Oral-History:Ted Frankiewicz

About Interviewee

Ted Frankiewicz has more than 30 years' experience with Occidental Petroleum, Unocal Corp., Natco Group, and, currently, SPEC Services. He has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago, holds 15 patents, and has written more than 25 professional publications. At Unocal, he was responsible for developing the water treatment systems that were installed in the Gulf of Thailand to remove mercury and arsenic as well as residual oil from produced water. At Natco Group he developed an effective vertical column flotation vessel design and used CFD to diagnose problems with existing water treatment equipment, as well as designed new equipment. His combined expertise in oilfield chemistry, the design of process equipment, and the development of process systems has provided him with unique insights into the issues that challenge operators as their water production and water treatment costs escalate over time.

About the Interview

Ted Frankiewicz: An interview conducted by Amy Esdorn for the Society of Petroleum Engineers, October 27, 2014.

Interview SPEOH000116 at the Society of Petroleum Engineers History Archive.

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Interview Video

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: Ted Frankiewicz
INTERVIEWER: Amy Esdorn
OTHERS PRESENT: Marco Blomsma
DATE: October 27, 2014
PLACE: Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Background, Education, and Entry into the Petroleum Engineering Profession

ESDORN:

My name is Amy Esdorn, and I’m conducting an oral history of Ted Frankiewicz for SPE. The date is Monday, October 27, 2014. Dr. Frankiewicz, thank you so much for coming in today, appreciate it.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Glad to be here.

ESDORN:

Good. So, we’re just going to start at the very beginning. My first question for you is where did you grow up?

FRANKIEWICZ:

I grew up in the steel town of Gary, Indiana. And just to the west of Gary, Indiana is another small town called Whiting, Indiana, which had a number of oil refineries, and my dad worked in an oil refinery and he always encouraged me to work for an oil company because they had the money and it was a fun place to work.

ESDORN:

So, your father worked for an oil company?

FRANKIEWICZ:

He did, but he worked in the refining side. And I always thought that the oil production side was more interesting.

ESDORN:

And so, did he help you get a job, or how did he encourage you to work in the industry?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, I worked for Occidental Petroleum for a while and then for Unocal and had several projects that touched on oil production or oil transport. But my real entry into the industry to work in oil and gas facilities was because Unocal had a platform where they were having difficulty transferring heavy oil from the platform to shore—pipeline pressure drop is much too high. And I was in the Unocal research division and they needed to have someone who knew something about viscosity that could help them out. And since I knew about viscosity, I was asked to help out with resolving the problem. I also knew about something called core flow, where you could take a heavy oil with a little bit of water around it and you can flow that through a pipeline and reduce the pressure significantly, so I suggested that they do that and gave them a method that would be very simple to implement, which they did and it worked very well, and then I continued in the oil and gas facilities production business after that.

ESDORN:

So, to back up a little bit, when you were growing up, did you ever work during the summers where your father worked, or did you ever… when you were growing up was there anything other than your father’s business that made you kind of think, “Oh I like engineering. I like this sort of thing”?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, I liked chemistry. My degree is in chemistry from the University of Chicago. I’m probably the only University of Chicago graduate working in the oil and gas business. And I liked fluid flow and hydrodynamics. In the backyard, I used to dig trenches in the yard and [take] the water out, the flow down trenches. So that was always of interest to me, and it just seemed natural. The other thing is, when I was young, I used to do doodles with arrows going here and there. Now, I do doodles but it’s process going here, process flow going there. So, I do the same thing. So, getting into the oil and gas facilities seemed like just a natural thing to do.

ESDORN:

So, you went and studied chemistry at the University of Chicago. So, was there anything -- why did you decide to choose chemistry?

FRANKIEWICZ:

To me, that was the easiest route. It was something that I found very interesting. Everything was very logical. There was a lot of math involved. I enjoyed the math. I had a background in physics, so you have to have the math right, you have to have the physics right, and you have to understand chemistry. And I still follow those same principles in my work today because when you’re working in facilities, you have to be sure that you’re getting the physics right before you go after the chemistry. And hydrodynamics and fluid flow is a very important part of what I do. At Unocal, after I worked on this one viscosity problem—and they knew my background was in chemistry—they asked me to go out to several facilities, including some offshore facilities, to see if I could help out with the chemistry programs—the water treatment programs, the oil demulsification programs and whatnot. And when I went out, I found that most of the time, the problems were not chemically related, they were process related. Either the equipment was designed incorrectly or the process was designed incorrectly. So then, I had to rely on my background in physics and hydrodynamics in order to resolve the problems that were the base problem, the mechanical problems, then fix the chemistry. And later on, as I learned more, I realized that there were certain aspects of water chemistry, for example, that I had to take into account in order to resolve the water treatment issue. So, it just was a natural on my background. And one of my things that I remember was the first time I went to an offshore platform happen to be off of Huntington Beach, which is where we live now, and we were on a pier, went down a ramp, got on the boat, it was about a half-hour boat ride out to the platform. And as we’re approaching the platform, I’m looking for the ramp. Well, there was no ramp to get off the boat. I said, “How do we get off the boat?” They said, “See those ropes hanging there?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well, you grab one of those and you swing across.” And at that time, there was no background, there was no training, you just grab the robe and swung across to the platform. So that’s what I did.

