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University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

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Massive Subsea Gift Gives Students Hands-On Experience

By: 

Jeannie Kever
Phaneendra Kondapi, director of the UH subsea engineering program and founding director of engineering programs at UH Katy, says the donation of a subsea tree will give students a better understanding of how the equipment works.
Phaneendra Kondapi, director of the UH subsea engineering program and founding director of engineering programs at UH Katy, says the donation of a subsea tree will give students a better understanding of how the equipment works.
The subsea tree donated by Hess Corporation to the UH Cullen College of Engineering.
The subsea tree donated by Hess Corporation to the UH Cullen College of Engineering.

Hess Corporation Donates Subsea Tree to UH Engineering Program

 

Forty-one tons of bright yellow equipment might seem hard to miss, but most people – even many of those working in the offshore industry – never get an opportunity to see a subsea tree.

A donation from Hess Corporation is changing that for subsea engineering students at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering, along with their fellow students in petroleum and mechanical engineering.

“One of the challenges we have as educators is enhancing the knowledge of our subsea, petroleum and mechanical engineering students beyond the classroom,” said Phaneendra Kondapi, director of the UH subsea engineering program and founding director of engineering programs at UH Katy. “I teach it, but they don’t get a chance to actually see the equipment.”

Subsea trees are used in offshore oil and gas production, topping underwater wellheads to monitor and control the production of oil and gas. They sit on the sea floor as much as 10,000 feet below the surface, at pressures up to 15,000 pounds per square inch (psi). The tree donated by Hess was manufactured by Aker Solutions, and Kondapi said it is valued at more than $3 million.

He singled out several people for their work in making the donation happen, including Jason Harry, subsea engineering advisor, and Chris Starcke, senior manager, supply chain, both from Hess, and Moacir Farias, Venu Kopparthi and Guiton Ragsdale from Aker Solutions.

Starcke said the donation is a reflection of Hess’ values.

“The donation aligns with our values and our commitment to creating a long-lasting, positive impact on the communities where we do business,” he said.

Ultimately, Kondapi said, he would like to use the tree as the centerpiece of a proposed subsea engineering museum at the Katy campus, which would be first of its kind in the world. The Katy campus is under construction and is expected to open in fall 2019. UH Katy students currently attend classes at a building owned by Houston Community College.

For now, the subsea tree is installed in an open area on the edge of the University’s Technology Bridge research park, about two miles from the UH campus. The Cullen College’s petroleum engineering department is based at the research park.

The subsea tree, designed for deep water production and weighing more than 91,000 pounds, or 41,000 kilograms, will allow students to explore its design and function in a way that photographs and digital representations can’t, Kondapi said.

“We will bring students here and show them the equipment,” he said. “They’ll be able to look at it and talk about the design of the tree.”

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