Seanic unveils West Houston testing facility

Audrey Leon

May 1, 2016

Houston-based Seanic Ocean Systems has moved into a new deepwater hardware testing facility in Katy, Texas, just a few miles west of Houston’s Energy Corridor. The 5.5 acre facility features a large tank offering an alternative to the testing pool at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab at the Johnson Space Center in south Houston, where other industry companies such as Oceaneering, Petrofac and Raytheon have conducted testing.

Seanic’s new in-ground tank. Photos from Seanic.

Seanic, which specializes in ROV tooling and subsea systems engineering, built a 50ft x 50ft x 30ft deep in-ground tank at the facility, which can hold 560,000 gal of water. The bottom of the pool is reinforced with 3ft of concrete, enabling it to withstand up to 2000lb per sq/ft. The walls of the pool are 2ft thick. Additionally, the pool features an infinity edge that will aid in the cleanup of a hydraulic leak and also serve to recapture water displaced once equipment enters the pool.

“Houston is the center of deepwater technology for many of the major operators,” says Tom Ayars, president, Seanic. With the high cost of offshore operations it makes sense to perform a system integration test (SIT) on various deepwater components before they’re committed to go offshore, he says. “This will allow a full size work class ROV to interact with the hardware in a wet environment as if it was in the field,” Ayars says. “In the face of economic challenges in our industry, this facility will substantially reduce the cost of SIT’s for our customers that were forced to travel long distances and to more expensive and restricted facilities.”

Construction on Seanic’s tank at the deepwater hardware testing facility in 2015.

Ayars says over the years tests like these were performed in above ground metal tanks. Above ground tanks leave customers peering through a porthole in the side of the tank or sitting in the ROV shack to witness the testing, he says. In some cases, the size of the ROVs and equipment have simply out grown this option. The metal tanks also have limitations on how much weight can be placed on the base of the tank due to the metal bottom, he adds. A few years back the NASA tank became available to the oil and gas industry. “The NASA facility is certainly world class,” Ayars says. “The space station typically uses it during the day, and the oil industry often uses it at night, and as you’d expect with a government operation there is strict protocol in and around the facility. Between NASA and our new test pool there really isn’t anything like it along the Gulf Coast.”

Seanic’s in-ground tank measures 50ft x 50ft x 30ft deep.

The Seanic test pool’s 3ft concrete reinforced base can accommodate large, heavy components. Smaller, above ground tanks can often generate abnormal swirling currents due to the round sides, but Seanic’s water depth and interior dimensions will allow an ROV adequate room to perform an effective, functional test. Multiple HD cameras will be positioned in the tank offering a variety of viewpoints that will feed conference rooms with live streaming video to large screen HD monitors, as well as external online streaming video feeds.

Seanic says it is their goal to provide the industry with a local and fully outfitted test facility that can accommodate state-of-the-art work class ROV’s and large subsea hardware in a user friendly, cost effective environment.

The gantry crane was installed in early April. 

“The industry is looking for ways to reduce costs without sacrificing performance, quality or safety, this test facility was developed specifically with that goal in mind,” Ayars says.

Ayars says he expects the tank will be ready for use around the beginning of May. At the time of this writing, the gantry crane had just been installed at the tank. As for Seanic, building the tank has opened up the possibilities for the testing facility, including the possibility of even testing well containment systems.