ESDORN:

That’s definitely different from with all the health and safety that we’ve got going on now, definitely.

FRANKIEWICZ:

It is. Now you take training in rope swing, and back then we didn’t have that. You’d be on the platform and you’d watch that boat and it would be 6 feet below you and it would be 6 feet above you, and you had to time that swing so that the boat was coming up to you and not going down, otherwise you’re going to be hanging in midair.

ESDORN:

Did you have any brothers and sisters growing up?

FRANKIEWICZ:

I did. I have a brother who’s 10 years younger than I am and a sister who’s three years younger than I am, and neither one has gone into the oil industry. So I’m the only one in the family now that’s in the oil industry.

ESDORN:

So, you kind of explained already a little bit about working for Unocal and Occidental and how you kind of got into the industry. But can you kind of expand on that just a little bit for us exactly? What was the path that you took from being involved in chemistry and school, and what were the steps that sort of led you to find yourself here? So, my question would be how did you get into the petroleum industry?

FRANKIEWICZ:

The way I got into the petroleum industry on the production side was in the water treatment area but also working on chemistry-related problems, because Unocal was spending a lot of money on chemicals and they didn’t know whether this money was being well spent or not well spent, and they did not have anyone in their oil and gas production department who had an understanding of chemistry. That’s when they asked if I would got out and visit several facilities in order to determine what the problems were with the facilities and whether or not these problems were chemistry related or could they reduce the amount of chemicals they were using in order to reduce their production costs. So, I started doing that. And one of the platforms was offshore Huntington Beach, and I received a call from an engineering company that had been hired to design some equipment to go on the platform. Well, they didn’t have any expertise in this particular equipment, so they called me, who worked for the company, and asked if I would design some of this equipment. And I was glad to do that. It was also part of one of my assignments at Unocal to introduce hydrocyclones into the Unocal operations. At that point, Unocal had no hydrocyclone. Well, they one had but it didn’t work. So, they realized that hydrocyclones were potentially an important component of water treatment process systems on platforms, and they wanted me to introduce this technology to the company. So, I started visiting a number of platforms and determining whether or not hydrocyclones would be logical to install, and then working with the operations staff and the engineering staff in order to implement the hydrocyclones—or not, if I decided that no, this was not going to be a good application.

ESDORN:

And prior to this project, what were you doing for Unocal?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, my first job in an oil and gas company was with Occidental Petroleum, and that job was in California. I was transferred out of California and wanted to come back. I had a friend who worked for Unocal, and they had an open position in their lubricants group. So I was actually hired in the lubricants group. I became familiar with oil-soluble polymers and the design of engine oils for heavy-duty diesel engines in cars and things like that. So, I learned a lot about fluid flow and about soluble polymers, which are soluble polymers -- water-soluble polymers are important for water treatment, but they’re very similar in function to the oil-soluble polymers. And viscosity was a very important characteristic in the engine oils; that’s why when they had the problem with the high viscosity of the heavy oil coming offshore to onshore, they asked me if I could consult on that project, and that was my opening then to transfer out of the lubricants group into the oil and gas production group, and so I took advantage of that opportunity.

ESDORN:

That’s great. That’s great. So, let’s see. You kind of described just now how you got involved. Why did you decide to stay? Were you drawn particularly to the problems that were being asked of you that you had to solve, or did you just kind of go with the flow?

