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Engineering building oil and gas expertise

{Oil and Gas Group}
Members of the Oil and Gas Group at the IMD: (L-R) Drs. Faisal Khan, Vlastimil Masek, Thormod Johansen, Majid Abdi and Kelly Hawboldt

Since the inception of the Oil and Gas Development Partnership back in September 2000, Memorial University has been actively developing academic courses, training programs and research opportunities to take advantage of the growing offshore oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science had been a large part of this initiative. In September 2001, the faculty introduced oil and gas engineering options for undergraduate students in all disciplines, to be taken in the last three terms. These courses, covering subjects such as supervisory control and data acquisition, reliability engineering, and design for ocean and ice environments, are meant to give students the necessary background to prepare them for a career in the oil and gas industry. The faculty has also been working on building its academic expertise in related courses and research and this has resulted in the formation of the Oil and Gas Group.

Comprised of five core members, all relatively new to the faculty, the Oil and Gas Group has been assembled to take advantage of shared research interests and to collaborate on academic courses. Other possible additions to the team include Drs. Neil Bose and R. Seshadri, both candidates for Canada Research Chairs in offshore and underwater vehicle design and asset integrity management respectively, and Drs. Tahir Husain, Yuri Muzychka and Brian Veitch. The faculty is presently considering the introduction of a new program in process engineering and this group would be a large part of that planning and development.

Members of the Oil and Gas Group are: Dr. Thormod Johansen (associate professor, Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering). Working as a senior research scientist at the Institute for Energy Technology in Kjeller, Norway, Dr. Johansen began working on analytical solutions to flow problems arising in enhanced oil recovery. Since that time his research has focused on methods in reservoir and well flow simulation, well performance simulation and reservoir characterization. Earlier this year he was awarded a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Petroleum Reservoir Engineering and Characterization. Dr. Johansen hopes to use this new designation to build an interdisciplinary network of individuals to contribute to this area of research. Part of his interest in coming to Newfoundland and Memorial University was because he wanted to contribute some of his expertise to the local oil industry. "How to develop these fields is a big challenge, one which I would like to focus my research on in collaboration with the local oil industry."

Dr. Majid Abdi (assistant professor, Mechanical Engineering). Dr. Abdi's research focuses on natural gas processing and conditioning. "Contrary to what some people might think, there are many contaminants in natural gas and it is necessary to treat these contaminants so that the gas can be made suitable for transport in pipelines," said Dr. Abdi. Coming from Iran, home to the second largest natural gas reserves in the world, Dr. Abdi's research has been directed towards the conversion of natural gas to liquid hydrocarbons (clean fuels) using high performance gas purification solvents and treatment methods. He has considerable experience working on the development of oil and gas processes comprising the design, manufacturing supervision, start-up and trouble-shooting of gas processing pilot plants.

Dr. Faisal Khan (associate professor, Mechanical Engineering). Dr. Khan has long been interested in how a raw material such as oil is turned into a usable end product. During the course of his education, Dr. Khan's area of research shifted from chemical engineering to computer applications that could interface with chemical engineering, and then later on to looking at the environment and the effects of interfering with its natural processes. He first came to Memorial in 2000, as a visiting research professor working with Dr. Tahir Husain in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science on a research project developing computer aided risk based corrective actions for contaminated sites in Saudi Arabia. For Dr. Khan, the offshore environment provides a great opportunity to continue his work in risk assessment and reliability studies, while addressing issues specific to working in an offshore, and at times unpredictable, environment.

Dr. Kelly Hawboldt (assistant professor, Mechanical Engineering). Trained as a chemical engineer, but with a keen interest in the environmental aspects of the industry, Dr. Hawboldt has done considerable research on the best ways of dealing with effluents from production facilities such as produced water and drilling cuttings. Her work has focused on how to treat these by-products and thereby minimize the environmental impact. She is also interested in optimization theories and trying to optimize the process in order to minimize the negative environmental effects. This work would be of great benefit to industry as it would increase energy efficiency and ultimately be more cost-effective.

Dr. Vlastimil Masek (assistant professor, Electrical Engineering). Combining his background in mechanical and electro-communications engineering, Dr. Masek is working to focus his research on data logging for more accurate and precise sensing techniques and instrumentation that could bring environmentally-friendly technology to the offshore oil and gas industry. According to him, if you can monitor and sense every aspect in the process, you can better analyze the data and thereby optimize the process. If you have only a few parameters it is very difficult to optimize. Optimization can ultimately lead to cost-effectiveness and more environmentally-friendly processes.

{Memorial University of Newfoundland}