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New engineering program prepares grads for offshore


From left, David Robbins, David Finn, Dr. Wei Qiu, Dr. Christopher Loomis, Glenn Janes and Darin King.

By Jackey Locke

Collaboration between Memorial University, provincial and national research agencies and the oil and gas industry will create an innovative and collaborative program for offshore technology research to address significant scientific challenges in offshore design and operations.

The NSERC CREATE Training Program for Offshore Technology Research will train highly-qualified personnel for the growing offshore industry and build on the research strengths in support of Canada’s research priorities in natural resources and energy, as well as the province’s priority on ocean research. The program will facilitate the transition of new researchers from trainees to productive employees in the Canadian workforce.

The program will give graduate students in engineering the opportunity to take specialized courses and focus research in four thematic areas: floating structures, mooring lines and risers, corrosion material engineering and subsea systems. During the path of their research, students will participate in a four-month internship with an industrial or research partner.

“The innovative nature of the program lies in providing a value-added experience to the university environment by engaging world-class research institutes and universities, leading oil and gas operators, classification societies and engineering firms," explained Dr. Wei Qiu, an associate professor with Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and principal investigator for the program. “Internship opportunities with the national and international partners will help the students develop professional skills and promote interaction between academic and non-academic research environments.”

“The oil and gas sector is moving to ultra-deepwater and harsh ice-covered regions and the challenge is to develop these resources while protecting the workers and the environment. The industry is calling for improved technology and highly-skilled workers with specialties in offshore technology to address these challenges and Memorial University is uniquely positioned to respond,” said Dr. Christopher Loomis, vice-president (research) at Memorial University. “Our existing research capacity, graduate and undergraduate programs and international collaborators create the ideal environment for a program like this.”

The NSERC CREATE training program has been established through generous financial support from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Petroleum Research Atlantic Canada (PRAC), the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC) as well as funding from Memorial University.

PRAC has committed $500,000 to the project. “From our perspective this is a great investment,” said Dave Finn, chief operating officer of PRAC. “Our industry members have a long term commitment to research and development in Newfoundland and Labrador, on harsh environment issues in particular, and this will directly add to the university’s and the province’s capacity in a number of relevant areas. It’s also great leveraging for our industry dollars to co-fund with NSERC, RDC and Memorial.”

Glenn Janes, chief executive officer, Research & Development Corporation, said RDC’s $500,000 investment will enable Newfoundland and Labrador to become a global leader in training highly-qualified personnel to address the needs of the offshore industry.

“Thanks to the collaboration between government, industry and Memorial, this graduate training program will significantly enhance the province’s presence in offshore technology and advance R&D and training initiatives,” said Mr. Janes. “Investments such as this will ensure our students receive the best and most innovative training allowing them to address very specialized challenges in offshore design and operations for this province’s increasingly important offshore industry.”

Memorial’s School of Graduate Studies has committed $450,000 in support of fellowships and financial assistance. Memorial’s Office of the Vice President (Research) has committed $90,000. In addition, Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has committed $50,000 and space for the program.

“The School of Graduate Studies welcomes the opportunity to support the training of our best young scholars on this wonderful project,” said Dr. Noreen Golfman, dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

NSERC is the primary investor for this project, with a commitment of $1.65 million.

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