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Drilling for oil on campus

Professor Mary O'Kane and Mr John Ellice-Flint, Managing Director of Santos.

Professor Mary O'Kane and Mr John Ellice-Flint, Managing Director of Santos.
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An artist's impression of the new Santos Petroleum Engineering building at Adelaide University.

An artist's impression of the new Santos Petroleum Engineering building at Adelaide University.
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Friday, 8 June 2001

Is there oil 150 metres below the ground in Adelaide?

Of course not...

But today Adelaide University is using a professional rig to drill a 150-metre-deep experimental well on the University's North Terrace campus.

The well will be an important teaching tool and a feature of the new Santos School of Petroleum Engineering and Management that will open at Adelaide University next year.

Santos is providing $25 million over 10 years to Adelaide University to establish the school. This includes funding for the new building, provision for scholarships, specialised teaching equipment, and the appointment of a professorial chair, the Santos Chair. The Federal Government has also contributed $1 million to establish an additional chair, the Reg Sprigg Chair, named in honour of the late Reg Sprigg who made a significant contribution to the oil and gas industry in Australia.

The drilling operation marks the very start of construction on the school's new building, near Frome Road. The well has to be in place before work on the new building can begin.

The well is the first for an Australian university and one of only a few purpose-built teaching wells anywhere in the world. Students who study petroleum engineering at the school-when it opens next year-will be able to use the well for real-world experience, giving them valuable skills for the workplace.

"From Santos' perspective we see this as an investment in youth and in education for the benefit of the entire Australian oil and gas industry," says Mr John Ellice-Flint, Managing Director of Santos.

"The school will provide vocational opportunities for young Australians in a global industry. People who are already working in the industry will benefit through continuing their education at this school."

Mr Ellice-Flint added: "Adelaide has a growing reputation as a centre for excellence in the IT industry and the school complements this. It will be able to capitalise on the opportunities provided by new technology to build strong links with other schools of excellence around the world."

Professor Mary O'Kane, Vice-Chancellor of Adelaide University, says: "The Santos sponsorship is giving us the opportunity to create something unique in South Australia. Today we will see something else that's unique: a drilling rig in operation on an Australian university campus.

"Students at the school can expect to benefit not only from the best expertise available, but also from some of the best equipment and training facilities available. Having authentic working equipment at the laboratory door is a great advantage during the education process, and one that will hold our graduates in high esteem in the industry.

"It is the school's intention to form strong technical links with other leading petroleum engineering schools. Good relationships have already been established with the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Texas and we are in the process of speaking to European universities."

All media are invited to attend the drilling operation at 11.25am (for an 11.30am start). Professor Mary O'Kane and Mr John Ellice-Flint will be attending.

WHERE: Adelaide University, lower level (just off Frome Road) WHEN: 11.25am, TODAY (Friday, June 8, 2001)

BACKGROUND:

  • Santos and the University of Texas, Austin (which has one of the best-known petroleum engineering schools in the world) have provided technical advice for the design of Adelaide's well.
  • The well is designed to train students by demonstrating techniques and specialised equipment used for oil and gas exploration and production. It will also allow researchers to conduct experiments under conditions similar to those encountered in practical operating situations.
  • Total depth of the well is to be around 150 metres. Relatively soft sedimentary rock and layers of clay, silt and sand are likely to be encountered down to about 60 metres, followed by harder metamorphic rock.
  • A heavy PVC plastic pipe lining will be cemented in the hole after drilling to prevent the possibility of contamination of groundwater, as required by State Government regulations. This plastic pipe will in turn enclose a commercial oil well steel pipe to provide an industry-standard operating environment for experiments, equipment testing and practical demonstrations.
  • Engineering degrees at Adelaide University are already among the most popular in Australia, and the new Bachelor of Petroleum Engineering degree is expected to be well accepted. Australian and international students are already enquiring about enrolment for the first intake of students in February 2002.

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