University of Saskatchewan

August 21, 2014   

$3 M in Software Donated for State-of-the-Art

February 12, 1999

Saskatoon, SK. Corporate donations of software valued at $3 million will give University of Saskatchewan researchers the best tools of any university in Canada for creating images of the interior of the Earth.

"We are extremely pleased to receive these donations. This new laboratory software will revolutionize what we are able to do within our geophysics program," said Zoltan Hajnal, professor of geophysics.

"It will also permit us to recruit high-calibre faculty and to attract more research dollars because we can undertake research work that is relevant to the needs of the potash and mining industries."

U of S researchers and students in geological sciences will now be able to create three-dimensional computer images of the Earth to several kilometres in depth, providing a spatial map of the Earth's interior. Previously, only two-dimensional images could be created from seismic field survey data.

"Think of the Earth as a layer cake," Hajnal said. "Until now, we could only 'see' the layers of the cake where we had made a vertical cut. With this new technology, we can make many slices and see how thick the cream filling is throughout the cake and even what the quality of it is."

While this software technology has been used elsewhere in oil and gas exploration, Hajnal's team will take a new step in applying it principally to the potash and other mining industries.

"In the past, we didn't know how big a mineral deposit was or what shape it was. Now we can map mineral formations both vertically and horizontally," he said.

" This new underground world will also reveal channels of buried rivers, ancient reefs, mountains, and many of the complexities of the geologic strata with very high precision."

The donations come from four international companies:

  • Landmark Graphics Corporation (Division of Halliburton Inc., largest oilfield service giant) of Houston, Texas -- $1.7 million
  • GeoQuest (Division of Schlumberger, the world's second-largest field service giant) of Houston -- $500,000
  • Seismic Image Software (partly owned by Fairfield Industries Inc., a major geophysical instrument company) of Calgary -- $600,000
  • Hampson and Russell Software Services Ltd. of Calgary -- $200,000

The total package of state-of-the-art software programs is unique at a Canadian university, Hajnal said. The programs will be run on computers in the department's Seismological Laboratory.

All the donor companies have had or still have U of S graduates working for them.

"These donations were received because throughout the years the exploration and the oil and gas industries recognized the novel professional qualities of our graduates," said Hajnal. "The excellent contributions these individuals make daily to the activities of these companies were the major factors which tilted these organizations' decisions to sponsor our program."

He noted Brian Russell, co-chair of Hampson and Russell Software Services Ltd., is a U of S graduate and president of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the largest international professional geophysical organization in the world.

U of S is one of only three universities in Canada chosen by Landmark Graphics to collaborate on geophysics research under the company's alliance grant program.

Hajnal noted the new software will greatly enhance the work his research team is doing as part of the nation-wide, $100-million geoscientific project called Lithoprobe.

In that 20-year study of the Earth's rigid outer shell or lithosphere, scientists create vibrations at the Earth's surface with huge 20-tonne vibrating trucks known as "dancing elephants" and then analyze the returning sound waves.

"This new software will help us fathom how this continent was formed during its four-billion-year history and what is happening down there today," he added.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Zoltan Hajnal
Professor of Geophysics
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-5694

Kathryn Warden
Research Communications Officer
Office of the Vice-President Research
(306) 966-2506

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