Oral-History:Fikri Kuchuk

About Interviewee

Fikri Kuchuk, a Schlumberger Fellow, is currently Chief Reservoir Engineer for Schlumberger Testing Services. Dr. Kuchuk has 40 years of experience in reservoir characterization, engineering, and management, and is an internationally-recognized expert on pressure transient formation and well testing. He has made significant contributions to the theory and technology in the areas of formation and well testing interpretation ; history matching ; and uncertainty in reservoir description and reservoir performance predictions. He has published and presented more than 150 technical papers on fluid flow in porous media; formation evaluation; pressure transient well testing; production logging; wireline formation testers; horizontal and multilateral well placement and performance; permanent reservoir monitoring; water conformance and control; and reservoir engineering and management.

About the Interview

Fikri Kuchuk: An interview conducted by Fritz Kerr for the Society of Petroleum Engineers, September 29, 2013.

Interview SPEOH000106 at the Society of Petroleum Engineers History Archive.

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Interview Video


Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Fikri Kuchuk
INTERVIEWER: Fritz Kerr
OTHERS PRESENT: Amy Esdorn, Mark Flick
DATE: September 29, 2013
PLACE: New Orleans, Louisiana


KERR:

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

KUCHUK:

OK, I decided--not really a decision to get into the petroleum engineering industry. First, I went to—very beginning—I went to [a] few months, medical school. Then, I said, “OK, I should be [an] engineer,” so I went to the Technical University of Istanbul, Mining faculty. The reason that I went into mining is you know, my hometown, there’s a bunch of iron deposits, there’s mining, so I knew something about it. And then we entered university, and then we are decided to select between geology, geophysics, petroleum, et cetera. Some graduate students gave a talk. I was impressed with one of the talk[s]. I decided to pick petroleum engineering. So, you know, from the very B.S. level, I entered the school with petroleum engineering.

Then, during my student years, I did a lot of summer jobs with Turkish Petroleum; Shell; I went to Iran. And then, I had one of the most important thing[s] happen: entering the petroleum [engineering school], I had the Shell scholarship. So, when I finished, and then Shell said, “If you are interested, we can send you to graduate school.” I said, “This is great!” and I went to Stanford. It’s a choice, because I changed my mind from medicine to mining to petroleum, but that is how I decided, really. It was just a choice, not a plan. The moment of the choice, yes? That’s how I became really—entered the petroleum industry. Via school.

KERR:

So the next question is: In what discipline in the industry did you work, and what drew you to that discipline?

KUCHUK:

OK, so after graduation, I was a petroleum engineer, I worked a little on the well side, doing a little bit of mud engineering, what we call it today. And then, after six, seven months, I said, “This is too muddy.” I went to reservoir engineering. More mathematics, more—you know, you don’t deal with—anyway, so basically, I went to a little more theoretical side of the business, but that was the beginning of my graduate study at Stanford. So, basically, I am a reservoir engineer, qualified. And in this subset of that really, what I call well testing, formation testing, and reservoir management, et cetera. These are the subset[s] of the reservoir engineering that I entered at the graduate school at Stanford.

KERR:

What drew you to the discipline of reservoir engineering?

KUCHUK:

So, I came to the reservoir engineering, again, via school. So, I came to the US first to learn English, and then I went to San Francisco to learn English, then next door to Stanford University, I went there. They are really a reservoir engineering school. So, I wanted to go to Stanford, that’s really how I entered the reservoir engineering.

And how I entered the subset of reservoir engineering was one professor named Hank Ramey. He was the father of--at that time he was one of the most famous reservoir engineers; also in well testing. So, I decided to do my Master’s thesis with him. So, that automatically put me in, what I call, well testing. So that’s how I really entered the reservoir engineering via graduate stu—you know, as a graduate student. Then I went to well testing, which is a subset of reservoir engineering with Hank Ramey. Which is—he’s one of the pioneers—he’s [a] deeply respected professor of our time. He died ten, fifteen years ago.

KERR:

So, you are a world renown expert on pressure transient formation and well testing. What drew you to this aspect of petroleum engineering?

KUCHUK:

Well, OK, first, you know, reservoir engineering, especially well testing, is an interesting thing. We measure things at the wellbore, mainly pressure. We interpret. So this interpretation, you don’t see this and that. This is uncertainty, and you have to make a decision [about the] things that you don’t see, don’t touch.

