Volume 20 | issue nº 3 Winter 2019

Success in the Pipeline

By Alyce Abi Shdid

More in this issue

The School of Engineering’s Petroleum and Drilling Simulation Lab recreates the experience of working on an offshore drilling platform.

A high-tech, fully-equipped, state-of-the-art teaching and research laboratory facility is certainly high on the wish list of any engineering faculty, researcher, or student – and for those who are part of the growing field of petroleum engineering, having the tools to be at the forefront of ground-breaking research is critical.

LAU’s School of Engineering (SOE) has made that wish a reality for its faculty, researchers and students with its own newly completed Engineering Laboratories and Research Center, a major center that includes the Petroleum and Drilling Simulation Laboratory. Outfitted with the latest advancements in engineering lab technology, the facility is creating a better teaching and research environment, forging stronger collaboration among educators and with the industry, and fostering more realistic learning experiences than ever before.

With the growing possibility of oil extraction off Lebanon’s coasts, interest has been building in LAU’s Petroleum Engineering Program, which was launched in 2014. This new market has created the need for students to graduate and “hit the ground running” in terms of understanding engineering processes, economic impacts, and industry regulations in the field. The SOE’s new facilities include the Drilling Simulation and Reservoir Simulation laboratories, which are both designed to provide a virtual environment for students to gain exposure to the field in a tangible way.

The Drilling Simulation Lab boasts a full-rig floor drilling and well-control simulator, which gives students the opportunity to practice advanced equipment operation. It consists of a range of simulated consoles, equipment, and manifolds identical to what are found on a modern drilling rig. Students have the ability to work with controls and instruments that are found on rigs, giving them real-life practice before they enter the industry. A giant wall of high-resolution screens create a “Driller’s Window” that uses graphics as well as electronically generated sound effects that mimic the ambient environment of a drill site. These features, unique to LAU’s facility, allow students to explore petroleum engineering as a field of experience rather than simply a field of study.

Engineering Lab Lead Supervisor Nicole Wehbe noted the benefits of having facilities of this caliber: “The simulation equipment is capable of providing students with appropriate levels of training necessary to drill to a depth of 30,000 feet, and it also allows the instructor to fully monitor and control the simulation exercises, making the experience authentic.”

The Reservoir Simulation Lab also includes the Core Flooding System, an advanced, computer-controlled environment that simulates oil reservoir conditions. The newest technologies are used to determine the permeability of rock samples as well as their interaction in various fluids so that students can evaluate different rock properties, among other research opportunities.

The SOE’s Petroleum Engineering Program offers a major advantage over those that focus on a traditional, theoretically-based education. Hands-on experience during the undergraduate program produces industry-ready professionals who have developed real-life problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

Indeed, as SOE Associate Dean Michel Khoury says, “Our petroleum engineering students are graduating with a deeper level of technical knowledge, unparalleled equipment experience, and a degree of professionalism that can only be achieved in a state-of-the-art learning environment like the one we provide at LAU.”