Oral-History:Alain Gringarten

About Interviewee

Dr.Gringarten holds the Chair of Petroleum Engineering at Imperial College in London, where he is also director of the Centre for Petroleum Studies. He has made major contributions in many breakthrough advances in well test interpretation, including: the use of Greens functions; the "Gringarten type curves" for wells with wellbore storage and skin, fractured wells, and wells with double porosity behavior; the first major commercial computer-aided interpretation software; and a well-test interpretation methodology which has become standard in the oil industry. He was also an early pioneer of multidisciplinary studies, both in industry and in academia. He was responsible for the development and world-wide implementation of well test interpretation services and was in charge of PVT laboratories at Flopetrol-Schlumberger in Melun, France. Dr. Gringarten is a recognized expert in well test analysis and has authored or coauthored more than 80 technical papers.

About the Interview

Alain Gringarten: An interview conducted by Fritz Kerr for the Society of Petroleum Engineers, September 30, 2013.

Interview SPEOH000108 at the Society of Petroleum Engineers History Archive.

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Interview Video

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Alain Gringarten
INTERVIEWER: Fritz Kerr
OTHERS PRESENT: Amy Esdorn, Mark Flick
DATE: September 30, 2013
PLACE: New Orleans, Louisiana

KERR:

Why did you decide to work in the petroleum engineering industry, and how did you get involved?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, after high school I didn’t really know what to do. My father was a chemical engineer, and so naturally, I wanted to become a chemical engineer, and then I interviewed with a school counselor who showed various possibilities, and gave me a booklet on petroleum, which was mainly exploration, at the time. And so, from that point on, that sounded interesting, and that’s what I wanted to do. So then I went on to engineering school, which in France is a general engineering school, but at the section at the in the third year, in petroleum engineering, which I took. And then I applied to Stanford for the Fulbright grant, travel grant, and I went to Stanford, did my Master and PhD there, and that’s how I joined the oil industry.

KERR:

Very good. We’re going to continue on those lines, cuz there seems to be more to it, as far as how did you get involved in the industry, so I like the idea of you talking about right out of high school you wanted to follow kind of in your father’s footsteps, in engineering, and you went to Stanford and such. So, let’s elaborate a little further now maybe post-Stanford because that’s maybe when you got into the industry. So perhaps the question would be, “How did you get involved in the industry portion of petroleum engineering?”

GRINGARTEN:

OK, I, you know after Stanford, I was nominated by Stanford to the position of—or you know, proposed—position of Miller Fellow for Basic Research in Science in Berkley. So I spent two years there doing research, mainly, in fact, in geothermal. I also developed mathematical techniques for the oil industry, which was a paper on Greens Functions. After my two years, I went back to France, because that was a requirement for the Fulbright travel grant. I did one year of military service, and then I joined the French Geological Survey, doing--for about four years--doing geothermal, which I had started at Stanford and Berkley. And then I was recruited, in fact, by [the] company of Schlumberger, which was called Flopetrol, which wanted to start well testing operation service, and so that’s when I really entered the industry. And of course, my training had been at Stanford with Professor Hank Ramey, who was a specialist of and the creator of modern well test analysis, so I had the perfect background for it.

KERR:

OK, Can you share with us, you said you worked at Schlumberger for a period of time. Go ahead, and tell us more specifically, you know, what you--when you joined the Schlumberger Company.

GRINGARTEN:

I joined Schlumberger to create a well testing operation service, and so what I did is find a number of engineers. You know, initially, I tried to have reservoir engineers, but that was in 1978, and you couldn’t find reservoir engineers, and so I took some engineers with different background[s] that were working at Schlumberger in the well testing area, and I created service by training them, and developing the methodology which is now used in the oil industry. And the methodology was essentially developing a process which would be—would provide consistent and reliable interpretation with check[s] and balance[s] that the engineer could rely upon and that could be provided to the client to show him—to give him confidence in the analysis that engineers were doing.

KERR:

What discipline within the industry did you work, and what drew you to that particular discipline?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, my discipline, my trade, is well test analysis, and I was driven to it because of my MSc and PhD at Stanford. As I said, the--when I joined Stanford in 1968, it was a very small department by nowadays standards. In the MSc programs, we were about ten. There were maybe four to five students in the PhD program, and there were three faculties: Professor Ramey, who specialized in well test analysis, the head of the department, Dr. Miller, and Dr. Sully Marsden. So that was the faculty, so it was a very small department, and Professor Ramey had really, really written a lot of papers and developed new methods and promote new methods in well test analysis. I did my Master and PhD with him, and so my choosing well testing as a discipline came naturally out of that.