The other part, what really attracted me--that’s why also I joined Schlumberger-- is making tools. Making tools that can measure. Because when I was working for BP Prudhoe Bay, I was missing certain measurements, OK? So, I had with Schlumberger, really, an opportunity to affect that: what we should measure. I was involved, a couple of tools today, the most successful tool of the Schlumberger. What excites me: making tools, and then looking at those measurements, and interpreting them. This is really almost like a—of course you have to know how, the mathematics, this and that—but making things and measurements, and interpreting is very good. You know, like being [a] doctor, you know, your patient comes, you look at that, you give them something, and you cure them. And this is something really that excites me still [about] what I do, you know. To make things and change things and to come up with something always new.

KERR:

So, you are a world renown expert on pressure transient formation and well testing. What drew you to that particular aspect, that particular discipline within the industry?

KUCHUK:

Ok, so let me describe a little bit what is really pressure transient testing. We also call [it] well testing. Ok, the formation testing and well testing is a matter of scale. One is we probe around the wellbore. The other, we probe from the wellbore to say, a thousand feet. What is this probing? We put pressure pulse; this pulse propagates in the formation and brings information back to us from the formation, whether there’s a false or some reservoir properties. So basically, the probing, like seismic, like sonic, you know, is suggested we call this pressure diffusion, and this probing the formation, and you get the measurements as a pressure, like a psi, and then we interpret them to really characterize the reservoir.

KERR:

Fikri, would you discuss your work in horizontal and multilateral well placement?

KUCHUK:

Ok, this is a good question: the horizontal well and multilateral well placement. So, in about 1990, with the Austin Chalk and Canada, the horizontal drilling started, really. Although, the horizontal drilling was first applied in Russia in [the] forties, but however, it was never commercialized. With Austin Chalk, and in Canada, they start drilling horizontal.

In fact, in 1991, I was counting the number of wells in the few hundreds. I entered that area this way: I told you I was working on Prudhoe Bay for BP. After that, I left, and joined Schlumberger, but then I was called by my friend. They did some horizontal well--they did some well testing or transient well testing, and they said, you know, “Could you help us analyze the well, to interpret?” At that time, I was at the research center, at the Schlumberger research center, and I had a few friends and we did a lot [of] mathematical solutions, and we collaborated with my friends in BP (in fact, we wrote a paper, “How Do You Interpret Information from Horizontal Wells?”), and then I was fascinated with the new technology, this really new technology. In fact, at that time, I was counting every month, how many wells. Until 2000, I had the precise number, how many wells.

So then, I told them, “Look, this is a revolution. This is a really big revolution.” I said, “I’ll count the number of wells until 50,000; after that, I give up.” Actually, I had a plot, you know, time versus the number of wells. But really, that was one of the most important revolutions. In fact, today, if we have this shale gas, the allotment, thanks to the horizontal wells, multilaterals, plus the fracturing. I worked for Shell many years ago, in fact it was my first job after school. I was working in West Virginia, Morgantown, and this was just after the oil embargo. [President] Carter put out of money, and then I really worked for a few years for [inaudible] Shell. You know, we did not have horizontal wells, we only had massive fracturing, but the fracture was not staying open. So still, the wells are better, but no way what we have today. You know, the horizontal well in the shale play is a revolution.

KERR:

Discuss your work in horizontal and multilateral well placement and why it’s so revolutionary.

KUCHUK:

So, why the horizontal well placement drilling, and later multilateral is revolutionary is in many respects. One is, you know today, you can hit the oil play, you can stay within a few meters. Second, you know, you can hit the target, if there is a bypass oil. You are here, but you can hit the target. The third is the most important part. You know, comparing a vertical well, which is six, eight hundred feet; now you have two thousand feet and the flow comes in this two thousand feet, not fifty feet. So really, normally, the productivity or the rate, the flow rate is normally between a few times to ten times more in a horizontal well. But the shale is the really revolutionary part. We would have not developed shale play today with vertical wells. No way. So, revolution in two sense[s]: with the one old application, what I am saying is for shale, that is essential. Horizontal wells, without it, you don’t have a shale play.

KERR:

Fikri, what were some of the technological milestones in your discipline?

KUCHUK:

Yes. So, these are really the milestones in my discipline. One is, as I said, at an early age, I decided to become a reservoir engineer. That was a really important switch from petroleum engineering. But of course, we need all of this. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, but for me, personally, that was very important.

Second, really interestingly, I was working on shale thirty years ago. People now working on the shale they’re young people. The average age is probably thirty-five. And I think that was an important milestone. I made a good decision there, I enjoyed working, but at that time I didn’t see the future. I switched back to petroleum, you know, the traditional petroleum engineering. And another really important milestone was joining Schlumberger because that enabled me to not only practicing reservoir engineering, but making tools that we need. And I think that was really, as I mentioned earlier—OK--I was involved in the development of a bunch of tools that today, in the market, they are good tools. And those are really milestones.

