Memorial University’s innovative partnerships
ABS guest reporter Erin McKay - When it comes to advancing science in the energy industry, the research conducted at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) is one of Atlantic Canada’s hidden gems. Dr. Ray Gosine, MUN’s Associate Vice-President of Research, affirmed this fact at the 4th Annual Atlantic Business Summit as he recounted his story of collaboration between academic research and business. While Newfoundland is preparing for an oncoming energy sector boom, the University is ahead of the curve and is making significant strides via its ties with the oil and gas industry in all realms of research.
An example of this teamwork followed the tragedy of the Cougar helicopter Flight 491 crashing off the coast of Newfoundland in 2008 as a whole new discussion emerged around safety in the energy sector. In the wake of the tragedy, Memorial has since launched noteworthy research programs promoting safety in the sometimes risky offshore energy industry. For instance, Survival Quest, an initiative addressing insufficient lifeboat training and technology, is currently used in offshore projects that are exposed to intense weather conditions. In response to Cougar Flight 491 incident, much research has been done to make helicopter rescues safer. Evacuation, survival, rescue and recovery in harsh environments are all initiative strongly supported by the global oil and gas industry.
The Harsh Environment Technology Centre focuses on the structural integrity of ships, and other vessels, in extreme environments such as the Arctic. Harsh technology is currently used in northern regions, particularly in conjunction with cold region engineering. To improve a ship’s stamina, for example, the research concentrates on risk-based design for arctic-facing environments, ice structure interactions and mechanics as well as ice-related interactions with sea beds. This data helps shipbuilders design vessels that are less likely to sink after contact with icebergs.
One highly successful environmentally-focused technology to come out of MUN has been the RAVEN remote aerial vehicles program. RAVEN (Remote Aerial Vehicles for Environmental Monitoring) produces vehicles capable of locating icebergs and trace oil spills. Avoiding these hazards is crucial for the ocean technology sector, as well as the oil and gas industry.
With the help of the private sector, MUN is working to develop critical technologies which will advance the safety and efficiency of the industry. Husky Energy, has already given over $4.1 million in research and funding. Internships and mandatory co-op placements are also part of the Department of Earth Sciences, as well as the Department of Chemistry and Engineering. From fall 2008 to spring 2011, MUN has initiated 130 Business placements, and 1,270 Engineering placements locally, nationally and globally. The oil and gas industry has also established several scholarship funds and internships focusing on the development of future technologies impacting core research within the industry.