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UG, Halliburton sign US$2M pact -to develop Faculty of Engineering and Technology

The deal being signed between UG and Halliburton

The deal being signed between UG and Halliburton

November 22 2019


United States oil and gas service provider Hallibur-ton yesterday signed a US$2 million agreement with the University of Guyana (UG) to support the Faculty of Engineering and Technology as education and skills building took centre stage when the Guyana International Petroleum Exhibition Summit (GIPEX) continued yesterday.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed between Hallibur-ton and UG at the Marriott Hotel yesterday, will see the $400M donation being used in a number of areas, such as purchasing needed laboratory equipment, staff development and software programme support for teaching, and the company pledged to continue support.

“We are very proud to be part of this business with you. In addition to the monetary award, our intention is now to transfer the knowledge, the technology and we are fully committed to this country and the community,” Franco Delano, Halliburton’s Area Manager for the Region, said at the signing yesterday.

The deal would be one of the biggest contributions here to education by a tier one ExxonMobil contractor.

UG Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paloma Mohamed-Martin, who explained that the MoU was the result of a meeting that was brokered by Guyana’s Department of Energy in Houston, Texas, underscored the benefits it will bring to not only the university but the country.

“As Guyana prepares for first oil, the University of Guyana… is seeking meaningful long-term partnerships as we continue to develop offerings in support of our nascent oil and gas industry,” a statement from the University said.

It added that UG has assessed that Halliburton could be a capable strategic partner, especially with regard to the intense capacity-building work that is necessary for the current phase. “While UG is at the very beginning of the journey, we believe that we may leap-frog our capacities through close collaboration with industry leaders like Halliburton,” it added.

The statement also said that in the near future, UG would be seeking to create a fully-fledged Institute of Energy and Energy Diplo-macy, which will house the two degrees in petroleum engineering among other programmes. “These we expect will generate the future locally grown engineers and technicians who will support the Guyanese energy industry in the near future. The collaboration is an initial investment by Halliburton in The Univer-sity to support these goals,” it noted.

Department of Energy Director Dr. Mark Bynoe told reporters that he anticipates more relationships of the kind since they also benefit companies who can see it as also building local content skillsets. “This is a tangible demonstration of what needs to be done as we seek to build out our capacity to address the oil and gas sector,” Bynoe said.

And like Bynoe, newly appointed Chancellor of the University Professor Edward Greene said that he looks forward to more commitment from companies like Halliburton, as the university continues to upgrade and roll out new programmes.

“I welcome initiatives like these and look forward to other partnerships. When you think of Guyana and its needs for widespread advancement to territorial education, it would make sense to plan for online education. You have 8,000 students currently registered and… with the current core staff, the campus could hardly take a single extra student,” he said.

Online makes sense

“We have to look at how do you enroll students, get them certified in as quickly as possible time, and then get them involved in the economy. Online makes sense. It means a lot of people in the outlying districts could benefit from the UG offerings,” he added.

But Professor Greene said that there are challenges in a transitioning to online education as the country’s internet connectivity and university’s ability to attach suitably qualified teachers will have to be addressed. 

“At the same time, the UG tutoring and lecturing must take on new patterns. I spoke on Saturday [at UG’s graduation] about the expansion of education, the digitisation of education and the expansion of lifelong learning. I agree with him [Professor Gary Dirks of Arizona State University] and I think this online schooling has to be a step the university must take into account, if it is going to make an impact on the resources of the development of this country,” Professor Greene said. 

Professor Dirks had said, in response to statements from Professor Sydney Armstrong of UG, who lamented UG’s lack of financial resources, that the university should look to online education.

Dirks pointed out that while his university has an annual budget of some US$3.3 billion, 91% of that is generated through donations and self-help. “The state gives US$300 million and that means 91% comes from the activities that are generated by the University. I make that point to say that the UG needs a big influx of investment… and needs to be entrepreneurial as possible to be able to self-sustain,” he said.

For the UG Chancellor, work has to first be done by internet service providers to address the quality of service here. “You cannot have online education unless you have broadband and unless you strengthen the capabilities… so this is part of the investment that the companies will make because they too will have to depend on the digitising and skillsets. One of the things as Chancellor I would support immediately is engaging relevant stakeholders in correcting the lack of broadband and the ability to use the internet,” he said.

The Chancellor stressed that with online education and qualified staff, the university would be able to tap into providing services to not only locals. “With better access to the internet you will have a wider reach, not just Guyana but outside,” he added.

On Sunday, Professor Greene says that he has an interview with transitional management team of UG and he has the areas he discussed on the agenda.

“We want to ensure we have a facility where students and teachers feel they are on a campus that is secure and with the requisite technological connectivity,” he said.

“So we will have discussions also around a staff training programme. You can’t have a university with only 20% of lecturers with PhD degrees. How are we going do the Masters and the PhD programmes required to train people at the highest level? How do we fast-track the level of training for our own professors?  We have to gear towards this new educational geography… where it is not only about math, or physics… it is a person who can cross those disciplines; that can really make an impact on sustainable development,” he said.

Halliburton has had a checkered international history in recent decades. As it relates specifically to oil and gas Halliburton faced challenges over the shocking Deepwater Horizon oil spill. On April 20, 2010,  gas tore through a concrete core Halliburton had recently installed in BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana.  According to gas ignited, killing 11 workers on the platform, and the riser (vertical pipe) ruptured, spilling several million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2013, noted that the company agreed to pay a US$200,000 penalty after pleading guilty to criminal charges that its employees had destroyed evidence. The following year a civil court found Halliburton negligent and assigned its liability of the disaster at 3 percent. The company settled claims with plaintiffs for some US$1.1 billion.

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