THIBODAUX (AP) — A new laboratory at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux will give students hands-on experience with the kind of equipment used to prevent blowouts and other catastrophes on oil rigs.

Nicholls officials and industry executives last week unveiled the lab, which is named after Johnson L. “Bubba” Hale Jr., a Nicholls alumnus and oil industry executive. The Daily Comet reports ( that the Friday ceremony was one of the last formal steps before students in petroleum services and safety technology courses start using the equipment.

The lab is being paid for with more than $300,000 in state education and private oil industry sources.

The first phase includes six stations with a suite of machines such as real-world oil-field technicians use to monitor drilling sites. It also includes a computer lab for students to run simulations and work up reports.

“It’s one thing to try to explain a concept to someone and draw it on a board,” said Michael Gautreaux, instructor and program coordinator. “It’s another to have the machines there where they can actually do the hands-on work.”

Two more phases will eventually be added: a reservoir fluids lab and an environmental lab where students will test air and water samples for possible chemical contamination.

The project has strong support from oil industry partners, especially Tellus Operating Group, Turbo-chem and the American Association of Drilling Engineers. Overall, donations from business total more than $153,000, combining with a $184,000 grant from the state’s Board of Regents.

Ty Rivet, a drilling manager for Tellus, said his company supported the program because the oil industry needs highly trained graduates.

“This goes well beyond here, well beyond even Louisiana. We already have Nicholls grads working in Mississippi and elsewhere,” Rivet said. “And really, graduates from here will work all over the world.”

The laboratory is an example of Nicholls seeking money from outside sources to pay for new programs as financial support from state higher education shrivels. The school also recently announced a maritime management degree program, which will be paid for entirely by offshore companies seeking specialized degrees.


Information from: Daily Comet,