The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

Sep/Oct 2016


Society for Underwater Technology

A spotlight on marine science and technology

The Perth Branch evening meeting ‘The Role of Marine Science and Technology: Beyond Oil & Gas’ was opened by branch chair Julie Morgan and chaired by branch committee member Paul Upjohn, with the event kindly sponsored by the Ocean’s Institute at the University of Western Australia (UWA).

The evening’s theme was designed deliberately to reflect underwater topics that were not wholly connected to the oil and gas markets. With this in mind, we invited Serge DeSilva, president of the Australian Industry Defence Network-WA (AIDN-WA) to the stage to give a brief summary of AIDN. Then it was time for the presentations.


First off the rank was Associate Professor Robert McCauley of Curtin University’s Centre of Marine Science and Technology (CMST) who presented on the topic ‘Marine Acoustics Studies in Western Australia with Emphasis on the Use of Sea Noise to Study Our Marine Environment’. We learned how Robert and his team have been using various underwater technologies within Australian waters for more than 20 years, including acoustics to study marine fauna, which was the main focus of Robert’s presentation, looking at the movements of the pygmy blue whale within the Eastern Indian Ocean. A fascinating topic that has seen trending of the movements off the Western Australia coast of the pygmy blue whales using the passive acoustic technologies that has allowed CMST researchers to fully understand the migration patterns along with a multitude of other species too, particularly within the Perth Canyon.


Our second presentation was by Professor Erika Techera from the Ocean’s Institute, UWA, titled ‘From Offshore Installations to Artificial Reefs: Legal Frameworks for Decommissioning in Australia’. Erika’s insight into the legal world for what will in years become a significant requirement regarding the decommissioning of offshore oil and gas related installations was of great interest to all in the audience and in particular how in Australia such events will grow and throw up many questions. There is certainly a variety of legal requirements to be taken into consideration before moving ahead with using existing installations such as platforms within Australian waters as artificial reefs for the future. The questions of who finally regulates matters and who owns the seas appear up for discussion as well as the need for inputs from a science and engineering point of view when looking at decommissioning within Australian waters.


The last presentation was by Doug Austin, AP director for James Fisher Defence, which was titled ‘Hyperbaric Intervention in Submarine Rescue’ and focused on the equipment and techniques deployed to rescue personnel from a disabled submarine. For the claustrophobics amongst us, myself being one, this topic was viewed with many a grimace as Doug showed ways of escape and treatment of the persons that are saved. The logistics required from the initial call for rescue that can cater for anywhere between 30-100 personnel, who may have been exposed to pressures as high as four-bar for five to seven days, kept – if you will excuse the pun – the audience captured. Doug described in good detail the stages of the rescue and the technologies required – the rescue submersible and decompression chambers of various sizes – and followed this with a time lapse video that showed an example rescue from beginning to end, which seeing the size of the small individual chambers being used just confirmed to myself that diving was not a career option for me.

Paul Upjohn

Divers at work - 5@50

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Society, SUT+ is presenting a series of five lectures to showcase some of the varied diving work that takes place in the underwater world.

The lectures kicked off on 13 September with a presentation from Dr Martin Sayer, head of the National Facility for Scientific Diving at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, that looked at the technologies and techniques used when working underwater in the pursuit of scientific research.

The series continues on 11 October with a presentation from media diving supervisor/underwater co-ordinator Mike Seares which will look at the work of the media diver and the challenges of putting an underwater action sequence onto film.

On 15 November ‘Stop and Search’, a presentation by Peter Faulding, chief executive of Specialist Group International, will examine the techniques and procedures of an underwater forensic search and recovery team.

This will be followed on 13 December with a presentation from Dr John Bevan, managing director of Submex Ltd, entitled ‘Commercial Diving Past and Present’ which will look at the story of commercial diving and how it expanded worldwide, branching into scientific and military diving.

The series will conclude on 17 January 2017, when Garry Momber, director of the Maritime Archaeology Trust, discusses the work of the Maritime Archaeology Trust and the procedures and technology used by divers in the survey and collection of historical artefacts.

All presentations will be held at Forsys Subsea’s headquarters in London (see the SUT website for further details).

Stormy forecast on future of oil and gas industry

A thinner than usual crowd gathered at Imperial College London’s Skempton building to hear the latest industry forecast from energy analysts Infield Systems. The low attendance was blamed by meeting chairman and SUT chief executive Bob Allwood on a coinciding televised England football match. A suggestion by a more pessimistic attendee, over the post-talk wine and cheese, that most of the remaining subsea oil and gas industry had been present in that lecture hall was surely hyperbole.

Here to forecast the future of the oil and gas industry was veteran energy analyst Kieran O’Brien. Having joined Infield Systems (recently acquired by global energy, metals and mining research and consultancy group Wood MacKenzie) as an energy researcher in 2012, Kieran has worked on a selection of bespoke and in‐house projects with a wide ranging remit. He developed the Infield ROV market modelling tool and now focuses primarily on the vessel and ROV markets.


Dark clouds were gathering in the sky over South Kensington, threatening one of this summer’s regular London thunderstorms. The attendees perhaps dared to hope that Infield Systems’ updated macroeconomic overview and market forecasts for the oil and gas industry and various other sectors within the industry would give a glimpse of blue skies on the horizon.


With a disclaimer advising that none of the following should be taken as investment advice (optimistically assuming that we temporarily down at heel underwater technologists would be in a position to do anything about it anyway), Kieran embarked upon a comprehensive industry forecast.


The industry audience was soothed by a potential “new hope”– a prediction of an upward trend in the oil price with short spikes caused by market reaction to shocks in supply or demand (such as forest fires in Canada or belligerence in Nigeria). This rise could be enabled by such events as international conflicts in oil producing regions and massive geopolitical shifts, or more prosaically by a return to economic growth in Europe and an increase in demand from China. Conversely if these don’t come to pass, combined with a comeback for shale technology, continued high output from OPEC and new supply from Iran, the oil price could remain lower for much longer.

Beginning to answer a question regarding bankruptcies in the offshore industry, our speaker’s voice was drowned out by a peal of thunder from the breaking storm. “Appropriate conditions”, commented one wag in the audience, but Kieran’s summary suggested that the ultra‐deepwater sector could have a bright future ahead.

Michael O’Neill





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