UWI tailors education to industryOctober 13, 2017
Raffie Hosein, head of the department of chemical engineering and senior associate professor of petroleum engineering at the University of West Indies (UWI), talks to TOGY about the institution’s commitment to working with the oil and gas industry to define, supervise and fund research projects.
Established in 1948, UWI is one of the preeminent educational institutions in the CARICOM region. All told the university boasts four separate campuses: St. Augustine, the Cave Hill Campus, the Open Campus and the Gibraltar World War II Camp campus. The institution is instrumental in educating Trinidad and Tobago’s hydrocarbons workforce. As the country is ramping up for upstream development, a complimentary labour pool will be necessary both at home and in the greater region.
• ON INSTITUTION GOALS: “My aspiration for the future of the faculty and the country is to commercialise our research and technical services which will provide employment opportunities for our graduates. We also hope to develop self-financing programmes by demonstrating that our research techniques can increase oil production on a commercial scale in the most efficient and economical way. These methodologies are key to sustaining the economic growth of Trinidad and Tobago.”
• ON KNOWLEDGE EXPORT TO GUYANA: “In light of the significant oil find by ExxonMobil offshore Guyana, a market survey was conducted in 2016 that indicated an urgent need for the Guyanese to be provided with the knowledge and technical expertise in the area of petroleum.”
Hosein also discussed education financing from the government and private sector in the form of scholarships. Most TOGY interviews are published exclusively on our business intelligence platform TOGYiN, but you can find the full interview with Raffie Hosein below.
What are the key areas for development in Trinidad and Tobago related to training and education in Petroleum?
Our programmes in petroleum engineering began in the mid-seventies and petroleum geoscience in the early 2000s. These programmes are well established with support from both the industry and the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Our programmes are in all areas of petroleum from exploration to field development and production. Industry personnel deliver guest lectures emphasising the importance of HSE and ethics. UWI programmes are accredited and our graduates are employed throughout the hydrocarbons industry in every petroleum-based country.
The key areas for development in the petroleum studies unit (PSU) are in petroleum-engineering management and research. The Masters of Science (MS) in petroleum engineering and management was discontinued in the mid-nineties. The decision to re-introduce this programme in 2017/18 was made based on strong industry support from a recent Industry-Liaison-Committee meeting. Many of the students currently registered in the diploma programme for petroleum engineering and management, which was re-introduced in the 2014/15 academic year, would like to be considered for an upgrade to the MS programme.
Additionally, numerous individuals employed in the industry have shown interest in the MS in Petroleum with management options.
What variables make these programmes unique?
In the petroleum-engineering Programme, research focuses on heavy oil and oil recovery from Trinidad tar sands by thermal methods, carbon dioxide sequestration and EOR, gas hydrates and reservoir-rock characterisation with nano-technology application. Research programmes also look closely at reservoir fluid characterisation and drilling challenges in deepwater acreage. Areas of research being developed in petroleum geosciences are seismic studies, palaeontology, biostratigraphy, sedimentology, geochemistry and rock mechanics.
The PSU co-ordinator, Professor Andrew Jupiter, continues to be instrumental in obtaining scholarships for our students and funding from the industry and the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI) for the development of our research facilities.
We are also gradually developing commercial services that we can offer to the oil and gas industry locally and perhaps internationally.
What do these commercial services involve?
The PSU plans to deliver programmes to other countries such as Guyana and in Africa. It will also work together with industry operators and the MEEI to deliver short courses and software training to professionals and technical personnel. Additionally, the PSU will deliver laboratory services to the hydrocarbons industry such as the analyses of reservoir rocks and fluid properties, rock mechanics, biostratigraphy and reservoir simulation studies. The unit is capable of solving historical field- and industry-related problems through research.
What role will these educational programmes play in the development of labour regionally?
