Marathon Oil Donates $35K Model Ship to the Cullen College


Natalie Thayer

Marathon Oil recently gifted a model Alvheim floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) ship to the petroleum engineering department at the UH Cullen College of Engineering.

Last year, the energy giant put out an open call to all Texas universities to compete to win the model ship. To enter the competition, schools were required to submit proposals that detailed their connection to the company and how they would utilize the model. The University of Houston was announced as the winner in early 2016 and the model was installed on the campus in late February. 

The model, elaborately detailed and valued at $35,000, is on display in front of the petroleum engineering academic advising offices in the Energy Research Park Building 9.

This gift is the latest milestone in a longstanding partnership between Marathon Oil and the UH Cullen College of Engineering. The company played an integral role in the re-launch of the bachelor’s program in petroleum engineering at UH, and has remained a major proponent of the program ever since. Marathon Oil was one of the program’s first donors, contributing $600,000 at the program’s inception in 2009. Representatives from the company also serve as members of the Petroleum Engineering Industry Advisory Board (IAB), which offers feedback and advice on the program’s curriculum from the perspective of industry professionals.

Cathy Krajicek, Vice President of Technology and Innovation at Marathon Oil, is the newest Marathon Oil representative to join the Petroleum IAB. Krajicek works closely with Bryan Wallace, the project manager for the actual Alvheim FPSO ship, which is stationed off the coast of Norway. Wallace said he is proud to represent the team that made the Alvheim FPSO ship a reality from concept to operation with this donation.

“This model provides students with an excellent visual of a world class FPSO facility and subsea development," Wallace said.

Thomas Holley, interim chair of the petroleum engineering department at the Cullen College, added that the model serves as a valuable educational tool.

“Students learn in different ways, so seeing something in three dimensions can be very beneficial,” he said. “[A model] also helps students understand scale.”

When an oil well is located far from shore or in ultra-deep water, a traditional pipeline may not be practical, efficient or cost effective. FPSO ships provide an alternative for storing and transferring oil and gas in such circumstances. These FPSO ships store oil and gas pumped from the oil well while smaller ships transport the oil and gas from the FPSO ship to the shore.

Marathon Oil continues to invest in the Cullen College’s petroleum engineering department and students by donating money for undergraduate scholarships and developing research agreements for graduate students.

Holley said he believes Marathon Oil sees such investments pay off in the quality of Cullen College graduates.

“I know that managers look for employees who are flexible and willing to work — and our students are,” he said. “They’re willing to jump in and do whatever’s necessary.”

During periods of downturn in the oil and gas industry, it is especially important to continue inspiring students across the nation to pursue STEM paths in college, Krajicek said.

“We value our relationships with UH and its faculty and students. Even through the current market down cycle, we continue to seek out creative ways to help inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Today’s students are our future talent,” she said. 

Holley said the petroleum engineering department is deeply grateful to Marathon Oil for their continued support.

“We wouldn’t have gotten where we are today without their support from the beginning,” he said. 

Marathon Oil Corporation is a global petroleum and natural gas exploration and production company headquartered in downtown Houston, Texas.


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