LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming's new $25 million Energy Innovation Center provides students, faculty and others state-of-the-art facilities to enable groundbreaking research into energy resources that are the main drivers of the state's economy, UW officials said.
Located on the northwest corner of the campus, the center opened this year and houses the UW School of Energy Resources, the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute and other energy-related research groups. It includes a 3-D laboratory that provides researchers a virtual immersion into computer-generated models of such things as oil reservoirs and aquifers.
A formal dedication ceremony is set for Sept. 12 with Gov. Matt Mead and other dignitaries.
During a sneak preview for the media Wednesday, School of Energy Resources Director Mark Northam said the center is an asset for the state of Wyoming because it will help achieve the school's goals of maximizing recovery of the state's energy resources, creating and expanding markets for its existing resources and adding value to the energy resources to help create jobs and new state revenue.
The center provides students, faculty and researchers more space and better research conditions than the university's previous facilities, which were scattered and inadequate for certain equipment.
"It's definitely going to raise the bar for this university," Northam said.
For instance, the center has allowed the university to integrate rock physics labs where researchers are studying carbon sequestration.
"But it's not the building, it's what we have put into the building," Northam said. "The instruments that are coupled with the ability to simulate reservoir conditions, both temperature and pressure but also flow, those are the things that are unique about it."
Diana Hulme, the School of Energy Resources deputy director of research, said the 3-D lab is available to other educators and researchers outside UW.
Northam said UW intends to keep the 3-D lab free for research by UW students and faculty.
"If we keep it free, more people will use it and we would very much like the University of Wyoming to be in the forefront of the next level of breakthroughs," he said.
Besides six labs in the center, the building has offices, classrooms and meeting space where energy industry representatives can interact with students and faculty, he said. In addition, the center features video and audio equipment that allows for online interaction with researchers and others from around the world, he said.
"Basically, they have the knowledge about the problems that our faculty are trying to solve," Northam said. "That interaction really accelerates development of solutions."
The center was financed equally with state and private money. Companies that donated money to the center include BP, Shell, Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Marathon Oil, Questar and ConocoPhillips.