KERR:

Along those same lines, since 1997, you have been the Director of the Centre of Petroleum Studies at Imperial College in London, correct?

GRINGARTEN:

That’s correct.

KERR:

What led you to pursue work in academia after serving twenty-five plus years in the oil and gas industry?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, I’d always, the intention…

KERR:

What led me to…The question is

GRINGARTEN:

Yes.

KERR:

What led you to pursue work in academia after serving for twenty-five years in the oil and gas industry?

GRINGARTEN:

OK, working, you know, going to university after twenty-five years of working in the oil industry—[the] service part of the oil industry--was something I had in the back of my mind, and the opportunity came in ‘97 when Imperial College, you know, asked me if I wanted to join. The head of the department, at the time, petroleum engineering, was moving on to become vice chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, and so they were looking for somebody to take on that department and revive it because it had been slowly decaying over the years. And so, that sounds like more of a management challenge than a technical challenge, and so, you know, I accepted the offer.

KERR:

During your career in industry, what precipitated your interest in going into academia?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, I was interested to go to academia at some point, you know, and not defined.

KERR:

Perhaps we can start the answer with something like, “What precipitated my interest in,” or “I had always been interested in academia,” something like that. So you’re including the question a little bit.

GRINGARTEN:

Yeah, I’ve always been interested in going into academia at some point, but what triggered my going was the offer by Imperial College. As I said, it was a challenging position, and it seemed to be the right move at the time. I’d been approached before by Professor Ramey at Stanford to join the faculty, but at the time, I thought it was too early in my career, but when the offer came from Imperial College in 1997, it was--I thought it was the right time to go. And so, I’ve been there for fifteen years.

KERR:

Why have you always thought about it (working in academia)?

GRINGARTEN:

Ah, well, I don’t think it was that elaborate, but I did research. I was always doing research, except my years in--for fourteen years with Scientific Software in Schlumberger, where I was really in management. But I always kept well test analysis as a side project, and yeah, there was no real—it’s simply you know, when you have a PhD, that gives you the ability to go and teach. Which is where you can do research, have student[s] do research for you, you can teach, and so I was doing some of that to some extent, while I was working. And again, what triggered the move was an offer. I wouldn’t have applied by myself, but that was a good opportunity.

KERR:

And how long have you been in academia?

GRINGARTEN:

I’ve been at the Imperial College for fifteen years now.

KERR:

Fifteen, wow.

GRINGARTEN:

Yes, and it has been very productive. You know, I’ve been reorganizing the MSc program along the line of integrated reservoir management. I’ve done--I have research funding through joint industry project, you know, funded by industry, and I’ve had quite a number of PhD students, so it’s been, research-wise, very, very productive.

KERR:

My guess is you’ve impacted the lives of many students.

GRINGARTEN:

Well, I’ve had, if you count an average about forty to fifty for fifteen years, that’s quite a number of students, and I’ve had--I counted the other day that on some subject, I had over sixty MSc projects, so these are the students that I directly supervise, so there has been quite a number of students, yes.

KERR:

Any memorable students? Anybody that’s gone on to become a well-known person in industry?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, some of the students have done very well. You know, all of the students have done well, but some have done particularly well. One, I went to Iran to recruit, you know, that was in 1998. He’s the vice president of Schlumberger. Another student was an undergraduate when I came. He is the vice president for Shell. And so, some of the students have done quite well.

KERR:

What were some of the important technological milestones in your discipline during your career?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, there has been a number of milestones in my discipline. I was lucky to come in that discipline at the time where there was a lot to do, and as I said, my professor at Stanford, Hank Ramey, had introduced a number of improvements. One was the long log analysis with pressure, which was introduced in the late 60s. I think I have contributed to a number of other milestones since then. One was the work on the Greens Functions, which allowed [one] to generate solutions for a large number [of] problem[s] very easily, and then a number of progress were triggered by my job at Flopetrol Schlumberger. One was establishing a [indecipherable] methodology for well test analysis, putting together the many different techniques that were existing, but were used independently, and putting all them in a [indecipherable]. Another contribution which was done in my team—you know, I had moved on at the time to the US as director of engineering--was the derivative analysis, which was one of the milestone[s], and another milestone was deconvolution, which I developed in the early 2000[s]. In fact, I’ve written a paper, which is from, the title is “From straight line to deconvolution: The evolution of the state-of-the-art well test analysis,” which shows that there has been a new milestone about every twenty-five years, which you know, improved the quality and the confidence in the analysis. So, a lot of things, a lot of progress has been made since I started.

