The University of Houston will soon head up a national research center for subsea engineering and offshore energy development issues.  The center’s goal will be to improve the safe, sustainable development of energy resources in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, reducing the risk of offshore accidents, spills and other disasters.

Funding from penalties

Announced by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Subsea Systems Institute will be primarily funded by the RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States) that resulted from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that $4 million in funds from BP following the spill in 2010 will be dispersed to fund the University of Houston center, along with a second center that will be led by Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi.  The total amount of funding will be determined by the civil penalties levied by the court.

About the Institute

Led by the University of Houston in collaboration with Rice University, Texas Southern University, Johnson Space Center, Houston Community College and Lonestar College, the Institute will serve as an industry and government regulator liaison, validating and testing equipment, developing new materials and policies, helping standard-setting organizations with neutral third-party knowledge and overseeing training.

Said University of Houston President, Renue Khator, “We are grateful for this grant, which is the culmination of years of work to establish the University of Houston as The Energy University and a vibrant and comprehensive partner with the energy industry. We envision our Subsea Systems Institute as serving to ensure that technologies, policies, regulations and standards needed for safe and environmentally responsible operations in the energy industry are developed and shared.”

Why the University of Houston?

The Institute is one of two “Centers of Excellence” that have been established in Texas with the funding from the RESTORE Act.  The Act requires that the five states affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster create the centers to carry out research.  Strong bipartisan support was offered by the Houston-area Congressional delegation for selecting the University as the lead institution for the Institute focused on offshore energy.

Chief energy officer at the University, Ramanan Krishnamoorti, expressed that the University’s location makes it a logical choice for the Institute, formed in response to the BP disaster and the push by energy companies to continue moving into deeper waters.

According to Krishnamoorti, “A center focused on prevention is the right thing to do.  A center in Houston is the right place to do it, and UH, Rice and NASA is the right team.”

The Center will also focus work on issues surrounding training future subsea engineers to work at temperatures and depths not previously explored.  Said Paula Myrick Short, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Houston, “As the home of the nation’s only subsea engineering program, the University of Houston is uniquely positioned to lead not just the United States but the world in developing educational programs to ensure future leaders are able to safely and efficiently discover and develop future sources of energy in the Gulf of Mexico and other deepwater regions.”