. Regional Marine Construction Demand in Kilometres, 2010-2022.


Marine Contracting Demand Forecast

Despite the harsh market conditions, African installation activity has increased from historical levels with planned installation activities for Total's Kaombo Phase 1, BP's Shah Deniz Phase 2, and the Turkstream Pipeline Project occurring in 2017. Installation in offshore Egypt is expected to increase relative to history on the heels of Eni's Zohr and BP's West Nile Delta Phase 2, among others. The Turkstream Pipeline will provide a drastic increase in demand for the region, with Allseas performing installation services for the two pipeline strings representing about 930 km each. The region has attracted many of the industry's high-end installation assets, including Technip's Global 1200 and Deep Blue, Saipem's FDS and Castorone, Heerema's Balder, and several others.

Global trunkline and export installation activity will provide upswing for the forecast period, with awarded installations of Gazprom's Turkstream Pipeline Project in the Black Sea, Total's Kaombo Phase 1 in Angola, BP's Shah Deniz Phase 2 in the Caspian, BP's Trans Adriatic Pipeline in the Adriatic, Petrobras' Rota Marica Pipeline Project in Brazil, Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 in the Baltic Sea, and CFE's Sur De Texas Tuxpan transmission line in Mexico which is contributing to North America's demand in 2018.

Global installation demand will account for over 40,700 installation demand days forecasted for 2017 to 2022, with Africa, Asia, and South America being the largest contributors to demand for all OD categories (Figure 3). Although a great portion of installation demand is driven by new project development, there is also opportunity in IMR (inspection, maintenance, and repair) demand, which encompasses a large variety of work on existing fields, ranging from visual inspection, testing, and the repair or replacement of components and pipeline infrastructure. The global subsea market has grown significantly over the past decade, leading to a growing installation base now exceeding 4,000 flowing subsea wells with accompanying pipeline infrastructure, providing opportunity for life of field activities. While operators navigate this new price environment and practice high levels of spending and discipline, IMR and workover activities can be economically beneficial and pay a return through increased production though market conditions remain challenging and timing of new awards to market remains uncertain.

While a slightly more optimistic outlook on deepwater FIDs in the coming years are a positive leading indicator for subsequent marine contracting, 2017 will likely mark the beginning of the trough for installation demand. Operators are working to increase efficiencies in their projects while suppliers and contractors work together to provide cost-saving subsea solutions. This collaborative effort within marine construction and across deepwater will be a significant driver to how strong we move out of this downturn into the next upcycle.

The analysis and insight provided in this piece are from our recently launched global upstream supply chain research team. Through acquisitions of Infield Systems and the Quest Offshore data & subscriptions business, Wood Mackenzie has created a strong, industry-leading foundation on which to build the comprehensive suite of upstream supply chain solutions and costs.


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