Another sort of milestone that has a few steps: one, I worked in research [for] eight years, then I went to operations, and that was a really good decision. Initially, I wasn’t really sure, but it was a very good decision. And then, after that, I was in operations. I was in Dubai for twelve years, and then I was asked to come to Paris to, again, do well testing or pressure transient testing because Schlumberger was a little bit less active in those days. Not very many people left. So, I came back, and again, almost a new excitement.

You know, you are discovering—you know, what I’m saying—in fact, I’ll tell you something interesting. In my life, I worked on some topics four or five years. Normally, I leave those topics. I go somewhere else, and then later, I come back. Sometimes, it takes much longer time because if you stayed for a longer time, basically, you’re just going around and around. So, it’s better to take a new challenge, leave that (maybe someone else will contribute), and then later—actually I did this a few times—come back. Again, new mathematics, new technology, this and that. All of a sudden, you start contributing again. You know, this really—to me, this is very interesting, personally, that’s why I worked on very many different topics, but I always find it’s a good idea, after four or five years, to do something else, if you have a choice.

KERR:

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

KUCHUK:

OK, so these are really the technical breakthroughs in what I had been doing, partially in my part. You know, testing, formation testing, et cetera. One is really, in [the] 70s [and] 80s, the pressure transient testing, or well testing had really advanced, especially with software, et cetera. To me, that was [a] very important milestone.

[The] second part, you know, we come up with, in [the] 90s, the introduction of wireline formation testing, especially to be able to take very good samples, downhole. This was really “the” milestone for technology. [The] second part, another one is really, as I said, horizontal well multilaterals. And I really benefitted greatly [with] high resolution seismic. I think seismic--it brought importance to reservoir characterization.

Third one (really last one, not third one). Last one is really, today, shale oil and shale gas development. To me, this is, you know, amazing. This is technology beyond our imagination. Not only that, but gas price has been cheaper than ever. And that is really two important technologies: one is, as I said horizontal multilaterals; second, multistage fracturing. These are revolutionary, really incredible innovations. …So, at a given decade, they introduce one or two really important things. Some of them, they really change the landscape.

19:27-21:29 First, let me really explain what…wireline formation testers are. So, these are wireline convey or probe or packer without modules. You take samples—first you go down the payzone or the possibly-bearing formation, you have [a] look, and then, what we do, is we take sample[s], a bunch of samples around the wellbore , vertically. And we measure the pressure, and we conduct some short pressure tests, build-up, draw-down. And we really—this is important for getting, first, [an] idea about [the] productivity of the well. Second, what kind of fluid is there? Heavy? Light? Gas? Or how much water is closer to you. And today, this is really on of the essential tools. Although these wireline testers were introduced in the1950s, until [the] 90s, we could not achieve a good sample. We couldn’t take [a] sample. If we [took] a sample, we [would] end up with some water, some drilling mud, this and that. In [the] beginning [of the] 90s, all of the service companies, including mine, we do really have a good sample. And [the] sample is important because that is …what you are going to have, what you are going to produce; how you are going to refine, you know; if you have condensate; what kind of facilities you are going to have. Second, as I said, is that you get [a] good idea about reservoir pressure and the productivity of the well.

21:30-23:41 Why is high resolution seismic important is—you know, seismic is like [an] x-ray, you know, of the body. So, high resolution seismic gives a lot of good information about the skeleton of the reservoir, the structure of the reservoir. Where are the faults. Today, luckily, we can even see some of the fractures, and you know, the faults are fractures if they are—you know, they could be [an] obstacle to flow, or they could be [a] highway to the flow. So, you know, the high resolution seismic brings this information, particularly today, about fracturing, fracture corridors, this and that. I think, as a reservoir engineer, if we don’t know the structure, we don’t know [the] skeleton of the reservoir, we cannot model it. Modeling comes with high resolution seismic [and] good geology. Without geologists, seismic—you know, you have an x-ray, but you don’t have a doctor to see what it is. Anyway, so really, today, all of the money saved with high resolution seismic, because in the drilling, you can stay in the pay zone. In fact, some of the companies today, if they are going to have…expensive (inaudible), you know, offshore and this and that, they will not drill without seismic. And this seismic is high resolution because you want to place the well, we are talking about a few meters, four meters, and to me, the essential—to drill where you want to drill, and also develop [a] reservoir model, a reservoir simulation. You can manage the field much better. Anyway, this is really important—high resolution is really important; almost like you have a good map in your hands to walk in the reservoir.

