Statoil Awards New Fellowships to University of Texas at Austin Students

International energy company Statoil has awarded fellowships to eight graduate students from The University of Texas at Austin, funding their research in geology, geophysics and petroleum engineering. Fellowships will last two to three years, depending on the length of the student's degree program. Statoil will contribute a total of $5 million to the work of these and future fellows over the coming five years. The research partnership is Statoil's largest agreement with a university outside Norway and its first in the United States.

"We aim for a significant growth in our activities in North America," said Karl Johnny Hersvik, senior vice president for research and development at Statoil. "Universities and academic institutions represent important arenas for Statoil when it comes to research and competence development.

"We want to position ourselves as a leading company within research and innovation, and want to attract top students and talents from top universities," Hersvik said.

Peter Flemings, professor at the university's Jackson School of Geosciences and adviser to fellowship recipient Michael Merrell, said the program is a great opportunity for students.

"Through this partnership, Statoil will work with the students and share important data," said Flemings. "It could be a really successful model that gives the students exposure to exciting problems and data sets and deeper experience."

The Statoil Fellows are:

  • Christopher Blyton, Dept. of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
  • Soheil Ghanbarzadeh, Dept. of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
  • Ming Gu, Dept. of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
  • Siwei Li, Dept. of Geological Sciences
  • Damian Markez, Dept. of Geological Sciences
  • Ayaz Mehmani, Dept. of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
  • Michael Merrell, Dept. of Geological Sciences
  • Robin Singh, Dept. of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering

"The Statoil Fellows program opens doors to an intimate and long-lasting collaboration between Statoil and UT Austin in the areas on the cutting edge of geosciences and engineering," said Tad Patzek, chair of the Cockrell School of Engineering's Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering and principal investigator of the fellowships. "I know the students will produce many great discoveries and applications."

The University of Texas at Austin and Statoil have been research partners for years. The new agreement focuses on four areas:

  • Integration of geological, geophysical and petrophysical data in earth models.
  • Trap integrity in salt basins that trap oil and gas underground.
  • Drainage of deep marine reservoirs an area of study to improve understanding of how sands, which can form oil and gas reservoirs, and shales interlayer within deep marine deposits.
  • Unconventional oil and gas fellows will research methods to more efficiently and affordably develop unconventional resources, such as shale gas and tight gas sands.

The competitive program was based on proposals submitted by students and their faculty/researcher advisers and evaluated by a small team of leaders The University of Texas at Austin and Statoil. "I was very impressed by the breadth and quality of the proposals," said Scott Tinker, acting associate dean of research in the Jackson School and who helped design the program with Statoil. "We anticipate the program will continue to strengthen in the coming years."

The students and their advisers will be honored at a reception at the UT Club President's Room, 2108 Robert Dedman Drive, on April 30. The event is from 5:45-7:30 p.m. Members of the media wanting to attend should call 512-471-2129.