Collaborative relationships between the petroleum industry and academia have been steadily improving in the Middle East over the years, but there is still much room for improvement, according to a moderator at a panel examining the issue at the upcoming GEO 2016 conference.
The conference, which is scheduled for March 7-10, will showcase oil and gas exploration technology and services in the Middle East.
One of the panels will examine the relationship between the petroleum industry and academia.
Historically, there has been no relationship between universities in the Middle East and the oil and gas companies that operate there, according to one of the moderators at the panel, AAPG Honorary member and chair of the Arabian Geophysical and Surveying Company (ARGAS), Mahmoud M. Abdul-Baqi.
But, he said, newer universities in recent years have worked to change that by creating and developing collaborations with industry.
“It hasn’t been a very strong relationship, but at least there has been one,” he said, adding that he would like to see the relationships strengthen and improve.
There are several benefits to such relationships, Abdul-Baqi noted. New university graduates have potential job leads, schools may be able to receive donated items from companies, and training and visiting lecture series can help spur innovation.
“We are hoping that the improvements keep happening, accelerating the pace further and faster,” said Abdul-Baqi, who has been active in professional societies and traveling around the region in addition to his years at ARGAS.
He said he doesn’t believe there are any unique obstacles or issues specific to the Middle East that make collaboration between industry and academia more difficult; it’s simply getting people from both sides interested and invested.
According to conference organizers, strong collaboration between E&P and educational institutions is affected by three factors: data access, innovation space and implementation.
Without strong collaboration between industry and schools, accessing critical data to develop policies and procedures is difficult.
Models of Collaboration
Panelists at the session will include industry and academic representatives from the French Institute of Petroleum, Abu Dhabi Petroleum Institute, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and others.
Abdul-Baqi said the French Institute of Petroleum is an example of a positive collaboration. The school offers master’s level and doctoral programs with more than 13,000 alumni in more than 100 countries.
There are 40 permanent professors and 350 instructors from the industry. More than 50 companies support the school through scholarships, apprenticeships and study leave for professionals.
Another recent effort underway to bridge the gap between the geoscience education field and professional field is the NERC Centre for Doctoral Training at Heriot-Watt University in the United Kingdom.
Several companies, including BG, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips, are supporting a 20-week training academy.
It began in October 2014 and focuses on four areas: environmental impact and regulation; extending the life of mature basins; exploration in challenging environments; and unconventional oil and gas resources. The first set of doctoral students is set to graduate in 2018.