In light of the significant oil find by ExxonMobil offshore Guyana, a market survey was conducted in 2016 that indicated an urgent need for the Guyanese to be provided with the knowledge and technical expertise in the area of petroleum. This is especially applicable for the approval and monitoring of programmes related to quantifying oil and gas reserves and the drilling, production and sale of hydrocarbons. Many of the students in our MS programme are employed in this area of the industry. For potential Guyanese students and other international students who do not have any prior industry experience, we have included a six-month internship in the MS petroleum engineering programme. During the internship, students will be exposed to various industry skills and knowledge that companies normally provide to newly hired Graduates. This could include drilling operations, HSE, geological mapping, data acquisition and analysis for oil and gas reserves estimates to name a few. The intent of this internship is to produce graduates who can function as petroleum engineers with minimum supervision.
How is this programme financed?
For international students the fees required for pursuing our programmes are available on the UWI website. The MS in petroleum engineering programme for Guyana is self-financing. We will be making every effort to secure government and industry funded scholarships to be awarded to Guyanese students who are registered in our programme. We obtained approval in 2016 for two options to produce graduates with a MS programme in petroleum engineering. The first option is a one-year full-time programme in which students from both Guyana and Trinidad and tobago are enrolled. The second option is a two-year part-time programme delivered in primarily in Guyana with the last six months taking place in Trinidad and Tobago where students will complete an internship in petroleum engineering.
As you’ve mentioned ExxonMobil’s recent discover and with ongoing works in Trinidad and Tobago, what opportunities are there for students to be trained in offshore work?
We do have approval to offer relevant courses such as Offshore Structures and Systems, Advanced Drilling and Completions and Advanced Production Engineering. Visits by students to platforms for offshore training will require prior training in offshore survival in addition to both industry and government approvals. Certainly opportunities exist with the Liza FPSO for the Guyanese students.
What development plans does the university have to enhance training processes?
The petroleum engineering department has developed draft guidelines for good practice in the delivery of the various programmes. This is done to ensure the consistent and acceptable quality of delivery by lecturers. Programmes are designed and delivered utilising a range of pedagogic skills and applications in order to achieve high quality teaching and learning outcomes.
Teaching methods are based on a mix of lectures, course manuals handouts, seminars, tutorials, laboratory practicals and fieldwork and continuous test assessments. Students are informed of course requirements through detailed course descriptions and written notices and instructions, in accordance with faculty and university practices. These methods are constantly under review and are informed by student feedback, course reviews, external examiners, validation and accreditation visits involving professional institutions together with industry input. Furthermore, courses are updated in a manner meaningful to the students, to include the results and findings of recent research by both department staff and researchers at large. Curriculum reviews of programmes are also done periodically to update each programme.
You’ve mentioned industry involvement. Can you go into greater detail about the impact this has had on students?
The PSU cannot satisfactorily achieve relevant teaching experiences without close relationships with the hydrocarbons industry. A Joint Industry/Academic Advisory Committee (JIAAC), with representatives from the major petroleum players in Trinidad and Tobago, meets every semester to give input on and feedback related to the programme. This essential partnership enables the programme to maintain relevance, focus and an up-to-date direction.
The JIAAC is particularly helpful in obtaining industry scholarships and other funding, work placements and project ideas. Additionally, the group provides the opportunity to discuss recruitment patterns, workforce strategic planning within the industry and trends in companies’ needs that can be included in the programmes.
Every six months, we meet with key industry personnel from BPTT, BHP, Shell, Perenco, Petrotrin, EOG and the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries. Additionally, there are internship periods where our students are assigned to these companies. Office space is provided to our students at the company. This environment enhances their learning experiences by allowing students the opportunity to work with field data under the supervision of industry personnel. This, in turn, allows students to develop a better appreciation of the oil and gas industry. The department also conducts training on the latest industry software during the semester breaks. Our objective is to provide our students with the knowledge and tools required to function as petroleum engineers and petroleum geoscientists upon graduation
What types of feedback did you receive from companies in your last meeting?
