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Halliburton Donates To UW Energy Lab

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 8:09am
Ben Neary, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- Halliburton Co. is the latest corporation to support construction of an energy research laboratory at the University of Wyoming in response to the state's push to improve energy and engineering programs there.

Officials from Halliburton and the state said Tuesday that the energy services company is donating $3 million. Of that, $2 million will help fund construction of a laboratory complex while $1 million will support research. The state will match those amounts.

Dick McGinity, president of UW, said Halliburton's contribution will help with construction of the High Bay Research Facility. The 60,000-square-foot facility on North 19th Street in Laramie is expected to be completed in 2016.

The research building will provide a space for large-scale projects, including work on transforming gas and coal into liquids, McGinity said. Other companies that have supported the project include Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Baker Hughes Inc.

Halliburton's donation puts UW within $2 million of achieving its $15 million goal for private industry donations, McGinity said. The state will match that total.

Gov. Matt Mead said industry support has followed the work of a state task force that's been looking at how to make the UW College of Engineering and Applied Sciences a "tier one" institution. He said many members are UW graduates who have distinguished themselves worldwide in the energy business.

Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, has been instrumental in focusing the Legislature's attention on the importance of upgrading the UW engineering program.

Now Senate majority floor leader, Nicholas was chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee a few years ago when the Legislature approved spending $50 million for another engineering building now under construction at UW.

Nicholas said Tuesday that his children are all in engineering and he became aware that UW's facilities weren't keeping pace with those at competing universities.

"It was a great opportunity for me over the last year to see how former UW executives came back and provided a critique of where we've been, where should we go, and they helped us develop a plan to lead the college into world-class research in certain niches that we could afford and where we could attract money," Nicholas said.

"What that means for parents is when you send your children to UW for engineering, that they're going to get a world-class education," Nicholas said. He said creating that well-trained workforce will help to recruit businesses to Wyoming.

Halliburton President Dave Lesar came to the Wyoming Capitol to announce the gift Tuesday. He said it should help produce well-trained graduates and ultimately help the nation's energy production.

"Giving gifts like this are fun, but we don't do it just because they're fun," Lesar said. "We do it because we see a benefit. We see a benefit to the state, we see a benefit to the university, and ultimately, with the research done here, I think a benefit to U.S. Energy production."

Lesar said improving UW's energy and engineering programs should serve to attract students from around the country and from other countries. He said it should create a center of excellence in some aspects of unconventional research that will be second to none.

"On a more selfish basis, obviously, it should produce talented students that we can come in and hire and bring into the industry send to our operations all across the world," Lesar said.

The Wyoming Legislature has stepped up support of engineering and energy research at UW mightily in the past few years.

A $3.5 billion budget bill to fund state operations for the next two years is now awaiting action by Mead.

The pending budget includes roughly $25 million for the UW engineering college. Lawmakers also voted to release $7.9 million they previously appropriated for a major expansion of an engineering building. They put up $10.5 million in matching funds for the High Bay building and $5 million in matching funds for an endowed chair in petroleum engineering.

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