Baker Hughes Grant to UW Helps Ensure Future of Wyoming’s Economy

The University of Wyoming and Baker Hughes Inc., a global oil field services company, today (Monday) announced a $1 million grant to support research that will help ensure the future of Wyoming’s economy.

Baker Hughes Inc. has previously supported oil and gas research and the petroleum engineering program at UW. A recent gift went to the High Bay Research Facility, a state-of-the-art facility with flexible laboratory space that is under construction. A past gift, of an X-ray defractometer and funding, supported student drilling fluids laboratories.

The latest grant supports research into the behavior of multi-phase fluids in oil and gas reservoirs at UW’s Hess Digital Rock Physics Laboratory -- “the world’s most innovative for advanced reservoir characterization,” says School of Energy Resources Director Mark Northam.

“Research concerning the flow of oil and gas through tight rocks is booming,” Northam says. “Grants from industry such as the one we announced today with Baker Hughes are critical for UW to ensure relevance of the work and to maintain our world-leading status in the area.”

This UW lab holds the most advanced high-resolution 3-D X-ray microscope available. UW is the first university in the world to put this tool in the hands of faculty and researchers who apply it to the understanding of underground oil and gas reservoirs -- where extremely complicated displacement physics are encountered.

This custom-designed equipment enables UW researchers to obtain ultra-high-resolution, nano-scale images of porous media. Once scanned, these nano-scale 3-D maps of pore space can be used to more accurately characterize and model flow and fluid occupancy in reservoir rocks relevant to subsurface reservoirs, which can contain oil and natural gas.

The experimental research and complex data generated in this laboratory can be viewed and analyzed in UW’s Shell 3-D Visualization Laboratory using the computational capabilities of UW’s Advanced Research Computing Center and the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center.

This laboratory is the central research laboratory for the Piri Research Group and the Center for Fundamentals of Subsurface Flow, a School of Energy Resources Center of Excellence.

“This partnership plays an important role in developing a fundamental understanding of flow and transport in tight porous material, with applications in oil and gas recovery from unconventional reservoirs,” says Mohammad Piri, Wyoming Excellence Chair in Petroleum Engineering and head of the Hess Digital Rock Physics Laboratory. “We at the University of Wyoming really appreciate Baker Hughes’s interest in collaborating with the University of Wyoming on this strategically important area of research.”

Piri’s research has resulted in significant collaborations with private industry, which provide a better understanding of characteristics of oil and gas reservoirs and how to effectively improve recovery using existing recovery processes and technology.

Piri received his Ph.D. in petroleum engineering at England’s Imperial College London and pursued post-doctoral studies at Princeton University.

Piri also co-directs the Center for the Fundamentals of Subsurface Flow, a multidisciplinary team of UW faculty members that conducts broad research leading to computer simulation of fluid flow in porous media.

Wyoming is the third-largest national producer of natural gas and eighth-largest of crude oil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. However, to maintain its edge in the industry, Wyoming needs to research enhanced recovery techniques that recover a higher percentage of stranded hydrocarbons within the state’s mature or older fields.

Fifty to 70 percent of the original oil in these older fields remains stranded, and enhanced oil recovery methods are needed to retrieve more oil -- a possible 5-15 percent -- to extend the commercial life of those fields up to 30 years.

Today’s event took place in the Encana Auditorium at the Energy Innovation Center, and speakers included former Gov. Dave Freudenthal, Baker Hughes Vice President of Technology Rustom Mody, UW President Dick McGinity, Northam and UW Foundation President Ben Blalock.

Baker Hughes is a top-tier oil field services company with a century-long track record that delivers solutions to help oil and gas operators make the most of their reservoirs. The company was formed in 1987 from the merger of Baker International and Hughes Tool Company -- both founded more than 100 years ago. It has more than 53,000 employees in more than 80 countries.

Baker Hughes retired Executive Chairman Chad Deaton is a member of the UW Foundation Board and co-chaired the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering, STEM Integration Task Force.