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Public-Private Partnership Continues to Transform Oil and Gas Research

Hess Corporation

Dr. Piri at High Bay grand opening.A $1.2 million gift from Hess Corporation supports the work of the Hess Center of Innovation for Flow Through Porous Media and Dr. Mohammad Piri. This amazing gift is just the latest from Hess—their giving total is more than $26 million.

“Our continued investment in UW’s groundbreaking research is truly a win-win, benefiting Hess and the energy industry while also ensuring that the U.S. is well positioned as a leader in meeting the world’s growing energy needs,” says Greg Hill, Hess Corporation president and chief operating officer. “Understanding the fundamental chemical and physical processes at work in unconventional reservoirs will be key to unlocking billions of barrels of potential resource.”

This research, which in turn is changing the future of the oil and gas industry in Wyoming and beyond, focuses on oil recovery from conventional and unconventional reservoirs, including multifaceted experimental and computational investigations of multiphase flow and transport in porous media of varying wettability.

Originally from Tehran, Iran, Dr. Mohammad Piri is the Wyoming Excellence Chair in Petroleum Engineering, the Thomas and Shelley Botts Endowed Chair in Unconventional Reservoirs, and head of the Hess Center of Innovation for Flow Through Porous Media. He earned his undergraduate and master’s in Iran and his doctorate in petroleum engineering at the UK’s Imperial College London. At Princeton University, he worked on carbon mitigation projects for his post-doc, where he realized that theoretical work wouldn’t create actual solutions for real-world problems and there were only a few high-end platforms in the world that could generate experimental data to test these theories.

The new center of excellence, the Hess Center of Innovation for Flow Through Porous Media, is the world’s largest experimental research facility of its kind. Its research initiatives focus on the development of novel technologies with applications primarily in oil and gas recovery in conventional and unconventional reservoirs and carbon utilization and storage.

Conventional reservoirs are business as usual, but with current recovery technology, up to 90 percent of hydrocarbons are left in the ground. Unconventional reservoirs, including tight formations such as shale, contain these resources that do not flow at economic rates or produce economic volumes of oil and natural gas without stimulation or other recovery processes and technologies. The current research aims to develop safe and effective technologies that allow more oil and gas recovery, which in turn contributes significant dollars to the state’s coffers.

Hess has been partnering with UW for seven years to develop the future of the oil and gas industry. In 2013, Hess committed $5 million to support research and state-of-the-art equipment for the Hess Digital Rock Physics Laboratory.

Hess’s second commitment of $5 million supported further research and the building of UW’s new High Bay Research Facility plus essential technology and equipment. Hess’s next commitment of $15 million included $5 million for the High Bay, $5 million for sponsored research on unconventional oil and gas reservoirs, $4.5 million for equipment and technology, and $500,000 for laboratory performance development. The State of Wyoming matched $14.5 million of this gift through the state matching program.

The High Bay Research Facility contains approximately 90,000 square feet of highbay and traditional laboratory space and affiliated office and meeting areas. The facility expands experimental capacity and allows Dr. Piri’s group to conduct multiple areas of investigation simultaneously, thereby satisfying the demands of both academic research and private-sector partnerships.

In the last seven years, this partnership between the University of Wyoming and Hess has established these world-leading research laboratories that investigate flow and transport on a wide range of scales—atomic, nano, micro, and macro. A full-time workforce of highcaliber research associates, graduate students, and research professors has been developed, and experimental capacity has increased so that multiple studies can be conducted simultaneously.

These projects are developing novel cuttingedge technologies that more effectively exploit unconventional and conventional oil and gas reservoirs, as well as generating experimental data that significantly reduce uncertainty related to reservoir assessment and performance.

The University of Wyoming is on the leading edge of research into unconventional reservoirs, which has the potential to make huge advances in energy production, and UW is committed to public-private partnerships like Hess’s that advance our shared energy future.

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