Deep water will be a critical frontier for securing oil and gas resources on a global scale as emerging industrial powerhouses demand more energy. According to a 2010 energy outlook by ExxonMobil, deepwater production accounted for more than 5% of the world’s energy supply the previous year and is expected to more than double to as much as 14 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2030.

Given the greater need to explore for and develop more energy reserves in increasingly complex and harsh environments like deep water, tomorrow’s subsea engineering workforce will require a broader set of skills and enhanced training initiatives to keep pace with advancing technologies that address new subsurface E&P challenges.

In May 2011, the University of Houston (UH) unveiled a new subsea certificate program -- the first of its kind in the US -- that will create what UH Subsea Director and Mechanical Engineering Chair Dr. Matthew Franchek calls “a 21 st Century energy engineer unlike anybody else.”

Led by industry experts, the pioneering initiative will prepare the next-generation subsea engineer to meet these challenges by developing expertise in the design and maintenance of subsea equipment, tools, and infrastructure used in offshore development.

“We’ve got to realize an education is much broader than just engineering sciences and math,” Franchek told E&P. “It’s actually the translation of those skill sets and knowledge base to best practices -- that’s the UH subsea engineering program.”

Comprising what Franchek calls “rigorous and non-trivial” courses that are a composite of the cross-disciplinary engineering skills needed, UH’s subsea certificate program has grown to 40 students, with 15 to 20 students per class. In one semester, students spend a third of their time on engineering sciences, a third in the translation of that knowledge base to some usable skill set taught by an industry professional, and the final third on a project where they work to solve real engineering problems, he said.

Once the initial courses are completed, the first wave of university-trained subsea engineers in the US will possess a broad spectrum of engineering knowledge, running the gamut from flow assurance and pipeline design to managing and containing materials and corrosion. “Then we have another certificate in advanced subsea engineering that includes: riser design; subsea processing and artificial lift; and subsea control systems and systems integration,” Franchek said.

For now, the program offers six classes. But, Franchek said, work