KERR:

Can you elaborate?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, you know, a number of these milestones have been brought about by changes in measurements. You know, in 1970, but really, after 1973, pressure measurements were made with electronic gauges, quartz crystal string gauge, which gave a much better definition; better frequency of the data, better quality, better resolution. So that improved the information you could get from well test analysis. Other[s] were different practice, like horizontal wells, for which new solutions were required; you know, fractured horizontal wells and so on and so forth. New permanent gauges that gave permanent recording of what’s going on in the well. So, these are the improvements in the practice of well test analysis, for instance, that have required improvement in the analysis method. I’ve made--in my course, I present a graphic of invention or milestone versus time, and also the number of papers that mention well test analysis or well test in the SPE, and it went from almost a few tens of papers when I started to hundreds of paper nowadays. And so, it’s an exponential increase.

KERR:

What were some of the technological challenges that you faced in your career?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, the main technological challenge that I faced, were really trying to develop well test analysis techniques that would be reliable. You know, one of the problem[s] of image, in fact, that well test analysis had was that method that existed, for instance, in the fifties: you know, the Horner Method, the MDH Method, and even the log-log analysis of pressure because they were used independently from one another gave—could give very different results. And so, in fact, there was an exercise organized by the SPE about interpretation of different tests where the results varied from 0.2 millidarcy to 2,000 millidarcy for the same data. And so, that gave a bad name to well test analysis where basically the conclusion was, well, you can get whatever you want. And so, the challenge was to change that by developing a methodology that would link all the various methods together so that [the] interpreter would always get the same results. So that was mainly the challenge. And then methods to do that, then evolved--were developed, as time went on. Again, as I said, a new milestone had been reached about every twenty, twenty-five years. So, sort of by chance, you know, a derivative was developed by trying something. You know, we had developed the type curves, different type curves. Deconvolution is something that had been tried before for fifty years, never get to anything stable. And, we manage, at Imperial College to come up with an algorithm that is stable, and therefore is now in big use in the industry.

KERR:

[Audio break]…to linking it up. So, some of the technological challenges you had were that existing analysis weren’t as reliable, and then through methodology, and research and such that you were involved in, perhaps, may have helped it become more reliable, is that what you’re...?

ESDORN:

Well, how. I guess, what I’m asking is the how, if you could explain that a little bit because our audience is to be members of SPE, but also the general public, so if you could sort of elaborate on how those sort of needed to be connected and the methodology [inaudible].

GRINGARTEN:

OK, um, well, I can start with why the methodology for well test analysis has been developed. As I said, I was in charge of well test interpretation in Flopetrol, and the goal was to send engineers on the rig to control--to supervise, the well test and interpret the results right there on the rig, and so they needed to have a way of providing confidence to themselves and the client that their analysis was the best possible that could be done. And so, the issue with previous analysis or methodology or lack of methodology, if you want, was that the methods were developed independently. For instance, there is a method, which is called the Horner Plot which is mainly used for identifying rate of flow. And rate of flow on that type of plot gives a straight line. And so, what the interpreter would do is draw a straight line through data that looked like a straight line, and use that to calculate the probability. However, they had no criteria for deciding whether the straight line that they had drawn did indeed represent rate of flow or something else. And then they would use another method, let’s say MDH or, excuse me (coughs), log-log pressure analysis and identify rate of flow there, but--independently of what they had done on the Horner Plot. And very often, they were picking different data that were differ--data set or data region that were different, and then one would--could represent rate of flow, and one would not. And so, they would get different results. And so, the idea was to make sure that we had a process where you could identify rate of flow on one plot, and then verify it on some other plots so that, at the end, the choice of the flow period would be consistent. And then from there, develop a mathematical model that would match all the data on different type[s] of plots. And so that would provide a visual way for the interpreter to--to prove to himself that his analysis is consistent, and to prove to the client that the analysis is consistent. So that was the process that was put in place.

