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Generous Efforts from ORYX GTL Support Texas A&M at Qatar Faculty and Students — and the Future of GTL and Chemical Engineering

Published Jan 15, 2018

A pair of world-class programs, founded and sponsored by ORYX GTL, are having a powerful impact on GTL research and education at Texas A&M at Qatar, with effects that are felt by students, researchers, and engineers throughout the GTL industry and the nation of Qatar. 

The ORYX GTL Seminar Series in Chemical Engineering

Founded and launched by ORYX GTL in 2013, the ORYX GTL Seminar Series in Chemical Engineering brings world-leading scientists and professors from across the spectrum of chemical engineering and GTL to address students, faculty, researchers, and industry professionals. Speakers are world-recognized experts in their fields, with emphasis on the future of global energy for the production of ultra-clean fuels and value-added chemicals. Fifteen GTL-expert speakers have appeared in the last two years alone, traveling to Qatar from North and South America and Europe.

The program not only delivers up-to-the-minute findings and techniques, it expands research by creating new connections among cutting-edge researchers and industry leaders.

Contact with industry-leading figures is critical to the development of engineers-in-training. Marwan El Wahsh, an undergraduate student and President of the Qatar chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, cited Dr. Mikhail Rodkin's lecture on novel catalysts and pollution as particularly influential, and the program as a whole as vital to his education. “This program allowed me to gain an exclusive, first-hand exposure to both the industry as well as to the research activities conducted by [the TEES Gas and Fuels Research Center],” Marwan said. “I learned valuable fundamentals related to research and development of novel fuels and techniques. Also, this program allowed me to really understand how to conduct high-quality research, and to communicate its results effectively to both the public and the industry.”

“Through my research experience, I had the chance to present my project findings in local and international conferences.”

Saoud Al Elmadi, another undergraduate who benefits from ORYX initiatives, said, “This research group gives me the opportunity for a hands-on experience. It connects academia with the workplace and beyond, and that’s what motivates me for being in this wonderful group.” Al Elamdi said he is excited to learn through these programs because, with Qatar holding some of the largest gas reserves in the world, “we want to make our country a better place.” 

“The ORYX GTL seminar series has critical importance for the state of Qatar,” said Dr. Ioannis G. Economou, associate dean for academic affairs and a professor in the Chemical Engineering Program at Texas A&M at Qatar. Economou added that researchers, engineers and students “can benefit a lot through the interaction with the distinguished guests, develop new collaborative research projects, and advance their knowledge in critical areas.” 

Scientists brought to Qatar by ORYX financial support to participate can become engaged with researchers at Texas A&M at Qatar for future projects. In addition, the visits enhance longstanding connections with research and industry leaders. Dr. Doros Thedorou, a world leader in computational materials science, is one of the seminar leaders. His nine-year collaboration with Economou in modeling properties of aqueous systems, polymer solutions and blends and polymer membranes helped bring him into the program.

The ORYX GTL Excellence Program in GTL Technology

In 2015, ORYX GTL expanded their generous support for chemical engineering and GTL at Texas A&M at Qatar by launching the ORYX GTL Excellence Program in GTL technology. This initiative creates a specialized educational pipeline to produce highly skilled engineers and technical staff to operate facilities in GTL and natural gas processing. The program attracts top students to the field of chemical engineering, and equips them to help determine the future of research and technology of chemical engineering and GTL. The program mints individuals who will assume national and international leadership roles in industry, government and universities.

Conceived as an initiative unique to both ORYX GTL and Texas A&M at Qatar, the programming also supports the economic, social and human pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030.

Wajdi Alnoush, another graduate student in chemical engineering at Texas A&M at Qatar, said, “These programs create a close link between academia and industry. They help direct the knowledge and skills of engineers to problems most in need of support in Qatar. This in turn makes Qatar a producer of experienced engineers. These programs increase Qatar's role and ranking in research and development in the region … and are excellent representatives in international stages.” 

The excellence program supports 20 undergraduate students every year, training them to conduct research work in GTL and helping to create the technical workforce Qatar will need to sustain its status as a leader in GTL. In addition, 13 graduate students — at both the master’s and Ph.D. levels — have been at least partially sponsored by the program. These graduate students conduct research related to advancing GTL technology and emerge as highly skilled researchers prepared to tackle real-world challenges in the gas-processing field.

Noof Abdalla is one student who was sponsored by the ORYX GTL Excellence Program while working on her master’s degree, and who’s now working in industry in Qatar. As a graduate student in the excellence program, she worked in the Fluid Characterization Lab, which she said simulates major labs in the huge GTL industry in Qatar and the world. “The lab provided a safe learning zone where — with the guidance of professors — students have the chance to unleash their capabilities and test their intelligence. The direct interaction with industry — such as ORYX GTL, Qatar Shell and other educational institutes as well enabled me to build some knowledge about the know-how of many technical processes and tests in the GTL industry. I regularly refer to the exposure and experience gained in the lab in my current job.”

ORYX Makes Progress Possible

Another key pillar of the ORYX GTL Excellence Program is the emphasis placed on educating the public in Qatar — starting from school students to college students, to working engineers and technical staff — about the role of GTL in Qatar’s economy and in the future of global energy for the production of ultra-clean fuels and value-added chemicals. GFRC, under the umbrella of the ORYX GTL Excellence Program, launched an outreach program to educate elementary and high school Qatari students about the role of natural gas in the global energy market. The program presents simple models to students about the technologies used for natural gas utilization in Qatar. 

Dr. Nimir Elbashir chairs both ORYX GTL Excellence Program. Elbashir is a professor of chemical engineering and petroleum engineering, and the director of the TEES Gas and Fuels Research Center, where he leads more than two dozen researchers in multi-million-dollar-funded projects of critical interest to Qatar's natural gas-processing technologies, typically in collaboration with national and international energy corporations. 

“I have witnessed many major accomplishments in the establishment of strong relations between academia and industry, but this step is unique,” Elbashir said at the founding of the initiatives. “We were able to move very fast to deliver what we promised. The community is happy. The schools are happy. Now we have to sustain this program and we have to build on it.”

Globally, this is the first specialized university-industry program in gas-to-liquid (GTL) technology and is supported by the TEES Gas and Fuels Research Center, both in Qatar and the United States. This is also the first Texas A&M at Qatar initiative to address all three pillars of the academic institution in one program, combining elements of teaching, research and community outreach. 

“This program truly taught me about the gas industry in Qatar,” Marwan said.