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New Partners in Asia: USC Viterbi and China University of Petroleum (CUP)

Beijing workshop and MOU signal new alignment between Viterbi and one of China's premier universities for petroleum study.
Angus McColl
November 08, 2011 —

USC Viterbi School Dean Yannis C. Yortsos and four USC petroleum engineering professors recently presented a workshop in Beijing in collaboration with faculty from the China University of Petroleum (CUP), the premier university in China for the study of petroleum engineering. The two-day workshop took place on October 21 and 22 and was the idea of Viterbi alumnus and USC Trustee Chengyu Fu, chairman of Sinopec Corporation, China’s huge domestic oil exploration and distribution company and the largest refiner of petroleum products in Asia.

Dean Yannis C. Yortsos (right) joins Dr. Iraj Ershaghi
(center) in Viterbi's latest planned research collaboration
with a Chinese university: Chinese Petroleum University
(CUP). CUP was represented by (from left to right) Dr.
Xiaolin Wu, vice president; Prof. Wang Zhen, director of
China Energy Strategy Research Institute; Prof. Sun
Xudong, director of International Office; Provost Chen
Xiaohong, geophysics. The Beijing workshop and
meetings were later reciprocated on the USC campus in
a MOU signing between both institutions.
Chairman Fu graduated from USC in 1986 with a master’s degree in petroleum engineering and was Dean Yortsos’ student in two different classes. He last visited USC in April 2011 to receive the Viterbi Award for Global Leadership in Engineering. During a visit to Beijing the following month, Fu introduced Dean Yortsos to CUP President Laiban Zhang at Sinopec headquarters. The idea of a broader collaboration emerged, with the workshop a first practical step. 

The first day of the workshop was broadly attended by faculty and students alike. In a room packed to standing capacity, over 100 attendees heard keynote addresses by President Zhang, Dean Yortsos and Chairman Fu’s deputy, Yonggang Zhang, Sinopec’s deputy director of science and technology development. Dr. Iraj Ershaghi, director of USC’s Petroleum Engineering program, served as chairman of a session covering research. Viterbi School professors Dr. Fred Aminzadeh, Dr. Kristian Jessen and Dr. Behnam Jafarpour each presented topics from their current research at USC, along with leading Chinese colleagues also presenting their own research topics.

The first day concluded with a series of group discussions that carried over to the second. Ershaghi, Aminzadeh, Jessen and Jafarpour hammered out a draft research agenda with their Chinese counterparts for potential collaboration along three interesting tracks: shale gas exploration and development, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The Chinese faculty also gave their American guests tours of their research laboratories. Dr. Ershaghi noted, “We were stunned at how quickly we found common ground with our hosts. I think we can do some excellent work together.”

Less than a week later on October 26, a group of four CUP faculty visited USC led by CUP Vice President Dr. Xiaolin Wu and Director of International Programs Dr. Xudong Sun along with Professor Wang Zhen and Provost Chen Xiaohong. The American professors reciprocated the excellent hospitality they received in Beijing by continuing the collaborative discussion and conducting lab tours. By the end of the day they had drafted a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will serve as a roadmap for future collaboration, which was signed by Vice President Wu for CUP and Dean Yortsos and Provost Elizabeth Garrett for USC.

In signing the MOU, Dean Yortsos noted, “We are really excited about the opportunity to work with CUP. We have forged a common vision that could make it easier to meet China’s growing need for oil and natural gas. We hope China’s oil companies will enthusiastically support our collaboration, and we look forward to a productive partnership.”

More information is available (in Chinese) here.