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(November 30, 2000, Gazette)

A Landmark Deal

By Susen Johnson

What does a US vice-presidential hopeful have to do with Memorial's new oil and gas development initiative?

Last October, Dick Cheney, former U.S. secretary of state and then CEO of the Halliburton Group of Companies, announced Memorial University would receive a $13.5 million Landmark Graphics 3-D software grant.

Landmark Graphics Corporation of Dallas, Texas recently presented a complete integrated software package and support services to Memorial's Earth Science department and the faculty of Engineering and Applied Science during an event in the Earth Sciences boardroom.

The specialized petroleum exploration and geosciences computer software will enable researchers to create virtual reality images of the extensive amounts of seismic and geological data which characterize oil and gas reservoirs. Together with additional support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), MUN will build an advanced visualization center, or Decisionarium, to host the software and facilitate more accurate interpretation than the 2-D projection on paper or computer screens currently in use. The software is expected to augment student and professional training in the area, and lead to improvements in the region's drilling programs, reservoir management, and offshore safety. Mastery of advanced visualization techniques is expected to place Memorial graduates among the best-educated specialists in the world.

At the press conference announcing the gift, provincial Industry, Trade and Technology Minister Sandra Kelly drew on her own experience visiting a similar facility in Norway to help explain her excitement of seeing one in Newfoundland and Labrador and expressed sincere appreciation for the donation.

Boon for teaching

Similarly, MUN President Axel Meisen said the award marks another significant step for the university for teaching and research related to oil and gas. "Now we are in a position to start implementing our recently announced oil and gas development partnership initiative," he said. "We are delighted that Landmark's global university grant program was able to provide us with this excellent computing resource which will benefit our students, researchers and the entire petroleum industry in Newfoundland."

Brad Bechtold, Landmark Canada's east coast account manager, said Landmark is also pleased by the connection with a university on Canada's east coast. “As the industry continues to grow in eastern Canada, Landmark is dedicated to a growing presence in the region as well,” he said. “We at Landmark Canada are very excited that this commitment has been made to a university that is so closely aligned with the community and industry in eastern Canada.”

The leading supplier of integrated technical and economic software and services in support of decision making about finding, drilling, and producing oil and gas, Landmark is a subsidiary of Halliburton Company, the world's largest energy service and equipment, engineering, construction and maintenance company.

State-of-the-art research

Dr. James Wright, head of Earth Sciences at Memorial, also expressed enthusiasm for the new software. “This will provide both our established and new programs in earth sciences and engineering with comprehensive, state-of-the-art software for petroleum studies, providing an excellent base on which to build the technological aspects of the new oil and gas strategy,” he explained. “We plan to use the Landmark software extensively in teaching and research programs, and particularly with the established research and training partnerships between the petroleum industry, our own Centre for Earth Resources Research, and our affiliate Memorial University Seismic Imaging Consortium (MUSIC).”

The dean of Engineering and Applied Science at Memorial, Dr. Rangaswamy Seshadri, explained the importance of the new funding to his faculty. “Our focus right now is on implementing our newly-developed oil and gas engineering options and the Landmark donation is an important element of this new curriculum. The creation of an immersive virtual reality room using the Landmark software will provide Memorial University students with state-of-the-art facilities amongst the best in the world.”

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