SubC to help explore harsh ocean environment

Kevin Curley
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Clarenville company will develop 3-D undersea camera for Arctic waters

A Clarenville company’s project to build a 3-D undersea camera for the Arctic was one of 11 to get funding from the Research & Development Corp. (RDC).

SubC Control Ltd., an undersea engineering company, will get $429,000 from RDC, with a total project cost of $1.9 million. The company is developing and testing a set of data image recording technologies designed to operate in subsea environments in extremely cold climates.

If successful, the technology will be the first-ever visual recording technology with the capability of operating in deep water and atmospheric temperatures of up to -50 C, providing a commercial solution to the harsh environment challenges of Arctic underwater exploration.

Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development Charlene Johnson was in Clarenville recently to announce the funding, part of $2.4 million going to develop harsh environment technologies in this province.

Investments from the private sector and federal funding bring the total value of the research project to more than $7.9 million.

“That is what was so hard years ago, was to get companies to put money in, but we are at a place where they are doing it and it’s solving practical problems that they have and finding solutions to practical issues they have,” said Johnson.

Johnson said she has learned a lot about these types of operations happening in the province since coming to the department last October.

“To see these young men taking on this company in SubC and selling this worldwide is a story we need to tell more often in this province. It’s true of this company and also of all 10 companies that receive funding here today,” she said.

Johnson said the idea is to get ready with so many opportunities presenting themselves with the Arctic opening up.

“We live in cold, harsh, ice-infested environments and we are sub-arctic so we’ve been doing this for a long time, and we want to show on a global scale that we can be a proving ground for the Arctic,” she said.

Freezing equipment

Chad Collett, managing director at SubC Control, said the challenge of using remoted operated vehicles (ROVs) in the Artic isn’t the low ocean temperatures, which don’t fall below -2 C, but the temperature of the air, which can reach -50 C.

“Water isn’t really the big concern for underwater equipment,” he said. “It’s when the equipment comes back onto the deck of the boat. How do you deal with all the ice water on the equipment and how do you keep the seals from exploding with the ice that gets built up.”

Collett said the answer isn’t as simple as using heaters, which is why they are actively developing systems to handle the low temperatures.

“The funding for SubC means we can develop a 3-D camera system that we hope is going to revolutionize the way we do underwater exploration. The bonus of doing it under the ArcticTECH program is we are going to make the 3-D system work in the Arctic and we are going to make all of our equipment work in the Arctic,” said Collett.

Collett said the Arctic contains a vast untapped resource said to contain as much as 13 per cent of the world’s petroleum.

“There is a lot of mineral resources as well and there is need for camera systems on rigs and that kind of thing. So it’s all very applicable and the funding announcement couldn’t have better timing, because there is a lot of people asking for this now, so the drive is there to make it work,” said Collett.

Solving problems

Glenn Janes, the chief executive officer of RDC, said the 11 projects were all a good fit for the province.

“They are solving the problems that are here in our backyard and have solutions that can be applied in the Arctic and other harsh environments,” he said.

The Packet

Organizations: SubC Control

Geographic location: Arctic, Clarenville, Artic

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