Hibernia offers $11.8M in new research funds

Partnership wants to see enhanced oil recovery work completed

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on October 16, 2012
Memorial University of Newfoundland president Gary Kachanoski addresses a gathering at the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation at the university’s St. John’s campus. Kachanoski announced an $11.8-million donation to the university by the Hibernia Management and Development Company. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

The Hibernia partners believe there is more oil to be pulled from the Hibernia oil field, and development of “enhanced oil recovery” techniques for Hibernia wells will make it realistic to retrieve that oil.

Representatives for the Hibernia Management Development Corp. (HMDC) were at Memorial University of Newfoundland's St. John's campus Monday to announce an $11.8-million gift to the university, to be put toward a new laboratory and research on enhanced oil recovery.

The research will first look at maximizing the output of Hibernia’s aging wells offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.

MUN professor Lesley James will be leading the work.

James is the first holder of the Chevron Chair in Petroleum Engineering, a position specifically tasked to, “strengthen the capacity for petroleum engineering research in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences,” according to university notices.

This latest, massive injection of research funding by HMDC — one of the largest donations by a single corporation in the university’s history — will help meet that goal.

As James explained it, the new funding will go, in part, toward the creation of detailed models of the Hibernia field. “It’s to actually bring the (oil) field into the lab,” she said.

“What we will do is we will actually run different types of experiments at reservoir conditions. So that means pressures— high pressure, high temperatures, with real oil, real gas and actually look(ing) at how to better recover the oil from inside the rock.”

James said the new lab will be a world-class facility and offer a research ground for engineers and geologists.


“Within engineering, obviously we need people that understand the petroleum side of things, so process engineers, mechanical engineers, students from other parts of the world that maybe have done petroleum engineering,” James said. “We also need the earth scientists and involvement of the petroleum geologists to understand the (fluid and) rock interactions.”

Enhanced oil recovery techniques have been used in other parts of the world for years, including in the North Sea, but the actions do not directly translate from one oil field to another, requiring research investment whenever they’re considered.

HMDC has been working with Janes to determine the local research needs over the past two years.


The purpose

"Our ultimate goal is to increase oil recovery offshore Newfoundland and Labrador," said HMDC president Jamie Long.

“The field is in a stage of depletion where we have areas that are coming up to the end of their productive life,” he told The Telegram. “So it’s timely to begin the research on enhanced techniques to ensure ... we’re ready to go when we’re done with the current development phase.”

Long said no conditions were attached to the research funding. However, “what we’ve asked is that the results that she comes up with are provided to us on a first opportunity basis. We’re funding the lab, so we want preferential access to it for our work, for a defined period of time. But she’s also free to use it for other work as well.”

The Telegram raised the dispute settled between the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and HMDC, over the amount of research and development spending spinoff from the project in the province. Long was asked if HMDC was meeting its obligations to local research and development, education and training programs, under the relevant legislation.

“I would say that we try to be a good corporate citizen. If you look strictly at the research and development legislation that we’ve got and we’re held to, we are meeting and we’re exceeding those obligations,” he said. “I think if you were to ask the president of Memorial University he would say we’re doing a great job.”

In fact, university president Gary Kachanoski called for several rounds of applause, for the generosity of HMDC, during the latest funding announcement.

He noted other contributions from the company, including $2.4 million for simulator equipment to the Marine Institute in January 2011 and $5 million for the university’s Faculty of Education in June of this year, for training of teachers who will be tackling science, technology and engineering in the K-12 system.