The University of Texas at Austin Initiative to Help Bring Best Practices to Shale Development

The University of Texas at Austin will join the Colorado School of Mines and Penn State University to launch a new educational training initiative that supports the rapidly growing shale natural gas and oil development sector.

The training programs created under the initiative will be led by faculty members at each of the universities and are designed to ensure that regulators and policymakers have access to the latest technology and operational expertise to assist in their oversight of shale development.

ExxonMobil and GE, two of America's leading energy corporations, will each contribute $1 million to the initiative.

"Regulators have said that the need for increased training is one of their highest priorities due to the rapid expansion of shale resource development and the equally active evolution of technologies and best practices in the field," said Gary Pope, director of the Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (CPGE) at The University of Texas at Austin.

To meet this demand, CPGE has added an Education, Training and Outreach Program, directed by Dr. Hilary Clement Olson. CPGE provides engineering leadership and technology innovation related to energy and the environment with special emphasis on the production of hydrocarbons from both conventional and unconventional sources.

"This funding provides us with the resources to broaden our partnerships and our scope to create a new training program for regulators in the oil and gas industry that is collaborative and interdisciplinary," said Olson.

The series of courses, which will primarily focus on the development of shale resources, will cover:

  • Petroleum geology, both conventional and nonconventional
  • Petroleum technology, including principles of drilling operations and well design, as well as facility design and operation
  • Environmental management technologies and practices, including water treatment and management, waste treatment and management, air emission control technologies, spill prevention and planning and response
  • Federal and state oil and gas regulatory requirements, including permitting and reporting, plus compliance assessment

"America's shale energy resources are creating jobs and economic growth in regions across the country, and Americans rightly want to know that these resources are being produced safely and responsibly," ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson said. "ExxonMobil is pleased to provide the resources to assist the schools in equipping regulators with the latest technical and operational knowledge being applied in this growing sector."

GE CEO Jeff Immelt said, "We believe advanced technology, an expert workforce and smart regulation are the keys to America leading the world in shale gas development. As a technology leader in the energy sector, GE recognizes the importance of minimizing a site's environmental footprint while simultaneously increasing operational efficiency."

The two companies noted that while hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling and other technologies used to produce shale resources are not new, they are being used today on a larger scale than ever before.

Therefore, it is critical that regulators and policymakers have access to a sound scientific understanding of shale energy development and are fully aware of the technologies required to produce these resources safely and efficiently, while protecting the environment.

That is why the two companies offered their support for the professional development programs developed by these universities.