Newswise — TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A professor at The University of Alabama is part of an international team performing geological research in northeast Pakistan aiming to understand where possible oil and gas deposits reside beneath the surface.

Dr. Delores M. Robinson, UA professor of geological sciences, joined a researcher from Pakistan to discover potential of hydrocarbon at the base of the Himalayas.

The project is part of the U.S.-Pakistan Science and Technology Cooperation Program, co-funded by the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, and implemented by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in coordination with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan

“This is an extension of my work in the Himalayas,” Robinson said. “I’ve worked in Nepal and continue to have projects there, as well northwest India and Bhutan, so the logical next place for me to go is into Pakistan. I have not been before.”

Access to the Pakistani-side of the mountain range to further her research into the geometry of the rocks and abundance of minerals in the region was an attractive reason to join the project, she said. Her partner is Dr. Shah Faisal of the University of Peshawar, who contacted Robinson because of her expertise in the area and experience with similar studies.

This jointly funded program increases cooperation between Pakistani scientists and institutions and their American counterparts and supports economic development in Pakistan in health, water, agriculture and energy. Robinson and Faisal’s project is one of 14 funded through the program this round.

Robinson and a doctoral student funded through the program will study the area in front of the Himalayas where rock is pushed upward and folded at the surface and underground, hoping to learn the geologic history of the area. With that, they will make a two-dimensional representation that will be used by Faisal to make a 3-D model.

Thrust belts, as they are called, often trap oil and gas, but there are not any deposits in Nepal or northwest India. In Pakistan, though, there are oil and gas seeps that suggest more below the surface, Robinson said.

“I’m not interested in finding oil and gas for them, but I am interested in where they could look,” she said. “If I can provide them with a good geometry, then they would know where to drill.”

Faisal could use the data collected and models created to collaborate with Pakistan’s energy companies, she said. The project is similar to work she has done in the Gulf of Mexico for North American oil and gas companies, she said.

“The idea is that we would use these data to help the economy of Pakistan,” Robinson said.

Besides training a graduate student, Robinson said the project will help understand an area not normally open to Western scientists.

“This will allow the publication of fundamental data that we would never get from Pakistan otherwise,” she said.