For more than a decade, geology students at West Virginia University have used the same advanced software used by oil and gas companies worldwide, expanding their marketability for industry jobs.
Petroleum Experts Limited has furthered this access with an in-kind gift of its MOVE software, valued at $2.2 million.
“Geologists have long struggled to work with ‘big data’ comprised of terabytes of diverse observations within a 3D framework that evolves through millions of years adding a fourth dimension,” said Tim B. Carr, chair of the Department of Geology and Geography. “Software such as MOVE provides our students the ability to better analyze and understand complex processes that shape earth.”
The MOVE suite is the company’s most complete structural modeling and analysis toolkit, featuring a platform for integrating and interpreting geological data, cross-section construction, 3D model building, kinematic restoration and validation, geomechanical modeling, fracture modeling, fault response modeling and fault and stress analysis. It provides a digital environment for structural modeling to reduce risk and uncertainty in geological models.
“MOVE allows you to study and model rock formations, mostly folding and faulting of rocks. There are geometrical rules as to how those folds can form. The software allows you to put in a fold, undo it and see if you end up with a geometry that is possible,” said Jaime Toro, professor of geology. “Then, you can compare what the computer produces to what happens in reality.”
Bertrand Gaschot, a master’s student in the Department of Geology and Geography, is using MOVE for his thesis research. He extracts structural information from a high-resolution topographic dataset collected using LIDAR and uses MOVE to create 3D geological maps and build models of West Virginia’s complex geology.
“Student access to MOVE is an excellent learning opportunity for students who want to increase their understanding of structural geology,” Gaschot said. “Geological structures are inherently 3D; however, structural geology is often taught with traditional 2D methods such as cross-sections and maps. This can make it difficult for some students to visualize and fully understand certain concepts. MOVE’s 3D capabilities can help solve that problem. It can also integrate a wide range of data types students may end up working with in the future, including well, seismic, remote sensing and field data.”
In addition to being used for faculty and graduate student research, the software is used in several graduate courses, including GEOL 645: Basin Analysis and GEOL 575: Imperial Barrel Competition.
“It’s important for students to have access to this kind of software because technology is critical, and it changes all the time,” Toro said. “It’s very important for students to be skilled in using these tools so they are ready to enter the workforce.”
Students enrolled in the Imperial Barrel Competition course train to test their skills against graduate student teams from all over the world. They receive a real multi-gigabyte set of geological data from the oil industry, analyze it in six weeks to understand the geologic history of a basin and present proposals for locating oil and drilling options.
“Learning to use software like MOVE makes students more attractive to employers and allows them to do their jobs better once they are in the workforce. In fact, we often hear from employers about how happy they are with the training our alumni received. Our students are ready to go,” Toro said. “Having technology like this makes us relevant as a program. It’s one of the reasons why students want to study at WVU.”
The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit corporation that generates and administers private support for the University.