A major concern voiced by company representatives is the saturated job market that has resulted from low oil prices and the now limited employment opportunities for our graduates. The need for more research and the hiring of graduates as research assistants has been emphasised. Professor Jupiter has been very instrumental in obtaining funding for research and scholarships for students from the various stakeholders.
An MOU between BHP Billiton and UWI was signed whereby BHP Billiton has agreed to provide a TTD 245,000 (USD 33,227) per year for three years for research studies in reservoir characterisation of a hydrocarbons reservoir in Trinidad and Tobago. A second MOU between Shell and UWI was signed whereby the super-major has agreed to provide a USD-30,000-per-year scholarship for three years to a PhD student to for research studies in gas hydrates. Finally, an MOU between the MEEI and UWI was signed whereby MEEI has agreed to provide funding for research and development of specific areas in hydrocarbons such as new techniques in sequence stratigraphy.
The other main feedback from companies was the need to re-introduce the MS in petroleum engineering and management in the PSU department of chemical engineering. This programme which provides four management courses was re-introduced in the 2017/18 academic year.
What steps would you recommend as a means of implementing a clear standard for reservoir characterisation in Trinidad?
Reservoir-characterisation studies integrate all available data to define the geometry, distribution of physical parameters and flow properties of a petroleum reservoir. The goal is to accurately and quantitatively model reservoir architecture, connectivity and flow properties by first developing a static model followed by a dynamic model. These reservoir models can then be used to simulate a more accurate estimate in the probability distribution of hydrocarbons volumes, geo-steering of wells to optimum locations in field-development planning, production forecasting and depletion strategies.
Computer-simulation studies provide the flexibility of combining production, petro-physical, subsurface and seismic data to provide the best possible characterisation of a petroleum reservoir. This challenging endeavour requires a detailed data acquisition programme and close collaboration of geologists, geophysicists, petrophysicists, reservoir and production Engineers
Are there any talks to improve collaboration among universities, local companies and international companies in sharing software?
Halliburton and Schlumberger are the two main vendors operating here and they provide us on a yearly basis with computer facilities, software and software training for our students. Additionally, many of the operating companies such as Petrotrin, BPTT, BHP Billiton, SHELL, Perenco, EOG Resources and the MEEI provide office spaces and access to software during their internship periods. Students who are working do have access to software at their workplace. In addition to industry support, the department obtains licences for the latest industry software on an annual basis. A computer design lab with 50 computers is available to our students. Plans to begin collaborating with universities such as Penn State University in the USA and the University of Calgary in Canada are in the works.
Trinidad and Tobago has been employing EOR technologies to increase production such as carbon dioxide injection and waterflooding. What has been the impact of these methodologies on production at depleting oil reservoirs?
In Trinidad and Tobago, we have oil reservoirs on-shore in the south and offshore of the southwest coast in the Petrotrin/Trinmar area. The country also has oil and gasfields offshore to the east. Small scale carbon dioxide and waterflood projects were implemented in some reservoirs and additional oil recoveries in the range 5-10% were obtained following primary recovery. Higher recoveries in the 40-60% range were obtained from steam flooding of heavy oil reservoirs. In Trinidad and Tobago, these reservoirs are small and heavily faulted making the geology very complex and very costly to operate. We need to increase our oil production by implementing low-cost EOR methods. Our research projects are focused on reservoir characterisation to help us better understand complex geology. We are also examining thermal methods such as radio-frequency heating. We believe these methods can be applied to increase heavy oil production from our reservoirs more efficiently and more economically than steam injection. I see thermal methods as more applicable to our onshore oil reservoirs, while carbon dioxide injection may be better for the offshore fields
What are your aspirations for the future of the faculty and for the country?
My aspiration for the future of the faculty and the country is to commercialise our research and technical services which will provide employment opportunities for our graduates. We also hope to develop self-financing programmes by demonstrating that our research techniques can increase oil production on a commercial scale in the most efficient and economical way. These methodologies are key to sustaining the economic growth of Trinidad and Tobago.
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