Built for research

A University of Wyoming researcher uses a state-of-the-art macro-scale core flooding apparatus in the Center for Innovation for Flow in Porous Media. CFIFPM is the main tenant of UW’s new High Bay Research Facility.

Photo courtesy of Adam Herrera

The University of Wyoming is unveiling its newest research facility today — a facility equipped with state-of-the-art technology and laboratories designed for cutting-edge energy and engineering research, including a highly adaptable high bay laboratory.

The $68 million High Bay Research Facility took 18 months to complete and will be shared by the School of Energy Resources and the College of Engineering.

“The main tenant right now is the Center of Innovation for Flow Through Porous Media, which is a very high-tech laboratory that looks at the physics of flow of oil, gas and water through fine grain reservoir rock,” said Mark Northam, School of Energy Resources executive director.

The new building’s biggest draw is a two-and-a-half story “high bay” lab, open floor to ceiling and equipped with a 10-ton crane. Such a space can be entirely reconfigured, depending on researchers’ needs — a feature that will allow the facility to benefit UW far into the future, Northam said.

“Let’s say a faculty member or team decided they need to do some specialized research for which there wasn’t a suitable laboratory on campus,” he said. “You could very easily build a laboratory inside the high bay that would suit just about any purpose.”

The lab also features bay doors, which are large enough to allow researchers to back a tractor-trailer into the space to more easily move large equipment in and out. Reconfiguring the lab for future projects will be both easier and cheaper than constructing all new facilities.

“The reason for building it that way is that this building’s probably got a 50- to 75-year life expectancy,” Northam said. “You can’t ever predict all the things a building like that will be needed for.”

The research facility was constructed with help from a variety of funding sources. The state legislature matched $15 million raised by UW through corporate partnerships. The legislature matched an additional $10.5 million raised by UW in instrumentation and technology. Other funds were raised to support the facility’s research as well.

The facility — which will be used primarily for research into unconventional reservoirs — was funded by many contributors from the energy industry, the largest of which was Hess Corporation. Other contributors included Thermo Fisher Scientific, Halliburton, Baker Hughes Inc., ExxonMobil, Alchemy Sciences Inc., Marathon Oil Corporation, Shell Oil Co., Arch Coal and Saudi Aramco.

Marian H. Rochelle and Tom and Shelley Botts also contributed to the project.

The grand opening includes a day-long technical symposium — “A New Era in Reservoir Characterization” — featuring discussions, led by scientists, about the research planned for the High Bay Research Facility.

The symposium — taking place in the UW Conference Center attached to the Hilton Garden Inn — will break at 10:30 a.m., at which point guests will be bussed to the facility itself.

“There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and then there will be tours through the facility and then during the afternoon, there will be the rest of the symposium,” said Mary Ivanoff, UW Foundation vice president for administration and donor relations.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will include addresses from Northam, Gov. Matt Mead, Wyoming Senate President Eli Bebout, Wyoming Speaker of the House Steve Harshman, UW President Laurie Nichols, UW Board of Trustees President John MacPherson, Hess Corporation President and COO Greg Hill and UW Foundation President Ben Blalock.

The symposium ends at 5 p.m.

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