Baker Hughes, a leading oilfield service company, is donating $1.7 million to help establish The University of Texas at Austin as the global epicenter of creating technology for drilling oil and gas wells.
The gift will go toward renovating and building three labs in the university's Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department.
"We want to build the best drilling and completions-related program in the world, and the generous funding provided by Baker Hughes is integral to achieving this goal," said Eric van Oort, a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering's Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, which is the top-ranked petroleum engineering department in the country according to U.S. News and World Report.
"With this funding, our students and faculty will have access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities that support world-class teaching and research as well as development," van Oort said. "Very few institutions in the world can claim the capabilities that these labs will enable at The University of Texas at Austin."
Van Oort, who had a successful 20-year career with Shell Exploration and Production Company, was recruited last year to rebuild and modernize the university's drilling program. He said modernization of such programs is crucial for training the next generation of drilling and completions engineers especially because the bulk of current petroleum engineers are approaching retirement.
"Technology innovation is a cornerstone of our success and will pave the way for our industry and The University of Texas at Austin students who may join us in the future," said Paul Butero, Baker Hughes' president of U.S. Land. "We have a vested interest in training and teaching the next generation of engineers. Offering labs that serve as incubators for future technologies allows for the further development of important drilling and completions research and solutions."
The three labs will each focus on specific research and teaching thrusts:
Zonal isolation improvement One of the key issues in today's harsh offshore environments is ensuring proper zonal isolation a control method that ensures oil and gas don't migrate up a well or pipe after a reservoir has been drilled. Set for completion this fall, this lab will give students the opportunity to develop safer and more reliable zonal isolations. Future research discoveries could improve methods for deep-water drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
Drilling simulator and real-time operations center The goal of this lab, set for completion in the fall, is to collect real-time data from participating drilling operations around the world; build a state-of-the-art drilling simulator to perform optimization studies; and algorithm development.
Drilling automation and efficiency lab Students in this lab will use scaled-down rig equipment to try to simulate and automate the drilling process. Drilling dynamics and efficiencies will be studied as well. The lab will further enable advanced prototyping and research and development before wells are drilled.