Southwest Research Institute

6220 Culebra Rd.
San Antonio,  TX  78238-5166

United States
  • Booth: 2401

SwRI uses a multidisciplinary approach to solve problems for the offshore industry and offers a range of R&D, design and testing services. Specialties include ocean engineering & simulation, OCTG testing, pressure vessel design & fabrication, submersible systems, multiphase flow testing, flow assurance, corrosion testing, and fracture mechanics.

 Press Releases

  • Southwest Research Institute has developed LotusFlo™, a superhydrophobic coating to keep offshore drilling pipes from being clogged by various substances. R&D Magazine recently recognized LotusFlo and the unique process SwRI developed to apply the coating to pipes as one of the 100 most significant innovations of 2019.

    “Offshore oil drilling faces a number of challenges in extracting petroleum from beneath the ocean floor,” said Dr. Michael Miller, SwRI institute scientist and one of LotusFlo’s principal developers. “Pipes are frequently clogged by substances like asphaltenes, which are sticky and tar-like molecular substances found in crude oil; paraffins, soft waxy materials that are derived from petroleum; and inorganic scales, which are mineral deposits that form when water mixed with different types of salty liquids.”

    All of these substances can slow or even halt the flow of oil through the pipes. Current solutions involve pouring costly chemicals, which also pollute the surrounding ocean, down pipes to unclog them. SwRI’s LotusFlo, however, is a superhydrophobic coating technology that can repel the liquids and materials that often clog drilling pipes. The coating, which is applied to the pipes under vacuum conditions, contains silicon, oxygen, carbon and fluorine. Despite the harsh conditions of the drilling environment, the coating can last for years and is not harmful to the surrounding environment.

    The unique LotusFlo coating process involves linking several 40-foot sections of pipe together in very low atmospheric pressures. The interiors essentially act as a vacuum chamber, with an end unit on either side of the pipe providing the vacuum source. An electrode is strung through the pipe from one end to the other and suspended in the middle of the pipe.

    Volatile molecules are then introduced into the evacuated pipe to ignite highly ionized gas molecules, or plasma, inside the entire length of the pipe structure. The plasma, once ignited, emits light and fragments in a special way to allow control over the chemical precursor molecules to form other ions in the plasma, which are then accelerated very rapidly onto the internal surface of the pipe. When the ions collide on the interior surface, they undergo a polymerization reaction that results in a partially inorganic, glass-like coating that keeps the materials from adhering to pipe surfaces.

    The R&D 100 Awards are among the most prestigious innovation awards programs, honoring the top 100 revolutionary technologies each year since 1963. Recipients hail from research institutions, academic and government laboratories, Fortune 500 companies and smaller organizations. Since 1971, SwRI has won 45 R&D 100 Awards. This year’s winners will be announced December 5 in San Francisco.

    For more information, visit

  •  Southwest Research Institute is designing and supporting the building of a state-of-the-art remotely operated rescue vehicle as part of a $7.7 million project for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The system will feature a shallow and a deep water vehicle designed to connect with disabled submarines (DISSUB) to allow for the rescue of people trapped on board. They will be among a handful of remotely operated air-transportable submarine rescue systems in the world.

    The first remotely operated submarine rescue vehicle was developed in the early 2000s, in the wake of the Kursk submarine accident, when a Russian nuclear submarine disabled by a sudden internal torpedo explosion sank in the Arctic Ocean. Difficulty locating the sub and inability to connect a rescue submersible to the escape hatch of the Kursk resulted in the death of more than 100 Russian sailors.

    The project is in support of the SEA1354 Phase 1 Submarine Escape, Rescue and Abandonment System and a collaboration with Phoenix International in addition to multiple subcontractors in Australia.

    Matt James, program manager in SwRI’s Marine and Offshore Systems section, will lead a team of engineers to design the hull for the remotely operated rescue vehicle (RORV) for deep water rescue, which has a capacity of 12 evacuees plus two crewmembers. SwRI is designing and fabricating uniquely dexterous transfer skirts for both the deep water RORV and the shallow water vehicle. Submarines contain a small compartment known as an escape trunk, to escape a DISSUB. The transfer skirt is a rotating apparatus on the rescue vehicle that attaches to the hatch of the escape trunk.

    “The deep water RORV will reach depths up to 600 meters,” James said. “The shallow water rescue vehicle will operate up to 80 meters. The U.S. Navy submarine rescue vehicle has a transfer skirt that can rotate 45 degrees, but the RAN vehicles will rotate up to 60 degrees, giving them increased flexibility.”

    A main concern in deep water rescues is decompression sickness, a potentially debilitating illness that can arise from depressurizing too quickly. If a person transitions too quickly between pressurized states, dissolved gases can come out of solution, forming bubbles that move throughout the body, causing joint pain, paralysis and even death.

    “The deep water RORV will be pressurized to match the pressure of the disabled submarine,” James said. “This allows for a rescued person to transfer to a decompression chamber when they reach the surface and avoid the risk of decompression sickness.”

    The rescue system will be transportable via aircraft and will launch from ships, mobilizing within hours of an incident. While they will primarily serve Australia’s navy, the system will also be capable of supporting other submarine operating nations by means of the NATO standard escape hatch.

    For more information, visit or contact Joanna Carver, +1 210 522 2073, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.

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