Two centers backed by major industry leaders opened in September in the heart of the nation's western oil/gas production areas: a state-of-the-art center for teaching the latest advances in natural gas compression in Oklahoma, and a digital rock physics laboratory in Wyoming.

Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. donated $2 million to the opening Wednesday of the $4.9 million OSU Institute of Technology's (OSUIT) new gas compression center in Okmulgee, OK, named for Chesapeake at Oklahoma State University (OSU).

At the University of Wyoming (UW), Hess Corp. donated $4.4 million for the advanced rock physics lab in the university's new Energy Innovation Center in Laramie.

Other companies joining Chesapeake as major contributors to the massive warehouse-like structure full of compression equipment in Oklahoma are Devon Energy, Oneok Inc., and Energy Transfer. OSU officials said the companies have "helped turn an industry dream into a reality."

Gas compression, a critical component of operations at well sites, processing plants and along the nation's network of gas pipelines, has experienced many technological advances in recent years. The 23,920-square-foot center at OSUIT plans to double the students it graduates annually with associate in applied science degrees in natural gas compression, university officials said at the center's opening ceremonies.

The industry sees a growing need to train a new cadre of workers capable of diagnosing problems, servicing and maintaining gas compression equipment. "With [current] growth in the gas industry, this discipline is absolutely essential," said Burns Hargis, OSU president.

Touting the opportunity to give students realistic experiences, the Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center will be available to both the students in the compression program and workers from industry.

Included in the center's hands-on equipment are dual-rail overhead cranes, each with a 30-ton capacity, allowing the safe lifting and maneuvering of compression skids. Gas compression training became part of OSUIT's curriculum in 1979, and since 2000 it has been an independent program.

Earlier this month in Wyoming, university and industry officials gathered to open the Hess Digital Rock Physics Laboratory Sept. 20 with Hess Corp.'s Greg Hill, president of worldwide exploration/production, serving as keynote speaker. Hill is a UW alumnus.

Located on the third floor of the Innovation Center, the new laboratory includes unique imaging instruments capable of mapping pore space and pore fluid occupancy in rock samples and other porous materials. The lab has applications for oil/gas recovery for both unconventional and conventional reservoirs, according to UW officials.

"We believe this will be a game changer for multidisciplinary flow in porous media research on campus, with implications for the state of Wyoming, the country and the world," said Mohammad Piri, UW School of Energy Resources associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering. Piri said the laboratory is "the world's most innovative for advanced reservoir characterization."

Later during the grand opening day, Piri conducted technical presentations in the new research unit, along with researchers from other universities throughout the United States, France and Great Britain.