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Texas A&M students design simulation tank for underwater pipe insulation

Published Feb 02, 2012

Sixteen fourth-year engineering students are designing an insulated simulation tank to perform product testing under conditions that replicate subsea environment as part of a joint mechanical engineering senior design project between Texas A&M University at Qatar and Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, US.

FMC Technologies, Inc. approached Texas A&M with a proposal for the project. Dr. Daniel McAdams, associate professor of mechanical engineering, Texas A&M University, took on the topic for his senior design class in collaboration with Dr. Ghassan Kridli, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M at Qatar. Twelve mechanical engineering students from College Station, three from the University's Doha campus and one electrical engineering student began work on the project in September 2011 and will continue through May 2012.

Paul Blahut, a mechanical engineering senior, explained their task, saying, "We are looking at pipes that run along the sea floor. With these pipes, shutting down production for maintenance or because of any other problem can cause the fluids and substances that run through the pipes to cool and solidify. This costs companies a lot of money because they are delayed in restarting production while they clean out the pipes. In order to plan for maintenance to be completed before the fluids cool and solidify, engineers need to be able to predict how fast the fluid will cool, essentially how much time they have before they need to restart production.

"This is where we come in. We are designing a tank that mimics the properties of the sea floor. Engineers will be able to put the pipe in the tank with the fluids and simulate based on a number of conditions what will happen when they stop production. They can test how much time they have before the fluids cool and solidify."

FMC Technologies is providing technical support and expertise to the team as they develop the tank, which the company hopes to produce and use after the team completes its design. The team, including the three representatives from the Qatar campus, presented its progress to FMC Technologies in Houston, TX, US, in Dec. 2011.

The 13 students from College Station and McAdams visited Doha from 28 Jan.-1 Feb. to collaborate with their teammates on the Qatar campus, who they communicate with through video conferencing, emails and even social media outlets such as Facebook.

Welcoming the students to the Qatar campus, Dr. Todd Kent, assistant dean for academic affairs at Texas A&M at Qatar, said, "Your world will be bigger because you came here for a week. In today's increasingly globalized world, engineers are challenged to collaborate across cultural boundaries and time zones to solve problems and develop new technology. Working with teammates across the world in Qatar is real-life preparation for this, and we have great hopes that your experience here will promote your academic and personal growth.

"The opportunity for students in Doha and College Station to work on a real-life engineering problem, posed by an industry leader, with teammates across the world sets Texas A&M apart. Very few universities can offer undergraduate students a top-ranked engineering degree along with opportunities such as this for international, industry-based experience."