KERR:

What do you consider the most important contributions you have made in your career and why?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, the most important contribution, I think—well, there are a few, but they are all around the same area. I think the methodology was the most important. Also, nowadays, it is taken for granted, but at the time, you know, it was really not obvious. So, I think that my contribution[s] were first, the work on Greens Functions, which allowed [one] to develop solutions, very easily for a number of problems for horizontal wells--partially penetrating wells, fractured wells--which were difficult to obtain before that method became available. (Coughs) Excuse me. The other one, as I said, is the methodology, and then there were—and the last one has been the deconvolution, which I think has changed, has allowed [people] to obtain more information from existing data. Also, not directly involved, I have contributed to the derivative which was also a milestone, a major milestone by--because that was developed by people from my team, Dominique Bourdet and Tim Whittle, after I had moved on to a management position in another company of Schlumberger.

KERR:

Why did you create the first major computer-aided interpretation software for well test interpretation?

GRINGARTEN:

Developing the software was part of the methodology. Again, for the well test interpretation software—sorry, for the well test interpretation service at Flopetrol, the engineer[s] were not going to do it by hand. So I designed a software, which somebody else wrote, to implement the methodology. And so the, in fact, we--the software was implemented at the time, which was HP25 computer, and so the engineer would leave for the rig with two suitcase[s]: one with the HP25, and the other one with the printer and so they would be able to—and we—the software engineer wrote a word processor so the students—sorry, the engineer could, you know, interpret the test, and then write a report and print it right on the spot and then would leave the rig and leave the well test interpretation report to the client. [Audio break]…really well.

KERR:

Do you want to elaborate a little bit further on that particular question? Why did you develop—really the why. What, what reasoning, if you will, why did you develop the first major computer-aided interpretation? Do you have something you could elaborate a little bit more on that?

GRINGARTEN:

Yes.

KERR:

Please.

GRINGARTEN:

Yeah, the software was developed because it was needed to implement the methodology that the engineer would use. And that would allow to--because before, for instance, [the] consultant--the service company like Flopetrol--were measuring the data at the time, didn’t want to do the analysis because they thought that was the job of the operator. In fact, I had interviewed for a similar position a few years before by Johnson Macco, which was the similar company of Schlumberger in the US as Flopetrol, and I had interviewed at Flopetrol, and I was told at the time that Johnson Macco wanted to do the analysis, but Flopetrol thought that it was not appropriate for a service company to do that. And so, the analysis was done, possibly, by consultants who would take the data and return the report after many weeks. And the idea here, with well test interpretation service in Flopetrol was to do the test, write the report, give the report, as part of the test process, and so the report would be given to the client as the engineer would leave the rig. So it was instantaneous turnover, if you want, and the software was developed for that--to exactly implement the methodology that we were using. And that software, later on, when I joined Scientific Software Intercom, became the--I mean, I rewrote it, but the concept was, you know, very similar, and it became the first commercial software ever sold. In fact, we sold it to Texaco in December, 1983, and that was the start of an industry, PanSystem, Kappa Engineering, and so forth.

KERR:

How did the development of the Gringarten Type Curves advance well test interpretation, and how did this impact the industry?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, what is called the Gringarten Type Curves are in fact several, and they—well, it started at Stanford. My PhD thesis at Stanford was the development of a solution for a well with a horizontal fracture which is something that doesn’t exist in the oil industry because mostly a fracture are vertical, but it was a solution that didn’t exist. But from that solution, then emerged later on the Greens Functions, which allowed [one] to solve—find, you know, an [unintelligible] solution for a wide range of problems. And so one of the solution[s], which was useful, was for vertical fracture. And so that was the first practical solution for this kind of problem, and that has been adopted, right away, for the industry to analyze this kind of problem. Later on, then, another solution was developed by Heber Cinco in his thesis, which was a finite conductive fracture; my solution was an infinite conductive fracture. The next type curve was when I was in Flopetrol. Again, for the well was wellbore storage and skin and homogenous behavior. There were, at the time, two type curves, in fact three type curves available in the industry. One was by McKinley from Exxon, one was by Professor Ramey at Stanford, and another one was by Earlougher and Kerch from Marathon. And only one by [unintelligible], the first two were expressed in variables that were not independent, and therefore, didn’t provide a unique answer. The solution by Earlougher and Kerch was in dimensional variables that were pseudo-independent. And so, I extended that curve to develop a type curve for wellbore storage and skin that would provide a more unique answer than what was available before. And so that was again, adopted by the industry. And so the next one, following the data we were receiving from the field in Flopetrol, was one for double porosity behavior, which was used for the analysis of naturally fractured reservoir. And that was again, adopted by the industry. So, these were tools that were easy to use by hand and that was the norm before computer-aided analysis was available on computer.

