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OSU, Devon Unveil Lab That Will Keep Oklahoma at Forefront of Geosciences Education

Friday, December 9, 2005

STILLWATER , Okla. -- Three-dimensional visualization technologies Oklahoma State University is using to educate geology students were demonstrated today at the ceremonial dedication of the Devon Energy Geology Laboratory. The lab comes online as OSU seeks to intensify recruitment, retention and graduation of geoscientists as they increasingly are needed to address the world’s growing demand for energy and resources.

Located in OSU’s Noble Research Center, the 3,300-sq.-ft. instructional lab in the Boone Pickens School of Geology became operational this fall. Established with $1.5 million of Devon Energy’s $2.3 million gift to OSU earlier this year, the facility is the centerpiece of a relationship between the Oklahoma City-based company and a school where it supports collaborative, productive research and actively recruits new hires.

“Since its inception as Oklahoma’s land-grant institution, Oklahoma State University has made significant contributions of new knowledge to the state and the world,” said OSU System CEO and President David Schmidly. “Devon Energy’s gift ensures that OSU continues to be a leading institution in the development of problem solvers adept at addressing questions about oil and gas and water supplies, the environment and many other societal concerns that are growing more crucial every day.”

The lab will enhance interaction between Boone Pickens School of Geology faculty and students and Devon Energy that is vital to prospective employee development and geosciences research.

Devon is a pioneer in shale production and developed the Barnett Shale field in north Texas that produces enough natural gas daily to heat more than 7,000 homes each year. The lab’s video-conferencing and visualization technologies will support Devon’s work with OSU to adapt production methods specifically for the Woodford and Caney Shale formations and open up a natural gas field in eastern Oklahoma’s Arkoma Basin.

“We are encouraged with early results from our shale operations in eastern Oklahoma, and we consider our partnership with OSU instrumental in speeding development in this area,” Larry Nichols, Devon chief executive officer, said. “At a time when much of North America’s oil and gas reserves have been discovered, industry and teaching institutions must continue pushing the limits of technology to keep pace with the world’s growing demand for energy.”

Dr. Todd Halihan, OSU assistant professor of geology, demonstrated the visualization technology on a portable 84-inch SmartScreen, one of three, 3-D systems in the Devon lab. Faculty members currently are using the technology to illustrate complex geologic features and help students better comprehend how faults, cross-cutting formations and fluids interact deep within the earth.

“Some of our biggest industries and most daunting environmental problems require us to have an instinct about the underground,” Halihan said. “We use our senses to develop instincts, and we’re used to doing that three-dimensionally. Now we have the capability to give future geologists, geophysicists, geochemists and other geoscientists those instincts.”

While similar facilities are in use on a few college and university campuses, no 3-D visualization laboratory as advanced as the Devon lab is as accessible, according to Halihan.

State-of-the-art communications capabilities complement the lab’s advanced graphic stations, screens and projectors and will support increased interaction between OSU geology faculty and students and industry professionals, high schools and the public.

“Without actually taking them there, we can take OSU and high school students into the field with another student group or, for instance, a geoscientist at Devon for a day in the life of a professional,” Halihan said. “If we’re talking to a group of farmers with a water crisis or trying to explain ground contaminants to the people of a city, we can take them underground without taking them through a geology class.”

In addition to the lab’s renovation and outfitting, Devon’s gift will be used to fund the professional, personal and academic development of students through graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships.

The support is increasingly important as higher education institutions must respond to international demand for more geoscientists with innovations in recruiting and teaching, according to Dr. Jay Gregg, Brown Monnett Chair of petroleum geology and head of the Boone Pickens School of Geology.

“I used to work in the oil and gas industry, and the very life of a company depends upon the scientists, engineers and other technically trained people who work for it,” Gregg said. “We are not producing enough graduates to fulfill our nation’s needs. That is why this gift from Devon is so important.”

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