Hess Pledges $4.4 Million to University of Wyoming for Energy Research

Hess Corporation has committed to giving the University of Wyoming $4.4 million to support UW’s Center for Advanced Oil and Gas Technologies Nano Resolution Imaging Laboratory, Governor Matt Mead and UW President Tom Buchanan announced today (Friday).

The governor and Buchanan were joined for the announcement by Greg Hill, Hess’ executive vice president and president for exploration and production. Hill is a UW alumnus, member of the UW Foundation Board of Directors, and member of the recently created Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering, STEM Integration Task Force.

“Hess is very pleased to support the students and faculty at Wyoming in furthering research in understanding unconventional oil and gas reservoirs,” Hill says. “This research is truly leading edge, and will benefit Hess, the industry, the state of Wyoming and the public in general, as it will enable new and higher oil and gas recovery to fuel the world's growing energy needs.”

Hess’ gift will be doubled to $8.8 million by the state of Wyoming’s matching fund program designated for UW’s energy programs. The investment by Hess represents a significant private-public partnership with the state and the university.

State matching funds have been transformational in elevating UW’s partnership with the energy industry. Since the creation of the UW School of Energy Resources in 2006, nearly $80 million in private contributions and state matching funds have been invested at UW.

“This gift builds on a tremendously successful partnership. Hess Corporation and the energy industry are supporting the world-class research being done at the University of Wyoming. Dr. Mohammad Piri and his students are an example of UW’s innovative thinkers. I thank Hess Corporation and the many other companies that are contributing to UW’s future as a leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Governor Mead says.

The gift from Hess is one of the key corporate gifts advancing the university’s work in energy research related to unconventional reservoir extraction, including $1 million from Marathon Oil announced in April 2012 and $2 million from Ultra Petroleum Corp. announced earlier this week. Representatives from both Marathon and Ultra were on hand for today’s news conference.

Today’s announcement also included news that the university has achieved significant success on a campaign to fund the construction of a state-of-the-art UW Energy Engineering Research Facility (EERF), raising $10.9 million in corporate partnerships doubled to $21.8 million by the state’s matching program.

The campaign goal is $30 million -- $15 million in corporate funding and $15 million in state matching funds. The planned facility will be a flexible, high-bay research complex to improve UW’s energy research initiatives.

“We are extremely grateful for this gift from Hess Corporation,” Buchanan says. “It provides UW faculty and students a unique opportunity to perform critical research in the area of unconventional reservoirs with the support of an industry leader. This is an outstanding example of how university research and industry application can work together in collaboration and partnership.”

Hess’ investment will support the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment necessary for the Nano Imaging Research Laboratory. The UW School of Energy Resources has established, through the leadership of UW professor Mohammad Piri, a program to investigate the flow of oil and gas through tight shale and sandstone at macro, micro and nano scales. The macro- and micro-scale laboratories are in place, and Hess’ contribution supports the nano-scale laboratory with the purchase of a nano CT scanner and electron microscope, among other equipment.

“Hess has become a true leadership partner in shaping UW’s energy agenda,” says Ben Blalock, UW Foundation president. “Greg Hill and his Hess team are actively engaged in conversations with Dr. Mohammad Piri. The energy research under way at UW is critical to the advancement of Wyoming’s energy economy in the area of unconventional reservoirs. UW takes greatest pride in it partnership alignment with Hess.”

The EERF project is funded by a $15 million appropriation from the Wyoming State Legislature, matched by $15 million in private donations. Construction could begin in the fall of 2014, with completion by the spring of 2016. It’s expected to contain about 81,000 square feet with large-scale, flexibly configured research laboratories, offices and meeting areas. The state matching portion of Hess’ gift will support construction of EERF.

The EERF is one of two construction projects planned to upgrade facilities for UW’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. It will be built in partnership with the School of Energy Resources and the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

While plans call for a major renovation and expansion of the Engineering Building near the heart of the UW campus, construction of a separate EERF is intended to enhance UW’s research capacity in strategic energy areas. Planners have suggested it be located near UW’s Central Energy Plant and the Regulated Materials Management Center at 19th Street and the Gibbon Street extension on the east end of campus.

The EERF will be the second UW building dedicated to the university’s growing energy research programs. Nearing completion next to the Engineering Building on Lewis Street is the Energy Innovation Center (EIC), a 30,000-square-foot facility that will serve as the home of the School of Energy Resources and its various centers of excellence. It’s also funded through private donations and state matching funds.

While the EIC contains 12,000 square feet of rapidly reconfigurable laboratory space, it does not include necessary space and infrastructure to house and support large-scale testing related to energy development, conversion and conservation. Providing that large-scale testing space -- along with a place for collaborative, multidisciplinary research and advanced education initiatives -- is the purpose of the EERF.

The EERF project is expected to begin and be completed before the Engineering Building renovation and expansion in part because the EERF is a simpler structure and because funding is expected to be secured earlier. The firm selected by the UW Board of Trustees will provide architect and engineering services for both projects, which together represent what is expected to be the biggest capital construction undertaking in UW history.

Both the EERF and the Engineering Building projects are tied to the work of the Governor’s Energy, Engineering, STEM Integration Task Force, which recently released its strategy for creating a “Tier 1” engineering program at UW. The report calls for significant programmatic changes, in addition to facility upgrades.

UW’s strategic plan for energy programs focuses on three areas: unconventional reservoirs, climbing the value chain, and renewable resources. Unconventional reservoirs include oil shale and coal-bed methane that are produced using unconventional methods. “Climbing the value chain” means adding steps in Wyoming’s chain of natural gas production and coal production to mitigate the boom-and-bust cycles. Research into renewable resources includes increasing efficiency so that such resources are more cost effective.

Because Wyoming’s economy is largely based upon natural resource extraction, energy research has direct implications for the future of the state and its citizens. Significant new oil and gas reserves within Wyoming are projected to be discovered in unconventional reservoirs, and incremental improvements to production represent major new revenue streams to the state.

Founded in 1920, Hess Corporation is a global integrated energy company based in New York City. With its vertically integrated logistical chain, Hess provides everything from exploration and production to refining and transportation to its own chain of 1,360 filling stations.