Access to industry-leading software – donated for more than a decade by Schlumberger, a worldwide provider of technology for reservoir characterization, drilling, production and processing within the oil and gas industry – gives students at West Virginia University’s Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and Eberly College of Arts and Sciences an edge in coursework, research and the job market.
The Schlumberger donation provides WVU students and faculty with free access to seven software tools widely used in the oil and gas industry – the Petrel* E&P software platform, ECLIPSE* industry-reference reservoir simulator, INTERSECT* high-resolution reservoir simulator, Techlog* wellbore software platform, PIPESIM* steady-state multiphase flow simulator, OLGA* dynamic multiphase flow simulator and Mangrove* engineered stimulation design in the Petrel platform. The software, which would cost WVU millions of dollars to purchase, is used to answer important questions and conquer critical challenges associated with energy exploration and production.
Within the Eberly College Department of Geology and Geography, students and faculty use the Petrel platform to interpret subsurface data and visualize underground environments.
“It’s hard to see inside the earth, so we use geophysical tools,” Tim Carr, department chair and Marshall Miller Professor of Geology, said. “It’s the same math as when they take an MRI or a CAT scan of your body. We do the same thing before we drill a hole. You can look inside the earth and see what’s going on.”
For students and faculty in the Statler College, Schlumberger software is useful in assessing whether a well site will produce enough natural gas to help ensure people can heat their homes, turn on lights and prepare meals.
“The software can help an engineer figure out the deliverability of a well or if additional wells are needed – or other strategies – to meet demand,” Sam Ameri, chair of the Department of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering, said.
‘One of the best…’
Schlumberger maintains partnerships with about 400 universities worldwide. Since the company’s first in-kind donation to WVU in 2001, Schlumberger software donations have helped make WVU one of the nation’s top destinations for students pursuing careers in the oil and natural gas industry.
“Having Schlumberger software makes ours one of the best departments for students who want to study geology and geophysics,” Carr said.
In the past 10 years alone, more than 180 graduate and 60 undergraduate students within the Eberly College have used Schlumberger software for class labs, projects and more. In that same time frame, the company’s technology contributed to nearly 50 peer-reviewed publications based on research conducted at WVU, including 18 authored by students.
WVU master’s and Ph.D. students studying geology use the Petrel platform extensively for research, along with faculty members. For instance, Carr and colleagues use Schlumberger software at the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory, a collaborative field site that enables researchers at WVU, Ohio State University and the U.S. Department of Energy to study shale gas production from beginning to end.
Schlumberger software is also incorporated into four courses within the Statler College and used broadly for thesis and dissertation research. Students have used the ECLIPSE simulator and other programs to model performance, identify ways to improve productivity and analyze production data for unconventional gas reservoirs, among other topics.
Ameri said the software saves time by analyzing data and solving equations that would otherwise take much longer, which helps students find immediate solutions for real-world problems.
“We are confident that when these students graduate, they are ‘up to the minute’ in oil and gas engineering technologies,” Ameri said. “They have to have the Schlumberger software. If they didn’t, they would be at a disadvantage going to work for industry.”
A competitive advantage
Tobi Ore, a geology master’s degree student from Nigeria, uses the Petrel platform for his thesis research, which focuses on interpreting seismic data to determine how brittle rock breaks deep underground. He came to WVU for the opportunity to work with renowned experts in geophysics and gain more experience with Schlumberger software. Since coming to the U.S. in 2018, Ore has been to interviews with Chevron, Exxon and other major players in the oil and gas industry, who always take note of his proficiency using the Petrel platform.
“Once they see that, the conversation changes,” Ore said. “They become very impressed. Having this experience with the Petrel platform makes me very competitive in the job market.”
Carr said he’s heard WVU graduates described as “plug and play” by industry representatives, meaning that there’s little training required once they are hired. And Schlumberger is among the companies that hire WVU alumni. Since 2017, the company has hired 41 WVU graduates. Ameri noted that some of Schlumberger’s technical experts are WVU alumni and maintain healthy relationships with the university, returning to campus periodically to deliver guest lectures and host workshops.
Ore honed his software skills by participating in the prestigious Imperial Barrel Award competition hosted annually by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. The competition challenges teams of students at schools across the country to analyze and interpret subsurface data over the course of eight weeks. The students must determine the best investment for oil and gas production and pitch their recommendation to industry representatives. Ore was part of last year’s WVU team, which earned second place in the eastern portion of the U.S.
Emily Jackson, a geology master’s degree student and president of the University’s AAPG Student Chapter, used the Petrel platform to examine 3D seismic data as part of this year’s now-postponed Imperial Barrel Award competition team before WVU classes shifted online due to COVID-19. Jackson earned her undergraduate degree in geology from Cedarville University in Ohio, where Schlumberger software was not available.
“One of my favorite things that I’ve been able to do here is manipulate and work with seismic data,” Jackson said. “It can get a little bit tedious, but I enjoy it. It’s really fun.”
Jackson said having access to the software will increase her chances of getting hired following graduation and reduce her on-the-job learning curve, and she would likely learn less in her classes without it. She and Ore are grateful to Schlumberger for providing access to such a valuable educational resource.
“Without their software, I don’t think I’d be able to finish my degree,” Ore said.
Schlumberger software donations are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.
*Mark of Schlumberger; the INTERSECT simulator is a joint product collaboration of Schlumberger, Chevron and Total.