The World's Most Sophisticated Energy Exhibit!
Explore the entire process of energy development, from how oil and natural gas are formed to the ways various types of energy are used. The Wiess Energy Hall explores the application of scientific concepts and advanced technology in the oil and gas industry. The hall incorporates dynamic interactive learning methods including computer graphics, touch screens, holographic video displays, and virtual reality.
“Our goal is to keep the Wiess Energy Hall on the cutting edge,” says Joel A. Bartsch, president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. “Everything in the exhibit is state-of-the art, from the new and developing energy technologies featured to the computer interactives that illustrate that technology in colorful detail.”
Did You Know?
Fossil fuels have only been in use for about 200 years. Many energy sources that are considered alternative today – such as wind and water power – were the primary source of energy for millennia of human history.
Oil is not found in underground pools, but rather in the tiny spaces of porous and permeable rock layers—much like water trapped by a sponge.
Texas is rapidly becoming the wind energy leader of the United States, with over 135,000 megawatts of potential wind energy, and projects generating over 1,200 megawatts already installed. A 278-megawatt facility at the King Mountain Ranch near McCamey is the largest in the state.
The human body generates energy by consuming food --- material from plants and animals that can also be referred to as biomass. Biomass in the form of corn can also be used to produce ethanol, a much cleaner-burning fuel than gasoline.
Oil formed from the remains of animals and plants that lived in a marine environment millions of years ago. Over time, layers of mud covered the remains. Heat and pressure turned the layers of mud into sedimentary rock, and the remains into crude oil.
Over one-fourth of the crude oil produced in the United States is produced offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Texas, Louisiana, Alaska and California are the top producers of crude oil in the United States.
One barrel of crude oil produces 19.9 gallons of finished motor gasoline.
Each of the 12 sections of the renovated Wiess Energy Hall is full of all-new, immersive excursions into the world of energy.
Embark on a fast-paced, animated adventure through the science and technology of energy production in the Energy Explorations Theater. This animated musical overview, inspired by the films of Pixar and the melodies of “Schoolhouse Rock,” serves as a fun-filled introduction to the hall, or as a feature highlight for visitors and student groups with limited time.
The Formation video wall takes visitors on a high-speed journey through the universe --- from the Big Bang to the formation of hydrocarbons --- with "The Origin of Energy," a three-minute high-resolution film at the entrance to the exhibit.
The Geology gallery features the surprisingly dynamic underground layers of rock that hold reservoirs of oil and gas. Control the motion of the continents over millions of years on a giant screen as you explore plate tectonics. Interact with the towering Rock Strata Wall, cast from actual Texas rock layers, including shale, sandstone, limestone and salt. At the touch of a screen, choose a topic to explore and see your selection come to life in full color on the rock.
The Geography gallery highlights the areas in which hydrocarbons are found around the world and how scientists use technology to look for them. Fly around the world exploring the top 800 oil and gas fields in the Global Oil Fields Information Center, which features satellite data presented on a 10-foot by six-foot interactive view of the earth.
The Exploration gallery features the latest techniques used to search for hydrocarbons, from magnetometers and gravimeters to seismic vibrator trucks. In the Geology in the Field interactive, gaze across a barren, mountainous landscape, and watch as holographic illusions of two petroleum geologists materialize and explain what they are doing in the middle of nowhere. A massive Vibroseis truck interrupts them, sending its booming vibrations deep into the rock below.
In the Drilling gallery, test your knowledge and luck as a wildcatter! Steer the path of a "designer well" and see if you have what it takes to strike it rich. Explore extreme methods of reaching oil --- from arctic drilling to drilling in the jungle. In the Well Logging interactive, you can lower a state-of-the-art logging tool down a borehole. Once in position, the tool deploys its mechanical sensor arms and slowly ascends, resembling a strange robot from science fiction. This tool generates a full color display that helps geophysicists decide where to drill.
The completely renovated Geovator returns to the Wiess Energy Hall, taking visitors on a simulated trip to the bottom of an oil well 7,285-foot deep, brought to life with large plasma screen "view ports," realistic computer animation, graphics, and a soundtrack featuring "Heather," the savvy onboard computer. Travel down the well bore to experience the sights ands sounds of oil production on the ultimate "insider's" tour!
In the Reservoir and Production gallery, you can immerse yourself in a Sub-sea Oil Production Facility. Watch submersible remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) explore a subsea wellhead and see bizarre creatures of the depths. Explore how the various methods of oil and gas production, such as the "horsehead pumps" seen in many Texas fields are used. Learn about improved recovery techniques like fire flooding, which involves igniting the oil to make it flow.
The Processes and Products gallery takes visitors through everything that happens in an oil refinery with full-color, 3D animation. Watch the swirling industrial tornado of the Vortex Separator remove sediment from newly pumped oil and discover how it makes use of centripetal force. Examine the inner workings of a modern Refinery, highlighted with bright, neon pipes.
The immersive, spherical-screen in the Energy Excursions Theater provides a 160-degree wrap-around movie experience. Travel across the country and under the oceans to explore the major sources of energy in the United States. Explore offshore energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, coal mining in Wyoming, wind and solar power production in California and hydroelectric power from the Hoover Dam in Nevada.
The Transportation and Distribution gallery features pipeline systems, power plants and other energy sources and delivery systems. See how a power turbine engine operates. Learn about the transportation and distribution technology of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Take control of the Energy Matrix and zoom around an enormous map to explore the vast network of pipelines snaking across the country and how our electrical grid interconnects.
The Alternative Energy Sources gallery explores other ways energy is generated. Marvel at a model of an experimental Tokamak fusion reactor glowing with energy from plasma. See a real fuel cell and learn how it works. Explore ocean tidal power, ocean wave energy, biomass, solar energy and more. The energy outlook for tomorrow seems blindingly bright when seen on 50-inch plasma screens in vivid detail.
Wiess Energy Hall Partners
The Museum wishes to thank its 2014-2015 Wiess Energy Hall Partners whose donations to the Museum’s Annual Fund provide support to further the Hall’s educational reach and strengthen the educational impact of the Museum’s programs as a whole.
2014 – 2015 Wiess Energy Hall Partners
Exxon Mobil Corporation
Marathon Oil Corporation
25,000 – 49,999
Aramco Services Company
Enbridge Energy Company, Inc.
Shell Oil Company
10,000 – 24,999
The Dow Chemical Company
Swift Energy Company