KERR:

What problems did it solve?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, the type curves provided a tool which was easy to use to do analysis for specific configurations of well and reservoir, and the--this tool didn’t exist before. And so, therefore, they allowed [one] to do analysis that people couldn’t do before. And not only that, but also to recognize that the data were such that those type curves are to be used.

KERR:

What specific data were the curves designed to find?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, the type curves were designed to interpret well tests. Well tests are--in well tests, what you measure is the pressure, preferably at the bottom of a well with a gauge, and that pressure changes with the rate at which the well is produced. And so, the—there is a relationship between the pressure and the rate, and that relationship is given by the model, the mathematical model, if you want, which represent[s] the well reservoir behavior. And so, the type curve[s] were designed to analyze the change of pressure for a given production rate. Usually, what we analyze are buildups, where the well is shut in. And that’s what the type curves were designed to analyze.

KERR:

You were an early pioneer for advocating for multidisciplinary studies in both academia and in the field. What was the impetus that compelled you to do this and why is multidisciplinary study so important to the petroleum engineering field?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, multidisciplinary studies are important in the study of reservoirs because the understanding of the reservoirs, the characterization of the reservoir, is like a puzzle. You have pieces of the puzzle and—that come from interpretation of different type[s] of measurements, and so you have seismic measurements; you have the knowledge of the geology, you know, how the reservoir was created; you have logs that measure the property of the reservoir versus depth; you have dynamic data, like well tests; and all of these, you know, provide a piece of the puzzle, and they have to be put together to understand the reservoir, to get the reservoir model.

And this is a fairly new concept in the petroleum engineering. When, in fact, the reason why I joined Flopetrol, why Flopetrol came and recruited me was that there was, under Jean Riboud, who was the CEO of Schlumberger, he organized every four year[s], the meeting of the managers or people that had potential to discuss a number of issues. And there was, in 1977, I believe, one such meeting in Florida, and Schlumberger wanted--at the time, Schlumberger did not measure pressure; Flopetrol was measuring pressure. Schlumberger was doing logs, essentially. And, but they wanted to go into the interpretation of data and reservoir simulation, and so they invited Farouq Ali at the time to give a talk about ‘what is reservoir simulation?’

And so he explained the finite element--the finite difference, you know, how you do simulation. And somebody asked him, “How do you use logs for your simulations? And he said, “Logs?” Like, what has that to do with simulation? So this illustrates the fact that simulation was completely disconnected from the reservoir. You know, at the time, the concept was that all the reservoirs were like layer cakes with homogenous properties throughout, and the models were fairly simple. And so simulation engineers didn’t really need any data to do their simulation.

And the first evidence of heterogeneity came when Elf, for instance, drilled the first horizontal well in 1982 in Rospo Mare. Where, to their surprise, they found that the reservoir was changing specially. And so that was the first concept to petroleum engineers that things were not as they originally were thought to be. And at the time, reservoir engineers didn’t talk to geologists. You know, the typical process, the geologists would draw a geological map, the reservoir engineer would modify the map to suit his matching of the data, and that map would never go back to the geologist, and you would end up with a geology modified by the reservoir engineer that was totally unrealistic or inconsistent.

And so, through the years, the concept came up that maybe all the people interpreting measurements should cooperate. And so, in my particular case, I started being interested in that when I joined Scientific Software Intercom, and I was Executive Vice President of the software products and consulting. And, again, we needed to have a methodology and a process with the software, and that’s where I came up for that company, was the concept of integrated reservoir management, and we developed too, which was the petroleum workbench to be able to do that.

So, when I came to Imperial to teach, then that’s how I reorganized the Master[‘s program] because in most universities, all the disciplines for petroleum engineering were being taught, but at random. For instance, you would start with Production, maybe have you some Geology at the end, and it was really difficult for students to really understand the process. And so, where I, what I did was set up a map where you start with Data, and then you go through the interpretation of the data, the integration of the interpretation of the model, to a reservoir model, the calculation of the simulation model and then, on to Economic Models, Surface Facilities, and so on to end up with Management Decision. And so that was a map which we implemented as a teaching. So we would follow that map for the teaching of the MSc, and that has been quite successful.

KERR:

So, tell me about how you’ve kind of combined the disciplines at Imperial College.

GRINGARTEN:

When I came to Imperial, then I came with that map of reservoir management process which I implemented into the MSc. And we had three MSc programs in petroleum: one, Petroleum Engineering; Petroleum Geoscience; and Petroleum Geophysics. And, these two—these three MScs have been integrated. So, what I set up is an MSc in Petroleum Engineering program which has five modules. One being Fundamentals, where they learn the definitions, the equations, and so forth.