KERR:

So, Fikri, what were some of the technical challenges you faced during your career?

KUCHUK:

OK, in my career, you know, it goes many years, but [the] first really technical challenge I had [was] when I started working in Prudhoe Bay. In Prudhoe Bay, you know, you have wells; they are all deviated because you drill the wells from a single platform. And then, during the test, when you test, you cannot shut in [the] well more than twenty-four hours because [the] wellhead start[s] freezing. This is in, you know, [the] North Slope. So basically, you know, I was doing well tests for BP, and this twenty-four hours was very short, and most of the test, itself, [the] signal, itself, [is] dominated by [the] well, itself. So, the well[s] were in reservoir formation camps. So this was, of course, I struggled there. Later on, [when] I joined Schlumberger, I came up with some solutions, that was really the challenge. Later, I told you that the sampling, good fluid sampling from the reservoir, was not possible before [the] 90s. So I worked in this, too, with a bunch of good friends. Really, we solved that technical challenge. There are many other challenges today. One of the challenges still is there; [it] remains to be solved. Of course, we did it out of development, it’s really characterization of fractured reservoirs, particularly carbonate reservoirs. The last challenge, to me, is still I believe, most likely, that we still don’t understand how the flow gas is coming or oil is coming into fractures from shale reservoirs. We understand that it’s coming from [the] reservoirs, but I don’t think still that the flow mechanism or the principle of flow, et cetera, is not well-understood. I think that challenge will stay with us a number of years. Hopefully, some contribution will come, but today, it’s a challenge, a today challenge.

KERR:

With regard to the technical challenges, how did you overcome these challenges, specifically?

KUCHUK:

OK, these challenges basically, [there are] two of them. We said one is, actually, testing the wells in Prudhoe Bay, and the signal, itself, was dominated by the well. So, we come up with two solutions with time. One is, while testing, we also measure the flow rate, and that is become possible with the simultaneous measuring of the flow rate and pressure together, and that is simultaneous measurement, OK? The second part is what we call downhole shut-in. You flood the well, to reduce the effect of the well itself, you do downhole shut-in. And that is, really, two possible solutions, and today, downhole shut-ins [are] used very widely to cut the effect of the wellbore, itself. We call it wellbore storage, [that is the] technical jargon, and that really solved the problem.

KERR:

OK, so, I understand that you’ve published more than a hundred fifty papers on a variety of subjects pertaining to challenges in reservoir description and dynamics, such as fluid flow in porous media, production logging, wireline testers, horizontal and multilateral well placement and performance, water conformance and control. So, here’s the question: Which of these challenges was the most interesting or difficult for you to overcome?

KUCHUK:

I didn’t get the, I didn’t…can you repeat the…?

KERR:

OK, so you’ve published a number of papers, specifically on fluid flow in porous media, production logging, wireline testers, horizontal and multilateral well placement and performance, water conformance and control. Which of these challenges was the most interesting to you or the most difficult to overcome?

KUCHUK:

OK, basically, all these, of course, we have many challenges, and I worked on many different areas because when I see a challenge, I go start working. Really, the most interesting part today, where I am working is really, again, the characterization of carbonate reservoirs, and achieving advanced well test interpretation using the geology maximum. Today, we are not there yet. Anyway, this is part of the integration. Integration is a lot more challenging because integration needs different disciplines, and no heroes. Everybody has to contribute. Anyway, really, again, today, I have two challenges, as I said. One, as I said, is the shale gas, I[‘ve done] a little bit of work on it, and [the] second part, you know, the reservoir characterization carbonate. The way that I work is…I work on many things, I don’t publish, and then, when I am ready, I finish the work and publish. What I am doing, there is one topic I’ve been working on for five years, still is cooking, yes?

Anyway, so basically, I think, you know writing papers is communicating with your audience. So basically, that is, to me, writing papers. And I write papers two ways: one is I find something really theoretical; other math, et cetera, I find other journals. Then application (inaudible). I come to SPE journals that I have an audience to communicate because this is more applied, so that’s really how I do my writings. Other journals are more mathematical, so mathematical journals, and then SPE. SPE, to me, of course I have, if I may say so, a greater audience at SPE, so that’s what I write. I write a lot of papers, in fact the day after tomorrow, I have one paper to present before my friends and my audience of SPE.

KERR:

What do you consider to be the most important contributions you have made in your career to the petroleum engineering industry and why?

KUCHUK:

So, you know, I’ve made a number of contributions. You know, I think the most important contribution that I made is I hire a lot of young people, I train them, and they work for Schlumberger. I have been doing this since I joined the company. Really, to me, that is as important as my technical contribution[s] or scientific contribution[s]. Hiring people, I do every year—sometimes I do more, sometimes I do less. [I] train these people and stay with them until they mature.

