For 10 years, geology students at West Virginia University have accessed the same software used by oil and gas companies worldwide, expanding their marketability for industry jobs.
Schlumberger, the world’s leading technology developer for the oil and gas industry, has furthered this access through an in-kind gift of their Petrel* E&P software platform to the Department of Geology and Geography. The software is commercially valued at $53 million.
"Access to software such as Schlumberger’s Petrel platform is critical for training our students to handle and analyze the big geologic and geophysical data sets required to adequately address the complex subsurface questions of today,” said Tim Carr, chair of the Department of Geology and Geography. “Petrel software has been used in the Department as a platform to unravel geologic history, map geologic hazards, explore for resources and address environmental challenges such as geologic storage of greenhouse gases.”
Petrel software includes a comprehensive toolset to solve today’s most complex geophysical challenges. Within the software, students and faculty can make interpretations and look for trends using modeling and history matching tools.
The software is incorporated into several WVU geology classes, including Computer Aided Subsurface Interpretation, 3D Seismic Visualization and advanced fracture modeling and microseismic courses.
Graduate students also use Petrel software to compete for the annual American Association of Petroleum Geologists Imperial Barrel Award. Teams from 455 universities around the world use Petrel to create a project plan and present recommendations and risk assessments at their regional AAPG conferences. Representatives from oil and gas companies judge the competitions, offering students feedback on their projects as well as networking opportunities. WVU has competed for eight years, and the 2017 project is a dataset from the North Slope of Alaska.
Because of the software’s ease of use, it is straightforward to implement both in the classroom and in the laboratory.
“Petrel software is a very high-end set of programs used by a lot of the major oil and gas companies. It’s a set of skills that companies like to see in the people they hire,” said Thomas Wilson, professor of geophysics. “We refer to the students (who have learned Petrel) as plug-and-play because they are able to hit the ground running when they are hired.”
Wilson also uses Petrel software’s microseismic and Mangrove* engineering stimulation design plugins as part of two research studies funded through the National Energy Technology Laboratory. They focus on integrated subsurface and microseismic studies of unconventional reservoirs, including Marcellus and Utica shale plays. He uses Petrel to evaluate the properties of reservoirs and bounding strata. The analysis provides information about the location of faults and other structures, reservoirs’ natural fracture networks, the effectiveness of reservoir stimulation and their relationships to production.
By providing students with the hands-on software experience, WVU is preparing a highly-skilled STEM workforce and helping them compete for geophysics jobs around the world.
“It’s so versatile. There are other software we use, but Petrel is the easiest to pick up because it is so user-friendly,” Wilson said. “Some software is really elegant and does a lot of nice work, but being able to do all of this in the classroom is the threshold to effectiveness. To train students and conduct research in geophysics, you really have to have the latest and greatest in software resources.”
In 2007, Schlumberger made its initial in-kind software donation to WVU in conjunction with the Schlumberger Worldwide University Software Program. The program was founded in 1998 and strives to provide students and faculty in earth sciences departments all over the world with hands-on experience through technology advancement.
As a geophysicist for EOG Resources in San Antonio, Texas, alumnus Derek Weicht (M.S. Geology, 2015) uses Petrel daily to determine the best locations to drill and to identify hazards, such as faults, in the drilling areas.
“Petrel was one of the main software packages I used during my thesis research, so it helped me secure the position I am in now thanks in part to having used it previously. It made the transition into my job that much easier by having experience using it at WVU,” Weicht said. “In my division I am one of the go to people when questions arise about the geophysics side of Petrel.”
This donation was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. Conducted by the WVU Foundation, the fundraising effort will run through December 2017.
*Mark of Schlumberger