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Abstract: Universities and the Petroleum Industry: A Partnership with Dynamic Changes Required for the Challenges of the 21st Century

KANES, WILLIAM H., Energy & Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah

The University-Petroleum Industry partnership has withstood some remarkable challenges over the past fifty years. As dramatic as these changes have been, through boom and bust cycles, they pale before the requirements of the 21st century. This discussion will focus on the following two key components of these changes:

1.) The assumption by some University groups of basic and applied research programs relinquished by exploration and production (E&P) companies as they continue to restructure;

2.) The continued supply of well-trained and motivated graduate students who can participate in Industry-sponsored programs, and eventually join organizations with an E&P mission.

The ongoing redefinition and restructuring of E&P units has led to very substantial downsizing of basic and applied research units in all but the largest of companies. University departments, individual faculty and staff, and affiliated research groups could fill this niche, but face three generic obstacles. First, insuring sufficient confidentiality by the University, so that research sponsoring companies can obtain some competitive advantage for their expenditures. Second, recognition that some research programs will require more than a one or two year funding cycle to maximize positive results. Generally, the more basic the research, the longer the funding cycle and the greater the need to form multiple-company sponsors. Third, that companies establish and adequately fund a single impact point within the E&P organization to evaluate, revise, accept or reject research proposals on behalf of all units within the company. Most organizations today, with a business-unit structure, can require as many as six individual unit acceptances before a research project can move forward. With multiple sponsored projects, this can be daunting to University researchers.

If the private, publicly-traded, or national oil companies can agree with University-based researchers and research units on a method for overcoming the above three obstacles, then Universities can assure these organizations that the supply of future E&P personnel is secure. American Geological Institute data indicate that the numbers of undergraduate students are increasing. With the aforementioned Industry-University partnership in place, Universities will be able to continue graduate student and post-doctorally centered research programs through the boom and bust cycles which seem to have driven the Petroleum Industry. Hence, with our entrance into the 21st century, challenges could be more benign than present prognosis suggests.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90937©1998 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Salt Lake City, Utah