Second part is of course, technical contributions. One, you know, two years ago, I published a book with a few friends of mine. I think that book is…a very good book for pressure transient and wireline formation testing. Unfortunately, [it’s] a little bit [on the] theoretical side, but it is [a] very fundamental book. And with time, I think I will overcome that, I am going to write another one—[a] practical one! So, the technical part of contribution, first, you know, the very beginning, I did contribute an understanding of flow in the shales—that was early. Later, I contribute[d] the interpretation of pressure and flow rate from the wellbore, and I also contribute[d] both interpretation and making tool, wireline formation testers. And then I did very interesting field research with many people in Ghawar Field in Saudi Arabia. We did the simultaneous measurements of electromagnetic, flow rate, pressure, and all the logs, et cetera, and this is all really very detailed characterization of the formation. And this was research work, and I’m hoping that in a few years, people will start doing it. Basically, that is some of my main contributions. And one more thing! Actually, interpretation of well tests from horizontal wells.

ESDORN:

Can you maybe, especially in Saudi Arabia, you were talking about the, I don’t know, I didn’t quite catch the name of the field?

KUCHUK:

Ghawar. Ghawar Field. Ghawar.

ESDORN:

OK, I’m going to have you spell that later, but can you talk about why that worked there, and why that was an important contribution? Just for anybody who isn’t familiar…

KUCHUK:

The work we did in Ghawar Field was a joint research work between Saudi Aramco and Schlumberger. So why that is important is Ghawar is one of the largest field[s]. You know, estimated reserve is 120, 110/120, maybe more, billion barrels. One of the most largest field[s]—I think if I still remember, it may produce maybe five million barrels per day. It is a gigantic field, you know, an incredible field.

So, I was in the Middle East for many years, I did a lot of joint work with our clients in the Middle East, but this was really the—it took a few years. I didn’t work on it full-time, but this is a very detailed work. You know, we come up with new, completing the well, putting electrical array in the well, putting pressure sensors, and developing, you know, whole new technology [that] had never been applied. And while I am lucky that, you know, the Saudi Aramco—I am thankful that they give the well to work on, and I think this work is going to be important as time passes because basically, it gives a good idea [of] what is recovery factor, what is remaining oil. You know, this was first, but as I said in the Ghawar—huge field—you know, I think Saudi Aramco understanding the recovery factor, et cetera, et cetera, I think is crucial for them. With time, I am sure this work is going to come forward, but this is nothing new to me. Most of these things I have done ten years ago and today is currently being practiced. So I really don’t worry about whether my work later will be applied or not. I’m [an] optimist, all the time an optimist, and time [has] showed me that other work I have done, and later is picked up by the industry. One thing I don’t do well [is] the same thing. I do the work, I leave the space for other people to contribute, I may go back.

KERR:

What were some of your contributions to the theory and technology of formation and well test interpretation?

KUCHUK:

OK, my contribution for well testing is mainly on the interpretation part, and second part is measuring the flow rate accurately, downhole. That can be used to interpret pressure data much better. Second part formation testing, really, I was involved developing the tools, and interpreting the signal that is coming from the tools. I think these are—you know I have done that—in fact, I was involved in developing the software, et cetera, et cetera. And that is—both of them really—in well testing [and] formation testing—both ha[ve] two aspect[s]. One is developing the tool (or part of the group, which is developing the tool). Second, you take the measurements from those tools, whether it’s wireline formation test or well test, et cetera, and interpreting them.

KERR:

So, I have a question, what was the impact of these contributions on the petroleum engineering industry?

KUCHUK:

So, my contribution in the theoretical part [was] basically developing equations, solving what I call partial differential equations, diffusion equations. And, many solutions that I developed over the years, they are used by commercial software. OK? Many of them. And some of them of course [are] used by Schlumberger software. For wireline formation tester, this is exclusively for Schlumberger software, and most of the solutions I developed not myself, [but] with a team, you know. Some of them, we did together. So that really affected, you know, correct interpretation, in getting relevant reservoir parameters. For horizontal wells, I developed maybe tens of solutions for multilayer reservoirs, reservoirs with folds, and you know, fractures, and fractured reservoirs. So, injection, well testing, et cetera, these are—some of them really—the contribution of the interpretation and developing the solution. So let me, a little bit, elaborate that. You can write mathematical solutions, given the problem, the well test problem, but that’s not interpretation. Interpretation is taking that solution, fitting the signal; second is getting characteristics of that solution. What is characteristics? We call flow regimes. You know, basically, certain well fractures, et cetera, behave [in] certain ways. When you look at the signal, it’s important to recognize that behavior, say, “Oh! Well, this is a vertical well, crossed by a vertical fracture. The fracture has, you know, very large conductivity.” So interpretation is that. Developing solutions is important. I did that, but I also did the interpretation. Basically, when you look at the signal, you characterize the signal in terms of what we call flow rate regimes. There are many of them, they come and go.