We have another module which is Reservoir Characterization, where the students learn how to interpret the data to characterize a reservoir, and those two—first two modules are jointly taken by the three MScs. And then they apply those two modules to the field, which currently is the Wytch Farm Field, which had been operated by BP before they sold it, in Dorset. And so, we have teams of typically three petroleum engineers, two geoscientists, one geophysicist, that study a data room, and come up with a 3D representation of the reservoir and evaluation of the site [study].

And then,let’s say seventy percent of the course in the first term, which are the two modules, October to December, are taken jointly by the three MScs. And then, the next term, the MScs separate. You know, the geologists go to Exploration, the geophysicists do more geophysics, and the petroleum engineers go into Production. And so there we have a module which is Well Performance. Then we have a module which is Reservoir Performance. Then we have a module which is Field Development.

And so, at each step, at each module, we have all the ingredients that enter into the field Development. And the other thing we have done is the students study in the module sequentially. So, for instance, we don’t have, like as is typical in the university, you know, one course in the one discipline every week. We have block teaching where we teach the discipline in one go. So, it could be a few days, it could be one week, it could be up to two weeks, where we teach that discipline, then move to the next one down the chain.

KERR:

So that integration of the different disciplines there, my sense is that your engineers that you graduate from Imperial College, they—they have a better foundational base of all of the three disciplines that you teach there. Is that one of the reasons why you do that?

GRINGARTEN:

Yes, the idea was this is how they are—we’re going to work. It’s-- it was not easy to implement because the department[s] were set. For instance, we had the Department of Geology separate from the Department of Petroleum Engineering, and while they were on different budgets, then you couldn’t cooperate, and so we basically cancelled—we merged the two departments. And so then they--it took about four years to do that. Another big fight was the titles of the modules because it was like, typically, in university you had Petroleum Engineering I, Petroleum Engineering II, Reservoir Engineering I. Whereas the modules are set by objectives, which is Reservoir Characterization, Well Performance, Reservoir Performance, and so forth. So we had to make some change[s], in fact, in the faculty to be able to implement that. But, it helps the students work—and that’s one of the objectives of the course, which I set up at the beginning, is to be able to work effectively in multidisciplinary teams, and also in multicultural teams because we have a minimum of twenty-two nationalities in the MSc in Petroleum Engineering. And so that allows the student to interface with people from different culture[s], different background[s]. And in terms of interdisciplinary communication, the geologist[s] learn what everybody [else] learn[s]-- their contribution to the final product. You know, and so, everyone knows what to expect from the other, and when, you know, to get the information from the other…[Audio break]

KERR:

Alain, what do you consider the most significant changes that occurred in the industry over the course of your career? Significant changes over the course of your career?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, the significant change during the course of my career has probably--is probably the availability and reliability of data. When I started, for instance, pressure was measured with mechanical gauges, which were downhole gauge[s]. So you had to lower the gauge at the bottom of the well, leave it for a certain duration, which was limited, pull it back, and then read the chart, which were imprinted. And so you had low time resolution; you could read less than 2.5 minutes, roughly, and you had limited pressure resolution. And it was limited, so you had only data when you run a test. You know, running a test was lowering the gauge, taking the measurement, pulling the gauge. Nowadays, we have permanent gauges, and we could have many years—ten years or more of continuous recording, recording at the bottom of the well. And so, you know exactly what’s going on in the well, and now with deconvolution, you can analyze all this data and see things that you wouldn’t hope to see otherwise, like recharge from different layers, band rays, and so on and so forth. Things that would appear only after several years, and so, you couldn’t have a buildup, for instance, lasting that long.

KERR:

You’ve been in the business a long time, so I’m anticipating that you’ve seen a tremendous amount of, a tremendous number of changes, so mechanical gauges versus, you call them permanent gauges, the ability to get real time data, again, you know, the ability to bring it up the hole, if you will, and analyze it with the computer and such. But because you’ve been in the business so long, I’m thinking there are other significant changes that you’ve seen occur. Elaborate some more, please.

GRINGARTEN:

Well, there are also change in the way the fields are operated. For instance, vertical fractures have been initiated in 1947, so that was before my time (chuckles). I was born, but, you know, that’s about it. But finite conductivity fracture, massive hydraulic fracs were created in the early seventies, so I’ve seen that. Horizontal wells came about at the beginning of 1980, so I’ve seen that. Multiple fractured horizontal wells came reasonably recently, within the last ten years. So there has been a number of changes, and of course, deep drilling [of the] Gulf of Mexico and so forth. And the shale revolution has been something that is quite new and nobody really saw coming. So, yes, there has been many, many changes from when I started, where things were simpler (chuckles).

