A monumental grant of sophisticated geophysics software packages is providing Hope College’s students with opportunities that only a handful graduate programs can offer.

The global technology company SLB has donated a total of 40 licenses, 10 each of the complete suites of Petrel, PetroMod, Techlog and GeoX state-of-the-art geophysical software packages for teaching and research in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Hope.

Each of the four packages is a suite of specialized programs used for studying and mapping reservoirs that are far below the surface of the earth, identifying structural closures favorable for hydrocarbon accumulation, carbon dioxide storage and understanding seismic activity like earthquakes, as well as detailing reservoirs for geothermal resource development.  It’s the top-of-the-line standard for scientists at the world’s elite research universities and major international energy corporations like BP, Chevron, Exxon and Shell, according to Dr. Uzonna Anyiam, who is an assistant professor of geological and environmental science at Hope and developed the grant proposal.

“This is the leading software for subsurface, geological and geophysical characterization. It will help us start up a new program in exploration and environmental geophysics, and enable our students to develop skills that are rare for undergraduates to have,” Anyiam said. “It will benefit our geological and environmental science students, physics students, computer science students, mathematics students and engineering students.”

The Department of Geological and Environmental Science — which offers major programs in geology, geochemistry, geophysics and environmental science, as well as a variety of minors — will be adding two courses during the 2023-24 school year to give students hands-on experience with the software.  “Introduction to Exploration and Environmental Geophysics” will debut in the fall, with “Sustainable Energy Geoscience” added next spring.  

In addition, students conduct research collaboratively with Anyiam, who is studying subsurface reservoirs that have held hydrocarbons like oil and natural gas, and their potential to safely store the greenhouse gas CO2 so that it can be removed from the atmosphere.  His work this summer is focusing on reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

Anyiam describes familiarity with the software as “a skill that every geologist, every geophysicist and every environmental geoscientist should learn.”  At the same time, he acknowledges, “It’s really rare to see schools that have this because it is so difficult to use. You need as a professor first of all to know how to use it so that you can teach it.”

Anyiam, who joined the Hope faculty this past fall, has worked with the software for the past several years.  He recently completed his doctorate in geophysics at the University of Science and Technology of China, having previously completed his master’s in geology at Oklahoma State University and bachelor’s in geophysics at Federal University of Technology Owerri in Nigeria.  He was involved in university-based research sponsored by oil companies that explored oil and gas fields to identify potential drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of West Africa, as well as induced-seismicity research driven by hydraulic fracturing for shale gas production and dissolution salt mining sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China in Sichuan Basin.

Looking ahead, he is hoping to establish collaborations with colleagues beyond campus, which he anticipates will also provide additional opportunities for students.  And he is especially excited about what the new courses and research program will mean for them, as graduates with such training are much in demand.

“I’m really expecting that very soon students will be getting jobs with their bachelor’s in these major companies who are also the leaders for environmentally sustainable energy development,” he said.