Ultra Petroleums $2 Million Gift Supports UW Energy Research

January 15, 2013

A $2 million gift commitment from Ultra Petroleum Corp. will support and enhance the University of Wyoming’s energy research and academic program, the university announced today (Tuesday).

Ultra’s gift, which will be doubled to $4 million by the state of Wyoming’s matching program, exemplifies the energy industry’s ongoing and significant partnership with the state and UW. State matching funds have been transformational in elevating UW’s partnership with the energy industry to benefit Wyoming’s economic future.

“Ultra Petroleum proudly supports the University of Wyoming in its efforts to further the university’s energy research and educational programs. This is the second financial contribution we’ve made, illustrating our commitment to continuing our partnership with the state of Wyoming and the university,” says Michael D. Watford, chairman, president and CEO of Ultra Petroleum.

In 2009, Ultra committed $1 million to fund the Ultra Petroleum Visiting Chair of Energy, the first of its kind at UW in the sciences and engineering disciplines. These gifts build upon Ultra’s commitment to collaborate with UW to advance the state’s and UW’s energy agenda.

“The Wyoming Legislature and I set aside $15 million to match donations from industry to the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming. I thank Ultra and the other companies that have chosen to invest in Wyoming through gifts to UW. The joining of resources promotes leading research and provides amazing opportunities for students in Wyoming,” Governor Matt Mead says.

The governor has called a special announcement at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 18, in the Wyoming State Capitol Rotunda to recognize Ultra Petroleum and to share news of another significant corporate partnership to support UW’s energy programs.

This vital public-private partnership with Ultra Petroleum will support research into the extraction of energy resources from unconventional reservoirs. Research efforts within this program include reservoir geomechanics and hydraulic fracturing, characterization and flow, drilling and completions, and improved recovery. More specifically, this program will focus on increasing faculty expertise, research facilities and outreach.

“Governor Mead continues to travel with UW’s energy leadership team to talk face-to-face with Wyoming’s energy industry partners,” says Ben Blalock, UW Foundation president. “These conversations involve requests for financial support, but, even more importantly, requests for partnership involvement in research and teaching. These major announcements highlight the remarkable success of this significant UW initiative.”

In addition to these two gifts, the university announced a commitment of $1 million from Marathon Oil in April 2012.

UW is committed to the continued advancement of its energy-related teaching, research and outreach programs through corporate partnerships. The goal of UW’s strategic plan for energy programs includes commitments totaling $15 million from corporate partners to take advantage of state matching funds. Additional public-private partnerships are being pursued.

“Ultra Petroleum continues to show its dedication in partnering with UW and Wyoming to further UW’s efforts to become a national leader in energy research and education,” says UW President Tom Buchanan. “This is an exceptional example of how industry, the university and the state can create vital and meaningful public-private partnerships.”

This fundraising effort supports the construction of the Energy Engineering Research Facility (EERF), a new facility that will provide the necessary space and infrastructure to house and support large-scale research related to energy development, conversion and conservation. Space within this research-focused facility will be designed so that it can quickly be converted to house a variety of projects.

The EERF is 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.

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 boom-and-bust cycles. Research into renewable resources includes increasing efficiency so that such resources are more cost effective.

Ultra Petroleum Corp. is a leading independent exploration and production company headquartered in Houston, Texas. Ultra’s core properties are located in the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah natural gas field of southwestern Wyoming, and in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania. The company’s holdings in Wyoming are unconventional deposits that, for decades, were known for their great potential despite frustrated attempts to tap into these vast reserves. 

In addition to the EERF, there are two other newly constructed or soon-to-be renovated facilities related to energy research on the UW campus. Renovation and expansion of the College of Engineering and Applied Science Building will accommodate growth in enrollment and research related to undergraduates and graduate students, and the faculty members who support them. The newly constructed Energy Innovation Center houses the School of Energy Resources and the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, as well as a drilling simulation laboratory and a 3-D visualization laboratory, among other things.

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