KERR:

So, you’ve seen these changes occur. How do you feel that it’s impacted the industry?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, the impact of this change on the industry is more oil, more difficult to obtain, but you know, more production which has been made possible by better technology. And so there has been tremendous improvement in the technology available which is not obvious to the general public, but we are—in fact, when I was in engineering school in France, we had a presentation by somebody from [the] French Petroleum Institute. And at the time, the reserves were twenty-five years, and we are at—we have currently much more than that. And so that reflects the impact of all the new technology that has been applied to the oil and gas fields.

KERR:

What do you consider to be some of the biggest challenges facing the petroleum engineering industry going into the future?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, the challenges from now on is that the cheap oil is gone. I mean, the easy reservoirs have been produced, and what we have now is going deeper, hotter. Things are going to be more and more difficult, and therefore, require more and more technology. You know, as somebody said…”we see the end of cheap oil, we don’t see the end of oil,” but it will be more difficult to get and requires more technology--talking about offshore, deep offshore, and so forth. The shale gas or shale oil is slightly different because it is onshore. It’s a different technology, but there the challenge is really the interpretation of the data, because we seem to be with shale gas and oil in the same situation as we were with oil seventy, eighty years ago, where we drill, frac, and then if production decreased, then we’d go next door and drill and frac, and—but we don’t really have a good tool to understand the reserves. So there has been—you know, people have been working on it, trying to predict how long they can produce, but I think we are not there yet, and we are hampered by the lack of measurements, because cost being the issue. Operators don’t make measurements and without measurements, then, we are not going to progress, and you be able to develop the interpretation technology that we need to really understand what’s going on.

KERR:

Are there other large, significant changes? Excuse me, challenges? Are there other large, significant challenges that you foresee the industry having in the years to come?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, I’m not sure about challenges, but there are objectives, which, for instance, I’m a member of R&D Advisory Committee for the SPE, and we develop what we call challenges, and there are a number of them. One is being—imaging--trying to see below the surface to detail, so that we can identify and exploit the reservoir. You know, that’s one of the challenges. You know, water utilization is another challenge and disposal. And there are new techniques: microbial use, so there are a number of technical issues that we would like to solve to be able to extract more oil from the ground. And reach recovery factor that are beyond what we can reach nowadays.

KERR:

What are some of your favorite memories about working in the petroleum engineering industry? It could be fun times you had, it could be travel, it could be significant people.

GRINGARTEN:

Well, I’ve been—you know, my memories of the--my best memory. I’ve been fortunate to work--to be--at Stanford to start with, and I went to Stanford by chance, you know, as I said before. I wanted to go into the petroleum industry, but my image of the petroleum industry from what I’d read at the end of high school was really exploration. And at the time where exploration was in remote places.

But then I worked in Amenas, in Nigeria as a part of my placement at the end of my engineering school in France, and I’d been—the professor out in that engineering school was in production, and so the work I’d been doing there was in production. But in Amenas, I saw—for the first time, I met a reservoir engineer, and I found what they were doing, and that sounds appealing. So, when I applied to the--for a Fulbright grant, in university days, to come to the States, the Franco-American Commission was giving the Fulbright grants. I’d made a list of petroleum engineering schools and Oklahoma had four stars, Texas A&M had four stars, Stanford had two stars only, so there were not the preferred one, but I had a friend who was—I didn’t even know where Stanford was; I didn’t even know where California was at the time. And my friend said, well, Stanford is in California. I want to go there, you should go there, it’s great, good weather, and so forth. And so I went there, and I didn’t know Professor Ramey, and I didn’t know anything, in fact, about the details of what I was going to do. And so I was fortunate to come to a place where things were happening, and where my professor was the best known in the industry for that subject at the time. And he was highly mathematical, which was my background, and so that has been memorable.

And then, I was nominated to Stanford to the Miller Institute of Basic Research in Science in Berkley, and I worked with Professor Witherspoon, which was another great experience. So these were very formative years. And then I, from then on, I have enjoyed a number of things because I was working on the edge of research. When I joined the French Geological Survey for doing Geothermal, and I--we developed the use, the first high enthalpy. I did drilling in French Somaliland, Djibouti, where that was my first experience with a rig, really, and being in charge of the rig and the measurements. And we developed urban heating, so that was quite an interesting experience. And the other one was with Flopetrol.