And during the interpretation, especially when running the tests, it’s important that you see them and you are expecting [them]. If you don’t see them, maybe it’s something wrong with the measurements, maybe we are dealing with some different reservoirs that you’re not told about it. So, anyway, so interpretation, really, I did both part[s]: geological development of solutions, you know, the mathematical equations. In fact, you know, I wrote one paper, the paper is about forty pages. The text part is probably two pages. The text. The rest is equations. But that's not interpretation, but to do the interpretation, I needed that.

KERR:

What do you consider to be the most significant changes that have occurred in the industry over the course of your career?

KUCHUK:

The significant changes that happened in the industry in my career is basically one: disciplines come together, what you call integration. And today, really, I know more geology than I used [to] because that is an essential part. So that is really…you know, I started in the 70s, 80s, most of the time, that is what we know. We know we have a domain, what we know. Later, with integration, we start knowing other things, not only myself. That is one of the big changes. You know, we have friends, geologists, et cetera, et cetera, now we understand better. I think that is the important changes.

Second is really diversity. Diversity in the oil companies, basically. First, diversity in terms of nationalities, and also diversity in terms of gender. You know, today, really, we have a lot of very, very good female engineers and scientists in the oil industry. That was not the case, OK? And I think this was a really—for industry, it is a really great achievement, and in fact, if you, in the 70s, even if you go to the Middle East at the well site, you see very few nationalities. Today, you see the United Nation[s]. I think this is an important change. I think, ok, these are the really important change. Second is really the oil industry, I think today, probably the usage of the new technology, it is much wider than we think. You know ten, fifteen years ago, I went--I was in Russia. I was giving a well test school for one week. A lot of Russian engineers—and then I talked to them, I told them they are using 50’s well test interpretation technology is what we had at that time. But today, even if you go to any place, whatever technology is used here in Houston or New Orleans, similar technology is used elsewhere. But this is a really important change. That was not the case. You know, technology was used a little bit and was dominated by certain nationalities. Today, I think this is [a] great achievement for the industry [to be] able to take the technology to wherever you want.

Of course, SPE has an important role [in] that because maybe you don’t remember, [but] in the 80s, 90s, et cetera, SPE [had] a lot of technology SUMMITS for meetings in China, Russia, this and that. But today, they are having technical meetings, OK? So basically, this is a great achievement that we are now able to take the new technology anywhere in the globe and beyond nationalities.

KERR:

What do you consider some of the biggest challenges facing the industry are in the future?

KUCHUK:

What are the biggest challenges we will face as the oil industry in the future? Some of them are environmental, ok? So basically, we have to solve this, you know, the carbon problem, and I think the gas is contributing immensely. Carbon production of the US is now is the same as [the] 90s, which is a real achievement. But still, we have other politics to deal with, but politics is—not the negative sense. We have to deal with politics, that’s life. Of course, eventually, science will, you know, overcome that. But I think that the switching from—mostly to gas. Very important challenge, and I think, you know, when we switch, when we make that switch--still, you know, we need oil, for sure, for many other reasons, but I think the big challenge today, going more and more gas based, more green based energy consumption. That’s a big challenge.

Of course, now the gas has its own challenges, like the problem of having enough water when you are doing the fracturing. That’s a big challenge. So as an industry, I think we should come up with something that use[s] the least amount of water, reuse, re-treat, et cetera. Another big challenge [will] be how we are going to produce remaining oil. There’s plenty [of] oil, actually. You know, if people ask me, you know…we have plenty [of] oil. Some…is in produced reservoirs, and of course, we call that today EOR [Enhanced Oil Recovery], all those things. I think this is just the beginning. The challenge is there, and I think that if I summarize the challenge, producing the remaining oil, which we call EOR; producing gas and oil from shale reservoirs.

[Audio break]

KERR:

Let’s go ahead and continue along that line of thought…the biggest challenges you said were having enough water, the carbon…

KUCHUK:

OK, OK, I start where I left off…

KERR:

Carbon, the switch to moving towards gas versus oil…

KUCHUK:

So, today, especially in the shale play, what we call, our footprint is too large. With technology, we have to reduce that. And actually, technology is there [in] most of the cases, but I think that having the gas [be] as cheap as it’s ever been, the technology are not going to be used—is not used today, but is going to be used. Then, so the last point really, with this switch, we are going to reduce carbon production, and I think this is going to be a challenge because we have to do this. Otherwise, politician[s] will tell us what to do.

