seisLAB puts Aberdeen at forefront of seismic research and training

A new education and industry partnership will position Aberdeen as a leading centre in the UK for research using seismic surveys from the energy industry.

Seismic surveys use sound waves to 'see' into the Earth down to depths of a few kilometres below the surface, and are used as a tool in oil and gas exploration.

However each survey costs many millions of pounds to acquire, and requires powerful computing facilities and dedicated and costly software to interpret, putting the cost beyond the reach of most research scientists.

Thanks to a new partnership with industry, the University of Aberdeen will today (March 24) officially open a new state-of-the-art seisLAB laboratory utilising the surveys and data collected by the energy industry.

Bringing together industry and academia will allow scientists at the University to investigate the structure of the Earth using the three-dimensional seismic data provided by industry. Not only will this will help in the search for oil and gas, but will also contribute to a fundamental understanding of our planet.

The seisLab laboratory will also be available as a teaching facility and for project work for both undergraduate and Masters’ level students.

The laboratory is the outcome of a combination of the University of Aberdeen’s investment of £67k in redeveloping an area in its Meston Building; funding of computer hardware by energy companies BP, Chevron and BG Group; and provision of software by service companies Halliburton and Schlumberger.

seisLAB will be officially opened today (March 24) by University Principal Professor Ian Diamond, who will also be joined by representatives of the supporting companies and Vice-Principals Professor Albert Rodger and Professor Dominic Houlihan.

Also present will be visitors from the Faculty of Earth Resources at China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, who are visiting the University this week as part of the Scotland-China Higher Education Research Partnership, an intergovernmental programme to promote student exchange.

Professor Ben Kneller of the University’s School of Geosciences has led the project. He said: “Pursuing the University’s goal of research excellence demands significant, continual investment in infrastructure, equipment and staffing. We continue to attract top-level academic staff. However to maximise the benefit of their skills and experience, and to maintain our respected position in the field of petroleum geoscience, we need the support of the leading industry players to work with us in developing leading-edge facilities.

“The opening of our new seisLAB will consolidate seismic interpretation based research within our School of Geosciences.  It will provide a wholly refurbished, air-conditioned space to house fifteen Linux, Unix and Windows workstations, an adjacent seminar/study area with display space and projection facilities, in addition to centrally-housed servers and RAID data storage. This has all been made possible by the enthusiasm and generosity of our industry partners to whom we are extremely grateful.

“We estimate that 70-80% of our geology graduates will be engaged in work of this type when they gain employment in the industry. It is crucial therefore that they are trained in an environment where seismically-based research is at the forefront, that our teaching programmes allow students to develop these skills, and that Aberdeen, as Europe’s energy capital, remains at the forefront in tackling the challenges of this vital industry.”

Geology has been taught at the University of Aberdeen for more than 150 years. Today, the University has an international profile and reputation as a centre of excellence for its teaching and research in petroleum geology. In contrast to the national trend, Aberdeen’s numbers of geology students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level has enjoyed steady growth since the mid 1980s.