KERR:

Again, some of your favorite memories of working in the petroleum engineering industry, and you want to tell us some of your experience with working with Flopetrol.

GRINGARTEN:

Yeah, my experience with Flopetrol was creating a completely new service that didn’t exist anywhere, and doing everything, the course, the marketing, the pricing, and then training young engineers to become well test interpretation engineers. And some have, you know, made a name by themselves. Dominique Bourdet, who unfortunately passed away, but developed the derivatives with Tim Whittle. In fact, most of the engineers I trained at the time have stayed in well test analysis and most of them are working, to some extent, for Kappa Engineering, you know, who has been developing, successfully, well test analysis software, and they have developed other softwares. Yeah, I have been in all over the places. So, that has been quite an enjoyable experience, and I’ve been heavily involved in the SPE, and so that creates many friends. In fact, in the well test analysis discipline, we are not too many. You know, we may be about forty. In fact, we had the ATW, which is the Advanced Technical Workshop, in Bali in December of last year, and most of the people of my generation were there, and at the end, one of the young fellow[s] that was attending made the comment that he was surprised to see that the authors of so many papers were still alive (chuckles). So, that was an interesting experience (chuckles).

KERR:

What has made working in the petroleum engineering industry so meaningful—that’s the word—meaningful. Why has it been meaningful for you?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, working in the oil industry has been meaningful for me because it has been interesting. You know, I never had a dull moment. I would include in that experience the work I did in the French Geological Survey on Geothermal because that’s related. But basically, I have always been working at the edge of new knowledge, and developing new knowledge that—to be applied. So, I’ve really done applied research, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see what I’ve developed being used widely, whether it’s in geothermal or in the oil industry, and so that has been extremely enjoyable. I spent fourteen years in Scientific Software Intercom where I--after a few years, it was mainly management, but I always kept well test analysis, as I said, a side project, and that was a good choice because when I went to Imperial College, then I could revive my research interest and develop new things that, again, are being used in the industry. The most memorable--noticeable one was the deconvolution, which is now part of the standard toolkit for well test analysis.

KERR:

How has being an SPE member affected your work and you career?

GRINGARTEN:

Could you rephrase that question?

KERR:

Um, I’ll ask the same question. I’ll try to rephrase it for you. How has your involvement with SPE affected you career and your work in the industry?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, the—my involvement with the SPE has started when I was at Stanford, so I’m a member since 1969 because I joined Stanford in ’68, you know, in September of ’68, so my membership started in ’69. And I have always published most of my papers in the SPE literature, and so it has been the output of my work, and then I’ve participated in a number of committees, organized workshops, so it created a sense of community. I mean, it’s natural when you are a petroleum engineer to be a part of the SPE. You know, and so, that’s where your friends, your professional friends are. In fact, that’s one of the benefit[s] of coming to the ATCE is that you find all your friends. It’s even more important than attending all the papers (chuckles).

KERR:

Can you describe a little bit how it affected your work?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, I’m not sure how it--the member of SPE has affected my work is. My work has been published within the SPE and has been distributed through the SPE in meetings. And so, especially since I’ve been with Imperial. I usually have one, two, three, four papers [at] every ATCE meeting. And that’s where—one way of letting other people know what you are doing and allowing discussion and, constructive comment on the work which is going on. So, it has been very important to me, and being able to communicate and help promote ideas has been important.

[Sound of emergency vehicle sirens]

KERR:

We’re just going to wait for a moment for our sirens to go by (laughing). It must be because of the Saints game. Too many revelers this early in the afternoon.

GRINGARTEN:

Oh, I see, I see.

KERR:

I think that, that actually, we’ve gotten that pretty well, unless you’d like to expand a little bit.

FLICK:

I just have one question to follow up on, and that is that you found the SPE a source of friendship and camaraderie.

GRINGARTEN:

Yes.

FLICK:

Can you expand on that and tell Fritz a little bit about that?

GRINGARTEN:

Well, we--the SPE meetings are a way of reconnecting with friends or people or colleagues from all around the world. Especially the ATCE, which is--we use (colleagues) for meeting. And you find people from all over because this is an international business, so I travel a lot. You know, I meet people in different places, and it’s nice to, every year, to see them and remake their acquaintance. So that part, that social part of the SPE is, I think, as important as the technical part.