Oral-History:Nancy Musick

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About the Interviewee

Nancy Musick is currently a Special Projects Manager (Technical Activities) for the Society of Petroleum Engineers in Houston, Texas and is responsible for overseeing the SPE Technical Reports and for facilitating the activities of Subject Matter Expert (SME) committees / taskforces focused on dissemination and discussion of technology. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with BS degree in Petroleum Engineering. Nancy completed more than 18 hours of graduate study in Environmental Engineering at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Currently, she is pursuing a MSE in Project Management from the University of Texas at Austin.

She has more than 8 years petroleum industry experience in reservoir simulation, pressure transient analysis, reservoir surveillance, field development planning, and multi-discipline technical project support. She has worked on assignments in Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma, and Kuwait.

Nancy has more than 9 years teaching experience of core curriculum for elementary and secondary school levels with emphasis in mathematics, science, English grammar & vocabulary, and writing while living abroad in Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman.

Nancy is a long standing member of SPE. She has served in several SPE local chapters and is currently a member of the SPE Gulf Coast Section.

About the Interview

Nancy Musick: An interview conducted by Amy Esdorn for the Society of Petroleum Engineers, June 5, 2015.

Interview SPEOH000119 at the Society of Petroleum Engineers History Archive.


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Audio

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Nancy Musick
INTERVIEWER: Amy Esdorn
DATE: June 5, 2015
PLACE: Houston, Texas

ESDORN:

My name is Amy Esdorn. I’m working as the historian for the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Today is Friday, June 5th, 2015 and I’m here interviewing Nancy Musick. Good morning Nancy. Thanks for being with us.

MUSICK:

Good morning.

ESDORN:

The first question I want to ask you is, how did you get involved in the industry?

MUSICK:

Okay. I got started in the industry when I was about 13 years old, when my father took me out to my first drilling rig and I just immediately had just this passion in my heart and soul for the oil industry that I think it goes back even before that because I’ve always liked math and science and problem solving and puzzles and things like that, which I think I get that from my mother. And my father was land man so, you know, he always talked about his work and taken me out on the rig for the first time but also before my dad, were many other relatives that worked in the business and it was just natural. But when I went out on that rig and stepped foot on the rig for the first time, that’s when I think the passion was ignited for petroleum engineering and then of course as I learned more about it, reservoir engineering and then as time went along [00:02:00] more into technical writing, project management, and things like that.

ESDORN:

And how old were you when you went out on the rig the first time?

MUSICK:

I think I was about 13. I was middle school, about eighth grade maybe and yeah it was in south Texas just outside of Corpus Christi. I think it was Chapman Ranch down there for anyone that knows the area and my dad took me on the drill floor which, back in that time it was okay but nowadays of course HSE restrictions wouldn’t allow that. But it was like an impromptu “Take your daughter to work day” and I was just driving around with my dad as he checked in on leases and things for his job.

ESDORN:

And what sort of interested you in that? What made you kind of go “Oh this is what I want to do” when you saw that when you were 13 years old?

MUSICK:

I think just being on the – I was on the drill floor, in the doghouse where the drill was at and just looking at if the people working on the floor and just the mechanics of it all and then also just was exciting to know they were drilling for something. They couldn’t see it or touch it but they were drilling for that precious commodity. So it was exciting.

ESDORN:

And so after you were 13, what was sort of the course that you took to get in to the industry?

MUSICK:

[00:04:00] I was fortunate because one of my father’s best friends and also the head of the company was a reservoir engineer by training and he took me under his wing and mentored me and groomed me for reservoir engineering in particular. So he advised me on what I should be studying in the remainder of my high school years, where I should go for engineering school. I even asked him one time “Should I get a dual degree?” and he said “No, just focus on reservoir engineering and be the best you can at that.” He also set me up in the company for summer jobs and I learned from sort of the back office all the way through the engineering. I did materials management. I also at one time had a part-time job as a gas contract administrator, did work on that. I ended up going to University of Texas. In the summer programs there, I worked as a field engineer and a roustabout and also did a summer job in Long View and worked on reciprocating compressors and was mentored of course through all those things by the engineer in that area, and they were always very patient and just encouraging and they were always great to me so that encouraged me more, so. Then I kept going and did some summer jobs in the research and technology division and also, I did a summer job in Alaska on Prudhoe Bay engineering so I was blessed with a lot of good opportunities.

ESDORN:

And when was this that you were getting involved in the industry? When did you go to college and start doing all of your jobs?

