UW Breaks Ground on High Bay Research Facility

The University of Wyoming broke ground today (Monday) on the $53.5 million High Bay Research Facility, a novel, state-of-the-art facility with flexible laboratory space that will allow UW’s energy programs to achieve distinction in areas of strategic importance to Wyoming and the nation.

“I’m pleased to see construction begin on the High Bay Research Facility at UW. This facility will house cutting-edge oil and gas research that will benefit Wyoming and industry,” Gov. Matt Mead says. “I appreciate those who contributed expertise, those who made private contributions and gifts, and those in the Legislature who appropriated state funds. Together, these resources from a successful public-private partnership make the facility possible. It’s a great day for this groundbreaking, for UW and for the state.”

The High Bay Research Facility will be located on north 19th Street near the UW Centennial Complex. It will contain approximately 90,000 square feet of high-bay and traditional laboratory space, and affiliated office and meeting areas. The laboratories will enable research that will improve understanding of how to maximize recovery from unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, part of UW’s Tier-1 Engineering Initiative. Programs will be conducted in the Center of Innovation for Flow in Porous Media, the Improved Oil Recovery Laboratory, and the Geomechanical/Petrology Laboratory. A Structures Research Laboratory also will be part of the new building.

“The university already is a world leader in this field of study, and this new facility will allow us to make even bigger advances in an area of great importance to Wyoming’s economy and the nation’s energy future,” UW President Dick McGinity says. “This project is possible because of the tremendous support of the state’s elected officials and the university’s private partners.”

State matching funds provide strong incentive for industry leaders to partner with UW. These partnerships have played a strategic role in funding the High Bay Research Facility and in delivering successful solutions to today’s challenges. As evidence, this facility is funded by $37.2 million in state dollars and $16.3 million in private contributions, with an additional $9.2 million in private gifts for research equipment.artist's drawing of the front of a large building

The private funds have been invested by UW’s most significant corporate partnerships with Hess Corp., Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Ultra Petroleum, Marathon Oil Co., Shell, Baker Hughes and Arch Coal Inc.

“Governor Mead and the Wyoming Legislature continue to play instrumental roles in the encouragement of key energy partners to make major investments in the university’s growing energy agenda,” says Ben Blalock, president of the UW Foundation. “Today launches a historic new era in the advancement of UW energy research.”

Wyoming’s economy is largely based on natural resource extraction, so energy research to be conducted in the High Bay 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 new and existing production represent major new revenue streams to the state.

“The Center of Innovation for Flow in Porous Media, the Improved Recovery Laboratory, and the Geomechanical/Petrology Laboratory will facilitate an integrated research effort at UW,” says Mark Northam, director of UW’s School of Energy Resources. “Our aspiration is to lead the world in creating new knowledge and schemes for significantly improving recovery factors for oil and gas reservoirs in all categories.” 

The High Bay Research Facility is one of three energy- and engineering-related facilities at UW. The High Bay Research Facility will greatly expand UW’s research capacity in strategic energy areas. A major expansion of the Engineering Building near the heart of the UW campus will provide a much-needed upgrade to existing facilities and will facilitate implementation of important new College of Engineering and Applied Science initiatives. The Energy Innovation Center, which opened in 2013, is a 27,300-square-foot facility that serves as the home of the School of Energy Resources and its various centers of excellence, and houses important oil, gas, and coal research programs. It also was funded through private donations and state matching funds.

The High Bay Research Facility, Energy Innovation Center and the Engineering Building are important aspects of the Governor’s Energy, Engineering, STEM Integration Task Force’s strategy for creating a Tier-1 engineering program at UW. UW currently is implementing many programmatic recommendations, in addition to facility upgrades, called for in the report.

The UW Board of Trustees authorized Haselden Construction of Laramie to serve as construction manager at-risk for the High Bay Research Facility. Construction is expected to be completed by summer 2016.

Speakers at the groundbreaking event included Mead and McGinity.