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Gift boosts Wyoming energy research

CHEYENNE — Gov. Matt Mead and University of Wyoming President Dick McGinity announced a new corporate partnership Friday that will bolster UW’s research into oil and gas extraction.

In a news conference at the State Capitol, Mead and McGinity said UW will receive $12 million in equipment from Oregon-based FEI, a scientific and technical instrument manufacturer. Mead said the state is providing a funding match, bringing the total investment to $24 million.

Specifically, FEI has agreed to provide imaging equipment — including an environmental transmission electron microscope — as well as software to support UW’s research into how oil and gas flow through porous rocks.

“This partnership is a great example of how industry, the university and the state can lay the groundwork for game-changing research that will benefit the people of Wyoming and the nation for decades to come,” McGinity said. “UW and FEI will focus on further development of digital rock technology to gain better insight into flow and transport behavior of unconventional and conventional oil and gas reservoirs.”

McGinity said FEI’s equipment will help UW establish the Center of Innovation for Flow in Porous Media, a research program that is slated to be housed in UW’s new 90,000-square-foot High Bay Research Facility,currently under construction in Laramie and slated to open next summer.

FEI’s equipment will help UW researchers get an unprecedented level of insight into hydrocarbons flow, creating two- and three-dimensional models that can measure flow at the nanometer level, or one one-billionth of a meter.

The idea is that by understanding how oil and gas flow through porous rock at that level of detail, researchers can better inform energy companies on how to optimize their drilling and production operations.

In related news, Wyoming officials blast new power plant regulations.

Mead said that while Wyoming may be the smallest state in terms of population, with just one publicaly funded university, FEI’s decision to partner with UW will result in cutting-edge research, the likes of which no one else in the world is doing.

“UW (is) in a leadership role, not just in this country, but in the world in terms of the technology we are developing,” Mead said.

“We’re not going to be able to change market conditions, but we can change the technology in a real-world way that is commercially useable, that provides better margins for those in the (oil and gas) industry.”

Mead added that, in the past, oil and gas companies have had to make inferences about how oil and gas might flow through a rock formation when determining how to extract it, and that alone could take years, depending on the location.

With FEI’s technology and UW’s research expertise, he said, the time it takes to do that sort of analysis could be cut by an order of magnitude.

“If you take something that takes three years down to three months, imagine the savings that creates,” Mead said. “On top of all this, this combined $24 million lift for the university … how nice is it for us to be able to say with a complete straight face, ‘What we’re doing here no one else in the world is doing?'”

Mark Bashforth with FEI said his company’s partnership with UW makes sense, not only for the innovations it will provide in advancing oil and gas research, but also for the adoption of that research.

Bashforth said that by getting students exposed to new technologies before they go into the oil and gas industry as graduates, those same students may help push the adoption of those technologies in an industry that has often proven resistant to them.

“The oil and gas industry is very conservative by nature; it’s slow to change, and even slower to adopt new technology and methodologies,” Bashforth said.

“We believe the future graduates coming from the energy programs from the university will take with them this unique knowledge … and take that into the industry, introducing new innovation and new ideas, helping the industry understand how it can better enhance recovery.”

This article was written by James Chilton from Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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