MUSICK:

[00:06:00] I started college in the fall of 1982. I went to junior college and got my associate’s in engineering. In May of ’84, went on to the University of Texas in the fall of ’84, graduated with my bachelor’s in December of ’87 and continued on for a brief time in graduate school, petroleum engineering, in particular horizontal pressure transient analysis under Dr. Peters at the University of Texas. So I went to junior college but I knew all along I was going to go to University of Texas, so I made sure all my classes transferred for the proper equivalents there and worked my way through school and I paid for my education myself through working in scholarships and graduated with no student loans or anything, so. I think it’s doable, so.

ESDORN:

So what challenges did you face once you started your career?

MUSICK:

Well, when I went to the University of Texas, the people in the department were always great but there weren’t many women around in the engineering field back then. But I never thought too much about it. It never occurred to me, but occasionally it was brought to my attention that I was in the minority but I never did let it deter me. [00:08:00] In fact, it probably just motivated me to work even harder and be even better, because being a woman, one of the few women in the business at the time, I had to really be top of the class so I worked hard and made good grades, was the top of my class, so.

ESDORN:

And once you got in to your career did you face – what kind of challenges did you face there?

MUSICK:

The first permanent job I had was as a reservoir engineer in Alaska doing simulation for an area of Prudhoe Bay called the Eileen West End accumulation and they have never had a woman in their group and they have never had a Bachelor of Science person. They’re always higher degrees and they never had anyone that was brand new out of school. They were all more like subject matter experts by that time. So I was breaking all sorts of barriers I guess at the time, but they all were very friendly and mentored me and got me up to speed very quickly and I enjoyed the job and I enjoyed working with all the people in the group, so.

ESDORN:

So with your first job were you nervous as you said? I mean everybody were experts in their field there when you went in. Were you sort of afraid that you didn’t know enough or did you have any fears about that or qualms?

MUSICK:

Well, yeah. I guess I should back up. I went in and took over the project I had worked on for the summer. So I did a summer project initializing a reservoir simulation model for this area of Prudhoe Bay. That was a bit challenging because I was like I haven’t done a lot of simulation. [00:10:00] I’d only had like my senior project in school and even then that was a group project so I didn’t have to do a whole lot on my own. So I was a bit nervous because I’ve never done a lot of simulation and also with the big major oil company in Alaska and then the person that was mentoring was such a well-regarded person in that lot. I better not mess this up, so but he was very patient and I asked plenty of questions. I always believed in asking questions. When you don’t know something, just go ask or research it, whatever, but don’t just sit there, don’t make a lot of assumptions and do something wrong so ask for help so I did.

ESDORN:

And so when you asked for help, you generally you got it too?

MUSICK:

Oh yeah. The petroleum engineers in general I think they’re just always very – my experience is they’ve always been very willing to help and to impart their knowledge to you and mentoring so it was just a given. I mean I didn’t know any different. And so when I became a professional engineer out of school, I started mentoring the high school. I had a high school girl that I was mentoring through SPE there in Alaska and it was just natural. It’s just what you do, you know.

ESDORN:

That’s wonderful. So you’ve sort of – I guess what was the course that your job your career path sort of took in those few years and what did you do, and would you recommend that somebody would follow in those steps, but what was career path at first?

MUSICK:

[00:12:00] Well, I’ve had a very unique and I think very interesting career path. Once I graduated with my bachelor’s and went to work in Alaska, my husband also worked for the same company in Alaska as a reservoir engineer and we worked there for the same company for a couple of years and moved back to Houston, worked a couple of years, and then we moved back to Alaska with his job not with my job. At that time, I had our first children and so we moved back to Alaska with his job and the new kids. So I took a while of there to be with the kids but I also started doing graduate study at the same time in environmental engineering there at the University of Alaska Anchorage and did for a while and then with the downturn in the industry at the time which was the early ‘90s, to miss the layoff bullet we moved to Kuwait with the company. So I followed my husband’s career and I also decided at that time to start home schooling my children. So I started home schooling them, which was long-term project that I started managing. Now, I see it as a project management experience but we started in the first grade. I home schooled through the ninth grade and then when they went off to 10th grade at an American school overseas, I became a substitute teacher and tutor mainly in the sciences, some English and did that [00:14:00] for a while and then they graduated and we moved again with my husband’s career and I got a job at the new location overseas as a technical assistant supporting all the disciplines which I really loved. I like to have my hand in all the different areas, but I’m not expected to be an SME in all these things, but I like of course environment and the HSE area and the reservoir engineering. Those were given, plus geology I had two years of geology in my undergraduate studies so I enjoyed that. Production operations, drilling not the best at drilling. I’m a bit intimidated by the whole drilling thing but I enjoy reading and being involved in it and also, I became involved in the decision process in a major oil company and learned about the whole process from beginning to end and how projects are started and planned and designed and executed and operated and then eventually of course abandonment, but that was all very interesting to me so I really got a good feel for project management that I had been doing all along but now I have more of an idea, a framework to go with that. Then we moved back to the United States with my husband’s career and I received this job at SPE as a technical editor manager of subject matter experts on particular issues and I enjoyed that because I get to be involved in the hot topics in the industry and work with all these experts and just had my hand in all the different aspects of the business so right now I [00:16:00] have a project in unconventional resources. I have a project in safety, near miss issues, and then the other one in decision quality or the project decision process, so all very interesting. So it is a different road that most people take.