KERR:

What are some of your favorite memories of working in the petroleum engineering industry?

KUCHUK:

OK, my favorite memories [are] many, but I’ll start with [a]very few of them. One is really, I went to this Prudhoe Bay field, North Slope. You know, you see a white blanket forever, in the winter; summer changes. And you have to have this incredible clothes that, you know. And then I worked in the well site; you know, everybody, they check[ed] you continuously. I think this was really almost like you are in space, yes? Really, that was great. I have that picture. And another part, I went to [the] well site [a] number of times. You know, I was part of the drillers, and you know, you enter the pay, you get the logs, you look at the logs, “Oh! Here is the oil!” This is the really exciting part. You know, very exciting—you find something, yes? You see something. Of course, we have to keep this knowledge to us because we are Schlumberger Company, and we should not, we will not tell anybody that we found the oil. However, you know, that was a really exciting part.

And also, another part in my memories—I have a lot of great memories when I was serving [on] the SPE board. We had a meeting in Abu Dhabi. We went on [a] camel ride, and all the exciting stuff. And a lot of other meetings I went to with SPE, et cetera, but one of the things is much more interesting. So, when I was [a] graduate student, I went to my first SPE meeting in Las Vegas. Imagine that you have SPE in Las Vegas. So anyway, we are students, we checked into [a] very cheap hotel, you know, if you remember there was a Hotel 6 or whatever. And then, you know, I checked in, I was coming down to go to [a] meeting, so, I had [an] accident on the stairs. I fly, parallel, on the cement, like this [gestures]. So, I broke all my joints, you know [gestures to the back of his hand] in my left hand, and that took some time to really recover. And this was—of course, today—you know, it’s a sad story, but it’s a nice story that I can tell with pleasure.

KERR:

That’s good. Do you have others that you would like to tell? Think about it for a moment or two, if you’d like.

KUCHUK:

OK.

KERR:

Anecdotal stories, stories about other professionals, engineers, if you will, that you worked with. Maybe some of the top people that you worked with, and such like that. Think about that.

KUCHUK:

So, you know, with Schlumberger, I have worked with many executives. I avoided to have any managerial job. Every time I was offered a managerial, I said, “I am bad at this; you are making [the] wrong decision.” So, I escaped. But like I said, I hired a lot of people. So I trained them; some of them are very capable; I encouraged them to join—to become, you know, managers. The reason that, you know—if we keep managers and technical people totally separate, then there’s going to be a big communication gap. So, often, I would encourage some of the capable people; managing, you know, is not easy.

Actually, I have two stories. One, I have a friend of mine, he was [a] reservoir engineer in one of the location[s]. So one day, he came to me, he said, “I’m going to be marketing manager.” I said, “Look, you know, this is not for you because you work, sometimes you don’t sleep—you know, when we are interpreting the data, this and that, you know, the oil field is twenty-four hours. You don’t stop. So you have to work through the night. You work, this and that. I said, “You know, if you’re going to be marketing manager, you have to have a good sleep. Because you are going to go in front of clients with your hair all over, this and that.” He insisted. Unfortunately, he did, but he survived six months. He left the company, OK? This is a sad part, but I have also one pleasant one.

I hired a reservoir engineer, and then I assigned him to Saudi Arabia. He’s covering the three countries: Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. He worked there a few years—very capable guy. Now, he’s our chairman. Ok, so I’m really pleased. You know, as I said, I have really many people. I hire great people, and with…my help, they went to [the] top.

KERR:

How has being a member of SPE affected your work and your career?

KUCHUK:

SPE really affected my career. I joined SPE [in] 1973 as a student member (that year that I broke my hand). Anyway, so then—so I worked for a few years, and then I started working for BP. So there was at that time there was a California regional meeting. And then one of my colleagues, actually, Arliss Cove (he was one of the SPE presidents later), he was working there, and he came to me, [and] you know, I’m a young guy, he said, “Look, we need a manager for printing and publication.” You know, in those days, you know the SPE for the California Regional Meeting because today we don’t have, but California was so big. So, you know, printing and publication was very important. You know, you find a printer…this and that. Anyway, so that’s how I started with SPE. I was a Technical Committee Chair for publication and printing for California Regional Meeting.

