Houston and Texas are both renowned as the energy capital of the world. Based on the similarities between the Norwegian and Texan interests in the energy industries, and the broad selection of eminent schools in the state of Texas leading in relevant fields such as Petroleum and Geosystem Engineering, it is curious that less than 3 % of Norwegian students in the US are attending Texas schools. There are, however, close ties and significant academic and industry collaboration between Norway and the US.
Sven Sørhus already has a bachelor in sound engineering, and is now a petroleum student at the University of Houston. Sørhus really appreciates Houston being a hotspot for oil and gas. “There are plenty of opportunities and companies present in Houston. I think Houston is the best place to be for an education within the field of petroleum”, he says.
Mr. Sørhus recently attended the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE), hosted in Houston late September, as a member of the University of Houston SPE (UH SPE); “It was really exciting, with great learning opportunities for students and young professionals”. The premier flagship event of the SPE, invited students and professionals from across the globe to learn, share and discuss. Given the current downturn in the industry, the future of the industry, the need for professionals was of course high on the agenda.
The following week, approximately 100 students and professionals from US and Norway attended the biennial NorTex Petroleum Cluster conference, to accelerate CO2 research through collaboration. The conference also provided representatives from the Norwegian and US oil industry an opportunity to communicate needs to the next generation engineers – and to get some immediate feedback.
Larry Lake, Professor at the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at University of Texas in Austin (UT), has for many years been involved in the close cooperation between Norwegian and Texan higher education. He compliments the Norwegian technology, students and universities and attributes the paucity of students in Texas to there being excellent universities in Norway; “Norway did the right thing when oil was discovered in the North Sea. They sent student abroad so that these formed the backbone of a quality education system back home.”
However, the current instability in the oil market has left noticeable footprints in the number of student applications within the geoscieences both in the US and in Norway. Numbers from UT shows that the work placement percentage after finished degree has decreased from 95 to 80 percent. That being said, petroleum research and skill development are still needed. Maybe this time of employment stagnation is a good time to focus on knowledge sharing and student exchange.
While the industry is in a downturn, the field needs development of technical competences and collaboration across nations and across educational institutions, maybe more so than ever.