Monday, July 4, 2022

Support from oil companies boosting delivery of education at University of Guyana – VC

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The University of Guyana (UG) has received more funding from foreign investors in the oil and gas industry than the total amount received from all other sources in over 15 years.

Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Paloma Mohamed-Martin said that from 2016 to date, the University has received between US$30-$US40 million from companies in the oil and gas sector.

She said that this sum does not include other support received, such as sponsoring students for trips.

Reflecting on UG’s relationship with ExxonMobil Guyana, she noted that the company’s first donation to the institution was US$40,000 in 2016 that went towards the rebuilding of the institution’s physics lab, which had been destroyed by fire three years earlier.

This was followed by funding to restart UG’s radio station—95.5 Intelligent Radio—to the tune of US$20,000.

UG also received an additional US$20,000 to fund the ‘Gasifier Project’ of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry’s (FAF). That research project was intended to examine how biomass from trees could be used to produce energy as well as fertilizer.

“So, they’ve been consistently working with us from the very inception but in a very quiet way,” the Professor noted, adding that, “the effects are very evident in the University…”

UG is one of the beneficiaries of ExxonMobil’s Greater Guyana Initiative (GGI) — a US$100 million project geared towards building local capacity. “That money is doing some important things for us,” the Vice Chancellor said, listing a campus safety and security project and capacity building for programme delivery as some of the projects under this initiative.

Dr. Mohamed-Martin also pointed to UG’s recent ‘Zoom Room’ initiative funded under the GGCI.  Several Zoom Rooms have been established across the country to provide online access to students who do not have the necessary resources to attend UG’s virtual classes that have replaced face-to-face sessions, because of the pandemic.

Other companies in the energy sector are also playing major roles in the tertiary institution’s development. Canadian company CGX Energy and their partner Frontera also plugged millions into student development initiatives.

Dr. Mohamed-Martin reminded that, “CGX has given CDN$5 million, and this money is for 14 scholarships to a university in Canada that they are funding completely…on sustainability projects… training and research in the country. And, they also have been working with UG on training…field research, chemistry and those kinds of things.”

Companies such as Schlumberger and Halliburton have plugged millions of dollars into procuring vital pieces of equipment for the university to ensure that adequate training is received.

“We have a relationship with Schlumberger which gave us a great new computer laboratory about three years ago. It runs Petrel software – an exploration and production software platform used in the oil industry – which is highly expensive—a couple million dollars US— and that’s on 12 computers in our labs so students can actually do simulations and so on, on those,” the Vice Chancellor stated.

UG also launched a drilling-fuel laboratory last week using donations from Halliburton, which means it is one of the few universities in the Caribbean with this facility, and will soon launch an undersea drilling lab.

The Vice Chancellor also disclosed that UG and Schlumberger are having talks about the possibility of getting support for students in the Mechanical Department while talks are being held with ExxonMobil’s partner on the Stabroek Block—CNOOC—on developing the Geosciences Department.

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