Petroleum Engineering - SPE Legends of Production

Monday, August 31, 2009

Kermit E. Brown

Kermit Brown“Teaching has been my main objective most of my life,” said Kermit E. Brown. “It is something that I’ve enjoyed more than anything else I’ve done.”

Brown enjoyed a long career in academia, from an Assistant Professor and later Associate Professor in the Petroleum Engineering Department at the University of Texas beginning in 1955 to his retirement as Professor in the Petroleum Engineering Department at the University of Tulsa in 1990. In 1966, Brown moved to Tulsa as Professor and Head of the Petroleum Engineering Department and Associate Dean, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Tulsa. He later became Vice President of Research, and Chairman of the Resources Engineering Division.

Brown did his undergraduate studies at Texas A&M and his graduate work at the University of Texas. “I’m just a mixed up Aggie,” he says. Between his studies, he did a stint as a World War II pilot.

But Brown wasn’t always in academia. His post graduate work overlapped some of his teaching years. Among the companies, Brown was a Petroleum Engineer for Stanolind Oil and Gas Company and Garrett Oil Tools. He also worked for the Atomic Energy Commission as a Research Engineer in Austin, Texas. In 1956, when he was a gas lift engineering consultant, he began writing portions of the Gas Lift Manual  that transformed the way the industry viewed that technology.

Brown began teaching Petroleum Engineering courses in the mid 1950s at the University of Texas at the same time he began work on his M.S. degree. “Otis Engineering provided me a producing well in Bay City, Texas, to install gas lift equipment and instruments to record gas and liquid flow rates, pressures and temperatures. I used that field data for my M.S. and Ph.D. research,” Brown said. His graduate advisor told Brown that he must complete his Ph.D. if he wanted to continue teaching. “It was a tough go, but I decided to do it and completed my Ph.D. in June 1962.” He continued to work as a research consultant in the areas of gas lift and multiphase flow for Otis Engineering during the 1950s and 1960s.

Artificial lift methods became Brown’s specialty, and he wrote numerous books on the topic as well as many technical papers that were published in SPE journals. In fact, Brown views the books that he published as his favorite accomplishment. Among them are Gas Lift Theory and Practice, and The Technology of Artificial Lift Methods.

But while Brown was viewed as the gas lift authority, he credits his book titled The Technology of Artificial Lift Methods – Volume 4: Production Optimization of Oil and Gas Wells by Nodal Systems Analysis as one of the most important books in which he was involved. Joe Mach, another of this year’s Legends of Production and Operations, was a contributing co-author for this book for the section on Nodal Systems Analysis. “The book is still being used by the industry as well as by many students.”

“I’ve published other books that have been sold to the oil industry, and believe it or not, I’m still selling books,” Brown said. “But the most important one was on nodal analysis.”

Brown has been an active SPE member since the 1960s, serving on numerous committees as well as guiding several SPE sections, including Chairman of the Balcones Section in 1965-66. He also was an Executive Committee member of the Mid-Continent Section in 1968, and served on the SPE Board of Directors in 1970-71.

Among Brown’s many honors and awards is the SPE John Franklin Carll Award that he received in 1983. Brown also became an SPE Distinguished Member in 1983 and an Honorary Member in 1990. “My most special honor,” Brown noted, “was becoming a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1987. You won’t find many Petroleum Engineers in the organization but there are four from the University of Tulsa.”  

Dr. James P. Brill

Jim Brill“I have more time now for golf, tennis, traveling and grandchildren,” said Dr. James P. Brill of his retirement in 2000 after an extremely busy 35 year career in industry and academia, most of which was at the University of Tulsa Petroleum Engineering Department. He is now a Professor Emeritus and Research Professor of Petroleum Engineering at the university. T

hat doesn’t mean he has given up teaching entirely, however. He continues to teach annual short courses with Cem Sarica, the professor that replaced him on the faculty at the University of Tulsa, who also happens to be one of his former doctoral students. He also teaches courses for industry-related companies. Brill is co-authoring an undergraduate textbook with Eissa Al-Safran, another former doctoral student of his. Additionally, this past June he received a patent with two faculty colleagues and the University of Tulsa on “Extracting Gas Hydrates from Marine Sediments.”

And he says he still has time for golf, tennis, traveling and grandchildren.

Brill received a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1962 and his Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1966. Throughout his career in the oil and gas industry and academia, his areas of specialization were multiphase flow in pipes and oil and gas production. And in addition to his responsibilities at the university, he served as a consultant to more than 35 international oil and gas companies in a variety of multiphase flow projects around the world.

Brill began his career in academia and research in 1966 when he received a call from Dr. Kermit Brown, another 2009 Legend of Production and Operations. Brill also was a former doctoral student of Dr. Brown at the University of Texas.

“I had begun working for Chevron Oilfield Research Co. in California,” Brill explained. “When Kermit came to the University of Tulsa, he had a faculty opening and asked me if I would come there and teach. I would have preferred to have more industry experience, but this was an opportunity I could not pass up.”

Brill formed the Tulsa University Fluid Flow Projects (TUFFP) in 1973 to conduct research on multiphase flow in pipes. He served as its Executive Director until May 2001 and is now Director Emeritus. “Almost every company in the world that was involved in offshore activity belonged to this research consortium at one time or another,” Brill said.

He also founded and served as Executive Director for the Tulsa University Paraffin Deposition Projects (TUPDP) initiated in 1973, and for which he also is Director Emeritus.

Brill is co-author of the SPE monograph Multiphase Flow in Wells, and has published nearly 200 technical papers and research reports. One of the papers presents what he believes to be the greatest achievement of his career, the Beggs and Brill correlation. It was published in 1973 in SPE’s Journal of Petroleum Technology under the title A Study of Two-Phase Flow in Inclined Pipes. “Dale Beggs was one of my first doctoral students and his Ph.D. research was pioneering,” Brill said. “The correlation is still frequently used by engineers to design piping systems for multiphase flow.”

Brill notes that consulting work he did for Arco on observing and characterizing long liquid slugs in large diameter multiphase pipelines was his next greatest achievement. This work was documented in a 1980 SPE Journal publication with several coauthors, Analysis of Two-Phase Flow Tests in Large-Diameter Flow Lines in Prudhoe Bay Field

Among his many SPE activities during his career was serving as an SPE representative to the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission during 1989-94 and as the SPE representative to the ABET Board of Directors during 1994-2000. Brill also was an SPE Distinguished Lecturer in 1981-82, and served as Chairman of the U. of Tulsa/SPE Centennial Petroleum Engineering Symposium Steering Committee in 1994.

Included in the many honors and awards he received during his career are the SPE Distinguished Petroleum Engineering Faculty and the Production Engineering Awards, both in 1994;  the SPE John Franklin Carll and the Distinguished Member Awards, both in 1997; the SPE DeGolyer Distinguished Service Medal in 2008; and his selection in 2009 as an SPE Honorary Member.

“The ultimate award an engineer can receive is to be elected into the United States National Academy of Engineering,” Brill said proudly. He was elected to that elite group in 1997.

Despite all the honors and awards he received throughout his career, Brill states that “I hope my legacy will be my passionate pursuit of mechanistic and unified modeling of multiphase flow phenomena for the past 30 years.”  

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