The University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering has received approval from the State of Texas to offer the nation’s first and only Master’s degree program in subsea engineering.
The program focuses on the design and operation of subsea systems for oil and gas production in ultra-deepwater environments (defined as 10,000 or more feet below sea level). The college won official approval to offer the 10-course subsea M.S. degree from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in September.
When it officially launched in early 2011, the program initially offered certificates in subsea engineering, the first batch of which were awarded in May 2012. Roughly 70 students are currently enrolled in the program.
"There are billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas located in the Gulf of Mexico alone," said Matthew Franchek, subsea engineering program director and professor of mechanical engineering, where the program is housed. "With this program we can partner with industry to educate the existing workforce and to create next-generation subsea engineering technologies that can safely and economically produce offshore oil and gas."
There are several technical challenges that subsea engineering technology must address in order to do this, Franchek stated. These include corrosion caused by seawater, heat transfer due to extremely hot liquids and gasses flowing through pipelines, the interactions of water with flexible risers and pipelines, and the integration and control of the complete subsea system.
The program’s curriculum, therefore, includes courses covering flow assurance, pipeline design, riser design, materials and corrosion, subsea processing and artificial lift, and subsea controls and systems engineering. Given the interdisciplinary nature of subsea engineering, students are also encouraged to take electives in disciplines outside of mechanical engineering, subject to approval of the program director. Designed for working engineers and recent B.S. recipients, classes are taught in the evening by industry professionals and full-time college faculty members.
Given that the program directly addresses an industry need, several companies that design and manufacture subsea equipment have provided it with financial support, including Cameron, FMC Technologies, GE Oil and Gas, andWeatherford. The program has also been recognized by the industry at large, earning recognition as the Best Outreach Program in the 2011 World Oil Awards.