Petroleum Engineering Research Evolution and State of the Art
- L.P. Whorton (Atlantic Richfield Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 1971
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 115 - 121
- 1971. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.3.2 Multiphase Flow, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 5.5.2 Core Analysis, 2 Well Completion, 1.11.2 Drilling Fluid Selection and Formulation (Chemistry, Properties), 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 5.6.1 Open hole/cased hole log analysis, 5.4.6 Thermal Methods, 1.11 Drilling Fluids and Materials, 4.5.2 Platform Design, 5.4.1 Waterflooding, 2.2.2 Perforating, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 5.8.5 Oil Sand, Oil Shale, Bitumen, 5.2 Reservoir Fluid Dynamics, 5.4.3 Gas Cycling, 1.2.3 Rock properties, 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements, 4.1.4 Gas Processing, 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 5.5 Reservoir Simulation, 3.1.6 Gas Lift, 5.4.7 Chemical Flooding Methods (e.g., Polymer, Solvent, Nitrogen, Immiscible CO2, Surfactant, Vapex), 4.6 Natural Gas, 5.4.2 Gas Injection Methods, 1.14.3 Cement Formulation (Chemistry, Properties), 1.6.6 Directional Drilling, 1.10 Drilling Equipment, 4.2.3 Materials and Corrosion, 1.14 Casing and Cementing
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AIME members have been the vanguard of petroleum engineering research. A former Society President recalls some of the significant achievements, from the Carll era to date.
The evolution of petroleum engineering research is, to a large extent a story of AIME members and their contribution to petroleum technology. Long before any organized research effort existed in the industry, forward thinking stalwarts of AIME were innovating in the fields of drilling and well completion, and studying the properties of reservoir rocks and fluids. The line between research and engineering innovation is a fine one in truth such a line exists at all, and it is hoped that the reader will be tolerant of my decision of what to include under the title of "research". Similarly, indulgence is asked for omissions of personalities and achievements, however deserving personalities and achievements, however deserving they may be. Several individuals of long experience in various phases of petroleum engineering have made contributions to this paper. Appreciation is given to Stuart Buckley, Fran Faull and Lloyd Elkins for their suggestions of source material and for helping to eliminate several important omissions in my first draft. Elkins, together with John Calhoun and Dick Morse in group discussion with me made helpful suggestions and several corrections to the history from their personal knowledge. Lastly, the material of two books personal knowledge. Lastly, the material of two books History of Petroleum Engineering and Impact of New Technology, on the U. S. Petroleum Industry, 1946-1965 afforded a reservoir of factual data, as did selected volumes of Transactions, AIME. I have relied very heavily on these sources.
In the Beginning
Prior to the late 1920's little organized research was Prior to the late 1920's little organized research was undertaken. Progress in the mechanic arts and improvement of drilling and well completions equipment had been rapid in comparison with the progress in understanding the behavior of hydrocarbons in reservoirs and at the surface. And not until a knowledge from research was accumulated did there begin to emerge a sophisticated art of petroleum engineering.
Exceptions did exist, however, and perhaps foremost among the pre-1900 innovators was John F. Carll. During his 15-year tenure with the Pennsylvania Geological Survey, the first organized research in petroleum production was undertaken. Carll was a petroleum production was undertaken. Carll was a pioneer in laying the foundations of reservoir pioneer in laying the foundations of reservoir behavior, as well as the designer of numerous oilwell tools. But Carll was an exception. Before the first decade of this century the development of technology resulted primarily from independent engineers and "practical" individuals. Of historic interest the first use of Darcy's equation in studying underground water flow was reported around 1900 by C. S. Slichter of the U. S. Geological Survey.
The government led the way in organized research. The establishment of the Bureau of Mines Petroleum Div. in 1910 set up the first agency in the history of the petroleum discipline to make a concerted, coordinated effort to understand the mechanics of oil production. A. W. Ambrose and J. Lewis were among the production. A. W. Ambrose and J. Lewis were among the early researchers of note within the USBM's Petroleum Div. In 1971, Lewis published an important paper dealing with dissolved gas, capillarity and viscosity; and the work of Bureau men pointed the way for later industrial research laboratories.
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