By Kalu Otisi

Ibrahim Labaran Bashar is a PhD scholar under the sponsorship of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).  His research work acclaimed globally to be novel and capable of breaking new grounds in engineering soils and rocks, stands him out as a scholar of Excellence. During the recent monitoring visit to PTDF scholars in the United Kingdom by PTDF Officials led by the Executive Secretary, Dr. Aliyu Gusau, Ibrahim was one of the high flying Nigerian students identified by the University of Portsmouth to be breaking new grounds in research in the area of rock and soil analysis.

His research on engineering geo-technical properties of clay formation using near infra-red spectroscopy analysis is receiving global attention as a novel investigation. There is a global drive towards the development of more time and cost efficient methodology for soil analysis because of high demand for large amount of high quality cost-effective soil data for use in environmental monitoring and modelling, agricultural practices and construction.

I caught up with Ibrahim in his small laboratory at the University of Portsmouth Geological and Environmental laboratories building, preparing samples for analysis. I asked him how the research was progressing ibrahim-labaran-bashar-ptdf-sponsored-phd-student-at-the-university-of-portsmouth-united-kingdom

A: Quite alright, I have to first of all thank the PTDF for giving me such an opportunity out of millions of other Nigerians. Actually this research has been of great interest not only in my country but worldwide. Recently I was given a chance to be in the midst of the best scholars in the world at a conference in Germany where I was invited as the only non postdoctoral student to attend the meeting. My research has also progressed tremendously.

Q: What exactly are you doing under this research?

A: I am looking at the engineering geo-technical properties of clay formations. I am looking at identifying the layers using near infra-red spectroscopy analysis.

Q: How far have you gone with it?

A: I have finished all my sampling work from the field where I collected about 13,500 samples which I measured both on wet and dry. Presently I am at the laboratory stage where I have completed 40% of my laboratory work and hopefully in a few months time I should be able to finish all the laboratory work and go into my interpretations, results and analysis and from there continue with my write ups.

Q: How relevant is the research outcome to the oil and gas industry?

A: Tremendous because this is the first kind of research we are using near infra-red to produce very high resolution whereby things that the naked eyes cannot see, we look at it and come out with a great outcome, which is of importance to the oil industry and to the construction industry.

Ibrahim Labaran Bashar’s Research is part of an integrated programme at the University of Portsmouth Centre for Applied Geosciences which seeks to exploit new technologies for more efficient and objective ground characterisation, such that the geotechnical properties of soil-clay mineralogy and moisture content can be more accurately and objectively measured with greater efficiency using the near infra-red spectroscopy.

From over 13,500 soil samples collected from London and part of the Chad Basin in Nigeria, initial results have been presented to international conferences and workshops, and have been accepted for publication in reputable international science journals.

Dr. Andy Gibson of the University of Portsmouth was Ibrahims’s MSc tutor and PhD first supervisor  dr-andy-gibson-ibrahim-labarans-supervisor-at-the-university-of-portsmouth-united-kingdom

Q:  He is doing something novel, why is it novel?

A: Its completely novel, its an exciting research where we are using near infra-red light to detect mineralogy, the particle size, the contamination potential and the oil potential of engineering rocks. We are using sensors which have never been used before. We are using softwares which have never been used before, we are bringing remote sensing to the ground and we are developing new instruments and new software to improve the efficiency of engineering to enable the capture of engineering data at a speed that is never before even been attempted.

Q: Is he dealing with soil or rock samples?

A: We have selected very recent deposits, we have chosen the London clay deposit. Its an engineering soil that most closely matches the primary formations in Nigeria. As Ibrahim is very concerned that his research findings has to be linked to a Nigerian problem, we decided to use an engineering soil which underlies railway tunnels, water tunnels all of them major constructions in London. So the research we are doing will benefit construction in the UK enormously as well as back in Nigeria.

Q: What is he doing that has never before now been investigated?

A: What’s never done before is how to analyse rocks and soils using near infra-red light in a rapid way. This has been done before using remote sensing. What Ibrahim is doing is that for the very first time, we are sampling rocks every single centimetre. We are analysing it centimetre by centimetre using the latest technology and we are able to identify layers which are rich in clay and will be dangerous if we are building a tunnel. We also identify layers that are very rich in sands and so will let a lot of water out. Nobody has ever taken the time or the technology in just developing where we can analyse materials at this speed. Its never been done because the technology is primarily remote sensing technology, so  we are using instruments that you will normally find inside a satellite and we  are now using that in field an laboratory to analyse things in 3D.

Q: How diligent is Ibrahim in conducting this investigation?

A: He has been an outstanding MSc student and PhD student and very incredibly diligent. He is a man who has collected 13,500 samples, each one of them captured carefully, each one of them has been scanned and prepared to the correct scientific protocols which we have designed, as they did not exist before this experiment. He is someone who I trust with this work. This is also enormously important to me and I trust Ibrahim, and I trust that he is producing some good stuff. He has published already, presented a poster at the University of Portsmouth PhD conference. He was asked to present at the University of Portsmouth research conference. He published at the British Science annual Conference, a large international conference we have every year in the UK and he was the only PhD student from Europe, who was invited to a recent European space agency funded workshop on spectroscopy which is an incredible achievement as no other PhD student was there, all of the other people there were post doctoral researchers or professors and Ibrahim research was different, novel and also he was able to have strong conversation with those people on the use of new technologies. He also just completed another training programme in statistical analysis of data. So I will have to say he is an outstanding student in every way.