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Russell Goodin

Oil patch hungry for earth science grads

April 30, 2009

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Russell Goodin (above) completed his MSc thesis in earth sciences in December 2008 and immediately started a high-paying job in Houston, Tex., where he interprets seismic data for offshore oil and gas exploration in China.

Goodin is one of many successful earth sciences grads in the oil and gas industry, according to Shahin Dashtgard, an assistant professor in petroleum geology. Despite the downturn in the economy, the industry remains a major Canadian employer, with plenty of jobs available when the economy rebounds, according to the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada, which has just launched its first job marketing campaign. The industry pays well: compensation for a new geology BSc. graduate can top $74,000, while MSc grads can expect $86,000 or more.

"Our earth sciences department offers one of Canada’s best petroleum programs, but few people realize it," says Dashtgard. Students take courses in geology, sedimentology, palaeontology and geochemistry, and they get hands-on experience with rock-core samples from oil- and gas-producing reservoirs across Western Canada.

"Donations of drill core from EnCana and Devon Energy make our core repository one of the largest in B.C.," says James MacEachern, a professor of sedimentology, stratigraphy, and paleontology. Undergraduate students also acquire important job skills through using the latest industry software such as Accumap®, Petra®, and Petrel®—multi-million dollar programs donated by IHS (Accumap and Petra) and Schlumberger (Petrel).

Another key focus is carbon dioxide sequestration in depleted oil and gas reservoirs. "Reducing CO2 emissions as part of fighting climate change is a global issue," notes Dirk Kirste, an assistant professor of geochemistry. In Canada, the federal and most provincial governments have identified CO2 disposal in depleted reservoirs as a major tactic for reaching CO2 emission targets.

"We have expertise in CO2 sequestration and in using carbon dioxide to increase oil recovery from subsurface reservoirs," says Kirste, who has worked extensively on research-oriented and commercial CO2 disposal schemes.

Both the graduate and undergraduate programs enrol 5–15 students per year; Dashtgard says they could handle three times that. www.sfu.ca/earth-sciences

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Javan Meinwald

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Javan

VP Business Development

abuahmed

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