September 16, 2010

In Louisiana, engineering is critical to the economy and environment. In North America, LSU is the only university where future petroleum engineers can get hands-on training in well control by working at a full-scale research and training facility. The Petroleum Engineering Research & Technology Transfer, or PERTT, Laboratory - also commonly referred to as the Well Facility - is an industrial-scale facility with full-scale equipment and instrumentation related to borehole technology.

Amid the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Gulf oil spill, the faculty, staff and students in the Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering (PETE) have been looked upon by media nationwide to provide perspective and information on everything from blowout prevention to drilling techniques and oilfield history. Multiple demonstrations and interviews at the PERRT Lab with LSU engineering faculty, staff and students have been conducted by major media including ABC, Associated Press, BBC, CBS, CNN, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, NBC, New York Times, PBS NewsHour, The Advocate, The Discovery Channel, Times Picayune, USA Today, and many more local, national, and international media outlets.

As evidenced by the recent tragedy, there are still numerous challenges in drilling and operating deepwater wells. Not only has the media and general public demonstrated its interest to the LSU PERTT Lab, but industry representatives and LSU alumni are revisiting the importance of this unique facility and the ability to enhance engineering education and research relevant to today's issues.

Many students and industry delegates are passionate about their engineering experience at the LSU PERRT Lab. Doss R. Bourgeois (B.S., PETE, 1980), executive vice president - Exploration & Production, Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP), and Lee K. Boothby (B.S., PETE, 1983), chairman, president and chief executive officer, Newfield Exploration Company (NFX), are two PETE alumni who state that the knowledge and skilled training they received at the lab provided them with a start on their careers that they couldn't have gotten anywhere but LSU.

Plans have been drafted to reconfigure LSU Well #1, and alumni and industry recognize the opportunity to enhance the PETE experience by supporting improvements at the PERRT Lab. Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP), committed $100,000 to complete the well reconfiguration then challenged others to provide the remaining $78,000; and Newfield Exploration Company (NFX) stepped up to the plate.

"I worked at the facility as a student," said Bourgeois. "For me, the chance to come back is a rare opportunity to ensure its legacy for future generations of students, because this was part of LSU that enhanced my education like no other place could. We all attributed success from our LSU education and experience at the blowout school and have embraced it to the fullest."

"Our students appreciate the industry's investment in engineering education and this is an endorsement that we're doing it the right way," said Mike Martin, chancellor. "This type of investment is critical; we thank you for an investment well made. This is an indication that winners bet on winners and we are committed to being a 21st century energy university."

These generous gifts, in addition to the in-kind donations from Key Well Services, BP, GE Vetco, and financial donations from Noble Drilling, Ernest Angelo and MPD Consortium, will provide complete funding to reconfigure LSU Well #1 and benefit students, research and industry as LSU addresses relevant challenges in the petroleum engineering field.

"One of the most distinctive attributes of the LSU campus is the PERRT Lab," said Rick Koubek, dean, College of Engineering. "The commitment of alumni and industry to partner with LSU Engineering is greatly appreciated and validates LSU Engineering as a solid investment."

Steve Sears, chair, PETE, stated "The combination of increased consumption of energy, accompanied by an increasing emphasis on frontier areas and new technology, will result in exciting opportunities for petroleum engineers in the future. This reconfigured well will have a significant and positive impact on those who use the facility, especially LSU's petroleum engineering students."

The PERTT Lab was established at LSU by Ted Bourgoyne, professor emeritus of petroleum engineering, and several other faculty members in the early 1980s with funding from the U.S. Minerals Management Service, or MMS; industry; and LSU. "The LSU well facility, with 30 years of history, continues to be a unique resource for the industry and our profession," said John Rogers Smith, PETE associate professor. "This is a place where we can come safely try out new ideas, new equipment, find what works, and find how to make them better, before we take those new technologies to the field."

All LSU petroleum engineering students are exposed to well control with real equipment and realistic situations instead of just using simulators, through two laboratory courses taught at PERTT. Faculty also benefit from the ability to conduct and learn from research done using the full-scale systems at the lab, while industry representatives conduct training at the lab. "We believe it's a really important and unique resource that we have here at LSU," said Smith. "We're the only school in the United States that offers and requires hands-on training in well control and understanding hydrostatics and pressure control in wells using actual wells. Industry recognizes LSU as one of the best petroleum engineering schools in the country and that makes its graduates more desirable to companies."

"Confirmation of the quality of the LSU petroleum engineering degree program is evident in the enrollment, which has doubled since 2005 and is currently at more than 400 undergraduates," said Sears." Many of our undergrads are from this part of the country and have an understanding of the terminology, but many other students come to LSU from around the country and world to specifically study petroleum engineering." Newfield Exploration Company (NFX) is an independent crude oil and natural gas exploration and production company headquartered in Houston, Texas. Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) is an independent oil and gas company headquartered in Houston, Texas.

Support for the College of Engineering, like that shown by NFX and PXP, advances the goals of the Forever LSU campaign. Forever LSU is a historic effort by the LSU community to attain more than $750 million in support for LSU by the end of 2010. To find out how you can join the campaign for LSU's future, visit


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Article by Mimi LaValle, LSU College of Engineering, 225-578-5706,


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