ESDORN:

Definitely, quite varied in fact.

MUSICK:

You did ask me if I would encourage anyone to do that. I encourage people to be open minded and flexible and just receptive to new things. I find it exciting in learning new things and even now I’m going to be going back to graduate school in the fall to get my Masters of Science in Engineering Management. So you’re never too old to stop learning and so encourage them to follow what is best for their family and their career.

ESDORN:

Good advice. So back in the ‘90s you were involved in testing and working on getting all the bugs out on the ecoMeter. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

MUSICK:

Yeah that was actually the summer of 1986. I was working for Sun Oil Company in the research laboratory in Dallas and one of my projects that summer was to go to Oklahoma with the field technician and work on the development of the ecoMeter which was at that time, revolutional because it was a laptop which you know we had the big monsters on our desk and this was the first, I think this was the first laptop I’d ever seen. It was a Toshiba laptop. In this steel briefcase with the foam and everything and [00:18:00] then it was hooked up to a huge gas cylinder to shoot gas pulses down the annulus of a well and then record the response and from that it can be translated into pressures. You can diagnose the operation of your well but we were working on specifically determining bottom hole pressure and gassy wells in Oklahoma that were on… they were on a rod pump. So this tool was shooting down the annulus so you didn’t have to pull your tubing and you could just stop the well as you needed and do this test and then bring it right back online as soon as the test was over so it really saved you a lot of time, a lot of money, not pulling all your tubing in all that business and also give you a good feeling for the performance of the well and you could adjust your well. So that was very interesting and sitting out in the cow pasture in Chickasha, Oklahoma and at 2:00 a.m. to make sure those machine operated correctly. It was fun. Not many people would think that it was fun but I thought it was exciting, so.

ESDORN:

So you were just doing it in the middle of the night or was it a day-round thing? How did that work?

MUSICK:

Yeah. The test… We were doing bottom hole pressure buildup tests so the machine was brand new. This was one of the first wells they had used it on and the ecoMeter company part wanted Sun Oil to partner with them and test it out and develop it and went to the field to test it. So in order to make sure it was working right, of course we’d have to check up on it, to make sure [00:20:00] everything was firing like it was supposed to, that the computer was recording, and everything was working correctly. Yeah, it did require setting your alarm and going back out there and checking it. So we might take a shot every four hours, say – I don’t remember what the time was, maybe it was six hours, and during the day it was fine because we get to sit there and check on it, but at night, yeah, you have to get up and go out there and make sure it was working right. And it did malfunction and the technician that I was there with didn’t know what to do. He was ready to pack it in and go back to Dallas. I said, “No. Let me see the engineer’s manual or schematic on the tool. Let me see the tool.” We knew where it was not working. The computer was working fine and of course, the gas bottle is just a gas bottle but it’s regulator and the apparatus that they used between those two things. So I looked at the schematic and determined that I thought it was this O ring inside that was leaking because we weren’t getting a shot. So we took it apart and replaced the O ring and it worked and we continued our test and we stayed out there we were successful and we came back in to the office like we were supposed to our full data that we needed. So it was exciting and I made a friend in the technician.

ESDORN:

That’s great. Well, thank you so much for meeting with me and doing this interview. Is there anything else you’d like to include that maybe we didn’t get to?

MUSICK:

[00:22:00] No, not unless you like to ask me more. I can talk your ears off.

ESDORN:

I think we’re fine for now but thank you so much.

MUSICK:

Okay. Thank you Amy.