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Australia's primary research organisation can now accurately control variables within its Sea Simulator laboratory. 

Utilities: Water


Australia's primary research organisation can now accurately control variables within its Sea Simulator laboratory.  Two key control elements were delivered:

  • Sea Simulator laboratory water and building control:  temperature control with precise +/- 0.1°C tolerance, salinity, pH control, CO2 control, record humidity and temperature of each room.
  • Sea water processing control: provides sea water supply from beach intake 1.5km away to lab using reverse osmisis to ensure correct salinity levels.


Precision control systems for laboratory environment, SCADA, PLC, data historian, data security and integrity, communication protocals, design, engineering and comissioning.

Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Dr David Souter, AIMS Research Director

“SeaSim gives us a capability we have never had before in terms of the complexity of experiments we can carry out...

We are able to look at multiple environmental parameters that affect marine organisms, and this is the first time we have been able to do that." 2016


The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) scientists are world authorities in their fields.

To support their work AIMS developed a world-class marine research aquarium facility for tropical marine organisms in Townsville in 2014.

Named the National Sea Simulator, or SeaSim, the aquarium would allow the collection of comprehensive data sets and enable research not previously possible in Australia.

The research facility required fine control over environmental variables including light, temperature, acidity, salinity, sedimentation and contaminants.

To achieve this precision AIMS required expertese in control systems. 


In 2013, SAGE Automation was appointed to develop the SeaSim control system.

Process Control Solution

The control system consists of redundant Siemens PCS 7 with a redundant fibre optic ring arrangement. Remote monitoring and fault diagnostic capabilities are enabled via a web server.

AIMS uses specialised instruments for analysing major elements, trace elements and nutrients in marine-related samples, including seawater, marine sediment and mangroves. These link back to the control system and all data is recorded to provide long term access to key project data.

Data collection

Important process data and data relevant to individual experimental data are recorded (recording intervals are highly configurable) in Historian Server. Automatic and manual reports can be generated on Information Server, again Information Server Clients can be run on standard office PC environment across the World Wide Web but under very stringent Firewall and all other IT access control methods.

In the future, SeaSim will provide facilities for the long-term holding and propagation of corals as model organisms for research. This will allow multi-generational studies, which are critical in understanding how marine organisms acclimatise and adapt to a changing environment.

Technology used

Control system

Siemens PCS 7, featuring two independent Redundant Controllers for the;

1. SEASIM Experimental Area, covering water supply with precise +/- 0.1°C tolerance over minutes and salinity and pH control, CO2 control, the Building Air Handling System to control and record the humidity and temperature of each room as well as Lighting control for predetermined profiles which was undertaken by SeaSim staff through the use of S7-1200’s after SAGE had completed the implementation of their component of the controls.

2. Sea Water Processing (SWP), providing the vital seawater supply to the experimental area from a beach intake point 1.5km away in raw form via a Reverse Osmosis process, to supply the seawater within accurate salinity level.

Communication protocols

Communication protocols used include Standard Ethernet, Profinet, Profibus, BACNET and Modbus, to provide maximum availability of the control system, connect various devices such as VSDs, Control Valves and Mass controllers as well as connect the Building Air Handling system, Generator Monitoring systems and lighting control.

SCADA system

Redundant SCADA Servers provide the High Available Operator Control and Monitoring Station across the entire facility for 18 SCADA Clients on site and up to 10 simultaneous Web Clients in World Wide Web via a stringent Firewall and all other IT access control methods.


The technology has brought: 

  • Digitalization and automation of research to enable groundbreaking research 
  • Over 5 million coral larvae spawned using results of research conducted using the new hi-tech platforms
  • Over 344,000 square kms coastline simulated in the $35 million Townsville based SeaSim that is half the size of a football field
  • Economic value of the reef is about $5.6 billion a year
  • Technology used innovatively at one of most spectacular infrastructure developments to help protect a global asset and one of the seven wonders of the world – the Great Barrier Reef.


SeaSim’s design specifications include:

  • >3 000 000 litres filtered seawater pumped per day (at full capacity)
  • 3 650 000 litres of bulk seawater storage capacity
  • 3022 m2 of floor area
  • 42.4 km of pipework
  • >140 seawater pumps
  • 33 seawater processing tanks.

“The project is a great example of industrial technology being applied successfully in a non-traditional industrial application. The solution was driven by high-precision data collection and reporting," CEO of SAGE Automation Adrian Fahey said.

Marine research control system

The Australian Institute of Marine Science

AIMS conducts research activities required by governments and resource managers seeking to ensure the protection and sustainable use of Australia’s tropical marine environment. The work of the institute also provides support for the nation’s $47 billion maritime industry, including fisheries, offshore oil and gas, mining and reef tourism.

AIMS has established some of the world’s longest-running and most comprehensive tropical marine monitoring programs providing authoritative, impartial advice on key issues for managers, policy-makers, industry and the community.



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