Texas Tech Makes History With Nation’s First Full-Scale Operational Oil Rig on Campus

Texas Tech Makes History With Nation’s First Full-Scale Operational Oil Rig on Campus
A photo of the Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock, Texas, on June 27, 2021. (Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)
Jana J. Pruet

Texas Tech University in Lubbock recently made history with the nation’s first full-scale and fully operational, on-campus oil rig.

On Jan. 6, a 140-foot mast was raised on the oil drilling rig at the East Campus Oilfield Technology Center, the university announced on social media.

“The first full-scale, fully operational oil rig on a university campus was raised to working position today on our campus,” Texas Tech wrote on Twitter.

The Oilfield Technology Center sits on 10 acres and includes the 42,000-square-foot Terry Fuller Petroleum Engineering Research Building with eight research labs, two teaching labs, classrooms, and more.

With the mast in place, the substructure will be lifted another 25 feet to its final working position, where the team will install the blow-out prevention (BOP) equipment. BOPs are a safety feature used to cut off the drill pipe or seal the top hole in the event of uncontrollable pressure from the well.

It took 45 semi-truck loads to deliver the rig and equipment used to build the 1,500-foot deep rig, according to a university press release.

The project’s cost is unclear, but the university said the rig was donated to the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering.

The university spent more than two years constructing the first-of-its-kind project, designed to enhance student education.

“It was built to give our students hands-on experience in the oil field under a controlled environment,” said Marshall Watson, chair of the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas Tech, KAMC News reported.

“It’s to take the material out of the textbook and bring it to real life.”

Students will begin working on the rig during the spring semester, which started in early January.

“It’s part of the fully operational system that will be available for students to see, watch, and touch, and actually run calculations on so they can actually see what’s going on in the field before they ... actually go to work in the oil field,” Watson said.

Ensuring the safety of students while learning is a priority.

“Instead of oil and actual water from the oilfield, we use fresh water and nitrogen to emulate the fluids being lifted out of the ground,” Watson told KLTV News.

Terry Fuller, president of Phoenix PetroCorp and chairman of the Texas Tech Foundation Board of Directors, told KLTV that the project was made possible through years of hard work and generous donations.

“We’ve been working on this project, I think, for about three years,” Fuller said. “Great generosity of some of our donors brought this all together. It’s just been a great team effort.”

Jana J. Pruet is an award-winning investigative journalist. She covers news in Texas with a focus on politics, energy, and crime. She has reported for many media outlets over the years, including Reuters, The Dallas Morning News, and TheBlaze, among others. She has a journalism degree from Southern Methodist University. Send your story ideas to: [email protected]
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