So, what happens with SPE, you enter once, you never can escape. OK, next year, something else came; after following years, they said, “OK, we need another member for SPE transient—at that time, we call it PTA, Pressure Transient testing Analysis—there was a committee; still there is, I think. And then, I was a member at that time, I was—and then it was, I think, ’95—no, ’85 and ’86. That was a tough year, OK? So, basically, our chairman, of that committee, lost his job, he couldn’t come to [the] meeting. They asked me to chair the committee. Formally, I am not chairman, yes? So then, the following year, they said, “OK, you did a good job, you are chairing this year. Now you are the chairman.” Yes? So then, OK, fine, but here, all this time, you meet other people, you see all the papers, you read, and you know, a meeting like that is very important.

Anyway, so then, I was there, and then, a few years later (still I am in a few committees, this and that), SPE changed the format of the annual meeting. Then, we had a sort of grouping, you know, Reservoir, Logging, Testing, et cetera, et cetera. So now, I was group leader for Reservoir Description and under Geology, Petrophysics, and Well Testing under that. OK, I was a group leader—it’s called Coordinating Committee Chairman. So, I did that for a few years, and then they said, “OK, next year, you are going to be General Chairman of the Annual Meeting. That was the most exciting. That was ’94. And of course, today, we divide that function into two: one is general chairman; one is program technical, but at that time, one person. And you know, running that was exciting, fun, but a lot of work or so, running the whole meeting. And again—you know, this helps you—meeting other people, you make a lot of friends, and you learn many, ok.

Anyway, so then, I went to Dubai, and become one of the board member of the Dubai section. While I am there, I become a board member. Being a board member is also very interesting—it’s hard work, but very interesting because you spend a lot of time with a lot of brilliant people, very good people. You debate, you argue, this and that, but you learn a lot. In fact, I met [a] few of them today. In fact I told one of them, “You are my best SPE president.” Don’t ask me who’s the second best. Anyway, so basically, SPE, you give and take, continuously. You benefit, but you put time. But what I decided about six years ago [was] I will reduce my SPE involvement because at some point, I think I was working only for SPE. No, that’s a joke, but I decided to push younger people, OK? So if somebody asked me, “Will you be a committee member?” I said, “No, no, no, I will nominate someone else.” In fact, I was just asked to ATW in the Middle East, and they asked me to become a committee member, and I nominated someone else. I only take this if there is a need.

For example, a few years ago, three of four years ago--this was before Libya’s internal problem—Libya established an SPE section, yes? And they said, you know, they asked me, “We are going to run some SPE meetings [and] we don’t know what to do.” I said, “OK.” I only accept, you know, these are the exceptions. You know, I nominate, but still, you cannot escape. You know, this year, I was the chairman of the Honorary and Distinguished Member Committee. And next year, I am sure they will find somebody else—something else. You know, SPE, what I am saying, is always fun working with. One thing, I also work with other societies, but SPE, you know, stuff, they work like a clock.

KERR:

What has made working in the petroleum engineering industry so meaningful to you?

KUCHUK:

OK, I think working with industry is great fun for many years. SPE is an essential part of this industry, and SPE, you know, give and take, really. You serve SPE, SPE is very good recognizing that contributions, and I benefitted quite a bit. So that also gives you internal recognition within your company. So then, within your company, you have external contribution, and then vice versa. It really benefits each other very well. And I think that both my company, Schlumberger, is a great company to work with, and also as a society, SPE is a great society to work with because it really gives back something to you as a recognition; [a] platform to speak, [a] platform to publish, OK?

The other side of industry, as I said, industry—you know, one of the character[istics] of this industry is slightly slow on jumping [on] new technology. However, when they adapt, they adapt very well. That happens continuously. So, the time lag is about ten years, OK? But, that ten years, it happens; it never stagnated. So new technology comes and adopted during that ten years, and that keeps going. And this [is] a very challenging industry, and it’s fun working with because you are dealing with—basically, look. Reservoir engineering is, you are dealing with, you know, underground formation[s]. You don’t see, but you only feel through the measurements, and that is really fun because that is like, you know, dealing with uncertainty and trying to find the truth, actually.

And still, it is a very exciting, very dynamic industry. I don’t think it is dying. I think it is just beginning, in my opinion, because every time, new challenges come, and again, two challenges we are facing are reducing our footprint on the environment, and that includes…the carbon production, but I am sure we will. I am a very optimistic person. Again, I—I will close like this: you know, I give SPE talks to young people a few years back. These are all the students come from all over the world. They ask me to give a talk. I give a talk; I finish like this: You know, look, one day, I am going to retire, OK? However, I said, I am not going to leave you soon, alone.