Texas Tech University

Whitacre College of Engineering Unveils Plans for Valero Experiential Learning Laboratory

George Watson

August 4, 2017


An updated teaching laboratory for the Department of Chemical Engineering is made possible with a $1 million gift from the Valero Energy Corporation.


As the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering continues to grow in national stature, ensuring the availability of up-to-date experimentation and teaching facilities is a high priority, both to produce high-quality students and to retain outstanding faculty.

The Valero Energy Corporation, a San Antonio-based Fortune 50 Company, has recognized those efforts with a $1-million gift that will provide Texas Tech University engineering students one of the most advanced teaching laboratories in the country.

In recognition of the gift, the facility will be named the Valero Experiential Learning Laboratory.


"We are thankful for this partnership with the Valero Energy Corporation as it invests in Texas Tech students who are making a difference in the world," said Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan. "World-class facilities are critical for spurring innovation and impactful research. This investment will help establish the infrastructure needed to provide invaluable opportunities to faculty, staff and students."

A critical teaching laboratory within the Department of Chemical Engineering, the approximately 2,000-square-foot facility will be relocated from its current location in the basement of the chemical engineering building to the Livermore Center. This will increase the space for the laboratory by 65 percent, allowing the department to significantly increase the types and quality of experimental setups.

"Valero is proud to contribute to the state-of-the art experiential learning laboratory at Texas Tech," said Lane Riggs, Valero executive vice president of refining operations and engineering. "It is important to provide excellent facilities to students. The hands-on experience will prepare them to become better engineers and industry leaders."

The laboratory will showcase small-scale and benchtop experiments, including a gas absorber, fluidized bed, microscope, bioreactor and gas chromatography unit, with several new experiments planned for the laboratory, including a process-control trainer and reaction-engineering equipment.


"Valero's generous contribution reflects the confidence and appreciation of globally leading corporations in our research and education missions," said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president. "Texas Tech University is grateful to Valero for this gift, which will benefit future engineering graduates and the industry."

The new laboratory also will contain separate areas for materials and bioengineering experiments. It also will serve as an observation area, which will allow the department to showcase the laboratory to students for outreach and recruitment purposes. A process control room for a planned pilot-scale distillation facility also is part of the renovation. 

"We are thrilled with the investment that Valero has made in the undergraduate program in chemical engineering here at Texas Tech," said Sindee Simon, chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering. "This partnership will ensure that our undergraduates have access to advanced facilities and that we continue to produce outstanding engineers. The renovation of our teaching laboratory is particularly important because it is here that students apply the theory they learn in other classes to real-life examples and complex situations."


Valero is a premier manufacturer and marketer of transportation fuels and other petrochemical products, employing approximately 10,000 people with assets including   15 petroleum refineries, 11 ethanol plants, and pipelines, terminals and other transportation logistics.

"We thank Valero for helping us create a hands-on learning environment covering many aspects of Unit Operations, helping students solidify their understanding while simultaneously creating a culture of safety," Whitacre College of Engineering Dean Al Sacco said. "This laboratory is part of our overall curriculum to emphasize safety practices in all we do. This hands-on learning environment will help us continue the long tradition at Texas Tech of producing practical engineers who are innovative and hit the ground running."

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