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Vol 37  No 13
April 28, 2005


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Advanced visualization laboratory opens

That vision thing

What would it be like to walk around an oil reservoir that’s hundreds of metres below the sea floor, or peer into a human heart or travel through a blood vessel? Imagine being able to fold a DNA molecule to find out how genetic defects work. Researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland are hoping that a new laboratory will help them do just that.

The new Landmark Graphics Visualization Laboratory, which officially opened April 27, is the first of its kind at a university. This immersive visualization laboratory, is a scientific IMAX theatre where up to 20 researchers can collaborate and view data in 4D (three spatial dimensions plus a temporal one).

The lab contains a wrap-around screen and special glasses which trick the viewer’s eyes and brain into 4D perception. Simulation research depends on visualization, the process where numerical data is used to create a multi-dimensional image. This new technology will revolutionize how offshore oil and gas reservoirs are studied and understood, allowing researchers at Memorial to analyze images of large volumes of data and conduct detailed simulations. A high performance computer powers the imaging technology by sending graphics data to three digital projection cameras which superimpose them to a large, curved screen to produce the three-dimensional effect.

The $20-million futuristic lab was built with support from Landmark Graphics, IBM Canada and Panoram Technologies Inc., along with the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) through the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF).

Dr. Axel Meisen, president of Memorial University, says the lab represents a commitment that Memorial made when it instituted the Oil and Gas Development Partnership in 2000.

“Thanks to our collaborators Landmark Graphics, IBM, Panoram, ACOA and CFI, the Landmark Graphics Visualization Laboratory provides a very strong link between Memorial researchers and the local oil and gas industry,” he said. “In addition to being a significant resource for the oil and gas industry, we are certain that this innovative lab will also assist researchers who are studying ocean circulation, seabed habitat and even those engaged in other areas such as biotechnology and DNA research. This laboratory is a cornerstone in building our position as a world leader in visualization and simulation research.”

Tom Hedderson, minister of the Department of Education for Newfoundland and Labrador, noted the visualization laboratory is an excellent opportunity to advance the future of the oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“The involvement of our post-secondary institutions in the oil and gas industry is quite extensive and we are making great strides in providing support to this critical industry,” he said.

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Atlantic Innovation Fund, of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, through an award to the PanAtlantic Petroleum Systems Consortium, also contributed $2 million to help create the facility.

“The Government of Canada is committed to enhancing the innovative capacity of our universities in ways that benefit our economic development,” said John Efford, minister of Natural Resources Canada and regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador. “The Landmark Visualization Laboratory is an excellent example of how government, academia and the private sector can work together to stimulate innovative ideas and activity.”

The facility features $18 million in specialized software from Landmark Graphics Corporation, coupled with innovative computer technology allowing researchers to create precise 3D images of the earth’s subsurface.

“This centre marks the culmination of years of partnership between Landmark and Memorial,” said Peter Bernard, president of Landmark Graphics, a wholly-owned business unit of Halliburton Company. “Because the laboratory represents the very latest in visualization, exploration and production software technology, it will have a significant impact on the research, energy industry, and community as a whole in eastern Canada.”

“Halliburton’s investment in this centre reflects the company’s continued commitment to investing in eastern Canada,” said Brad Bechtold, regional general manager, Canada, of Halliburton ­ Digital and Consulting Solutions. “Students participating in Memorial’s petroleum engineering program will have access to the very latest in visualization technology.”

IBM Canada contributed Deep Computing Visualization software and IntelliStation workstations for the visualization laboratory along with significant integration support services for the lab’s capabilities. “IBM is very proud to be one of the founding contributors to Memorial’s new high tech visualization lab,” said Dan Fortin, president, IBM Canada Ltd. “As an innovation leader in the IT industry, IBM looks forward to working with Memorial for years to come and providing them with leading-edge technology solutions.”

Panoram Technologies contributed hardware and software for the visualization laboratory, along with significant integration support services for the lab’s capabilities.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (through the Agency Atlantic Innovation Fund) also contributed $2 million to help create the facility. “Today’s opening of the visualization laboratory is a powerful example of what can be achieved through partnerships,” said Dr. Eliot Phillipson, president and CEO of the CFI. “The investment we are celebrating today will strengthen Canada’s capacity to effectively compete locally, nationally and internationally in this important economic sector.”

Dr. Jim Wright, director of major research partnerships at Memorial, said initial projects will focus on existing oil and gas reservoirs. “The Landmark Graphics Visualization Laboratory does more than let us view existing seismic data,” he said. “It opens tremendous opportunities to discover new reserves with no extra drilling or platforms. It’s a very modest investment with the possibility of a very large return.”

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