The Permian Energy Development Lab unveiled

Introduced at the UT Energy Week panel discussion on Thursday at the University of Texas in Austin, an initiative called the Permian Energy Development Lab (PEDL) will address a broad scope of concerns, including the capture of carbon and its beneficial re-use and the management of methane and emissions.

A memorandum of understanding was announced among seven Texas and New Mexico colleges and universities, two national laboratories, and a center for advanced energy research, with spokesman Brett Holmes saying the laboratory and field research will start in November.

“In the short to mid-term, the Permian Energy Development Lab’s business model will work exclusively through the Internet and be solely focused on the Permian Basin,” Holmes said.

“All fieldwork will take place in the Permian, and any future physical facilities related to PEDL will be located in the Permian.

“The lab will foster collaboration from various scientific fields and leaders across business, government, and academic institutions. Its objectives are to conduct advanced energy research, strengthen the regional and U.S. economies and support energy-intensive communities and the natural resources they depend on.

“The initiative will ensure that the benefits of the transition to an advanced energy economy are equitably distributed and that workforce and educational opportunities are designed for the next generation of energy professionals.”

Holmes said the project was initiated by the Austin-based Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. The late George Mitchell was a Galveston geologist and Mitchell Energy & Development Corp. founder who proved in 1997 that fracking could be used commercially to free natural gas from shale.

Industry analyst-historian Daniel Yergin called Mitchell’s fracking technique “the most important and biggest energy innovation of this century,” and it has led to the reinvigoration of the global oil and gas industry.

Holmes said CGMF established the Mitchell Innovation Lab in 2020 “to focus on emerging issues and develop a portfolio of breakthrough sustainability ideas and opportunity areas to develop, seed, and incubate. “The PEDL is its first initiative.”

Marilu Hastings, CGMF’s executive vice president and director of the Mitchell Lab, said the planning stage for the Permian Lab began over two years ago and that related expenditures through this year will run as high as $7 million.

“We’ll announce the project at UT Energy Week and then formally launch around November 1,” Hastings said. “The partners have been working very hard for the past year to 18 months on planning and design.”

Asked if the Basin’s laboratory was an ambition of Mitchell’s before he died in 2013 at age 94, Hastings said, “No, but I believe he would be excited.

“I worked with Mr. Mitchell for a long time—13 years with the company until moving to the foundation 15 years ago. The lab is inspired by him and informed by the science and research he funded.”

She said a physical laboratory might be constructed at some point, but the emphasis will be “more on innovative work done in innovative ways that maximize the benefit and potential of the Permian Basin.

“We may be able to move beyond a brick and mortar model with high overhead and put more resources into the actual work,” said Hastings, a Midland Lee High School graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science at Duke University and masters in business and public policy at UT Austin.

Other goals of the project are to address carbon accounting and certifications, the circular economy of energy technologies and materials, renewable power, storage and integration, subsurface energy and long-term storage, low-carbon fuels, chemicals and energy carriers, energy systems infrastructure and water resource use, treatment and conservation.

The lab will also work on environmental monitoring and geographic information systems, regenerative agriculture, and land restoration and conservation.

The memorandum of understanding is among UT Austin, UTPB in Odessa, New Mexico Tech in Socorro, Odessa College, Midland College, National Technology & Engineering Solutions of Sandia in Albuquerque, UT El Paso, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, the Houston Advanced Research Center, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

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