Gov. Rick Perry today announced the formation of the Gulf Project, a coalition of energy and environmental scientists, policy experts, academic researchers, private sector research scientists and state officials who will work to ensure Texas never endures the environmental and economic disaster currently occurring in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.
“To keep our status as the energy capital of the nation and preserve our environment, jobs and economy, Texas must become the world leader in developing the next generation in offshore oil exploration safety and response,” Gov. Perry said. “The Gulf Project is an unprecedented collaboration of the state’s top scientists, engineers and researchers, focused on protecting our residents, environment and economy, and solving the unique challenges presented by the next generation of domestic energy exploration and production.”
The University of Texas, Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, Rice University, Texas Tech University, Southern Methodist University, the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), Texas General Land Office and Texas Railroad Commission are participating in the effort, and other experts and institutions of higher education may join later.
A key challenge for the industry is the current inability to test full drilling systems to determine their safety, and to develop proven methods of responding to large-scale oil spills such as the Deepwater Horizon incident. Other nations including the United Kingdom, Norway and Brazil are competing to develop a seafloor testing facility.
Each participating institution is already involved in significant oil and gas drilling research, and already have the facilities – such as Texas A&M’s Offshore Research Technology Center and Rice’s National Corrosion Center – but none is able to test a full drilling system to ensure it can safely operate under all deep sea conditions. Additionally, the Johnson Space Center is home to facilities that can test the safety and reliability of current and next generation equipment, which could be used as research proceeds.