FRANKIEWICZ:

The reason I decided to stay with oil and gas production was that the problems were challenging, they were fun, and if you could come up with a solution, everybody was happy. The problems that came to me were the ones that no one else had solved. So, if I was unable to solve it, there was no downside risk. But if I did solve it, everybody was delighted. And then all oil and gas production facilities were all around the country, all around the world, I enjoyed traveling, so I had kind of the best of both worlds. I could go here and there. I had very interesting problems to work on. I had great people to meet and to work with, and then after getting over the shock of the first rope swing of the boat onto platform, I thought that offshore work was very interesting. And at one point, I counted up -- I stopped counting after this, but I had conducted projects on 42 different Unocal platforms around the world. So, at that point, I lost track. I couldn’t name them all anymore. So, it was just a lot of fun to go around and try to solve these problems. And it seemed like they were never ending. They were all in some way similar but all slightly different because the processes were different, and so there was never any guarantee when you went out that you’d be able to identify what the issue was.

ESDORN:

Terrific, terrific. So, we’re going to move on to your contributions. My first question for you is please explain about the development of water treatment systems for produced water.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Ask the question again.

ESDORN:

Okay. Could you please explain about the development of water treatment systems for produced water?

FRANKIEWICZ:

The development of water treatment systems for produced water really came about because of environmental regulations, and the companies were not real thrilled initially to have to treat produced water and recover the small amount of additional oil from the water before disposing of it overboard. That’s where the most pressing need was was offshore, so that’s one reason that I had the opportunity to work offshore in so many locations. The first technology that was implemented was hydrocyclones, which in some areas of the world worked very well to remove oil from the water and other areas of the world did not work all that well. So, Unocal had a number of platforms in the gulf, so I visited those platforms and determined that we needed not only hydrocyclones but flotation. So, gas flotation then was a key part of the development of water treatment systems. I had some familiarity with flotation because my first industrial job was actually with a minerals company, Kennecott Mining and Minerals, and they used flotation in their processes for minerals recovery. So, I understood the concepts of gas flotation. And so, I was able to work on hydrocyclones and on the flotation cells and the equipment, and then later on was able to develop enough expertise to work on the design of upstream equipment and the overall process systems.

ESDORN:

Great. What are some of the challenges facing the engineer who designs these treatment systems?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, the first thing the engineer has to do is understand what is happening in the entire process. What happens before the water comes through the water treatment system, and what’s happening to the water afterwards? There are a number of chemicals that are added to assist with oil-water separation. There are chemicals added to inhibit scaling, scale minerals, and a lot of people don’t understand that the scale inhibitors that are added don’t stop the scale from precipitating. They stop the scale from depositing on the walls of the pipe and valve. So, you still have those solids to deal with. Corrosion inhibitors are added, but the corrosion inhibitors have surfactants in them, and those surfactants interfere with water treatment. So, it’s a number of chemical things, and this is where my chemistry background came into play and helped me to understand what was happening with the water before I got it.

There are pressure drops involved. Pressure drops will shear the oil droplets and make them small, so then I have a more difficult job of taking those oil droplets out of the water with either hydrocyclone or flotation cell. And then, how clean does the water have to be? Well, offshore we have very clear regulations. It has to be less than 29 parts per million, as measured by EPA 1664, and then there cannot be any sheens on the water. So, that’s very clear.

Onshore, when you’re going to inject the water, it’s a little more difficult to specify how clean is clean, but the water’s going to be injected. You have to then know something about the geology involved. You have to know about the reservoir conditions involved are. You actually have to understand the pressures and temperatures in the reservoir, because after you clean the water, it’s going into a different set of conditions, and you may actually have additional precipitates form. And so, you have to guard against that, and that’s something you have to know in advance.

When the water comes to you, as I mentioned, there’s pressure drops, gases evolved. Sometimes that gas includes carbon dioxide. Then the pH changes, so that changes the tendency of the scale minerals. Calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, iron carbonate, iron sulfide changes the tendency of those minerals to precipitate. So you have to understand all that and once you understand the chemistry, then you can go to the chemical companies. You can say, “This is what I have.” If you can tell them what you have, they are very good at saying, “This is what we ought to do.” Their chemistry is proprietary. They don’t tell you everything about their chemistry.

So, I use my expertise to help them select their best products and minimize overall cost. Another interesting thing was at the time, the chemical companies were wanting everybody to use biocides. They would test the water. They would find sulfate-reducing bacteria, SRBs, and so they would say, “Wow, we got to have biocide treatment.” However, if you only have a few minutes residence time, which is what you have offshore—maybe 15, 20, 30 minutes residence time—that’s not enough time for the bugs to do anything, the SRBs, so you don’t need a biocide. In other cases, I found there was very little sulfate in the water. So even if the SRBs were there, it didn’t matter because they had nothing to feed on. So, why put the biocide in? So, a lot of times I was eliminating the biocide from the treatment processes offshore.

ESDORN:

You just briefly mentioned that the… or I guess the development of treating produced water and that sort of thing has actually been in response to environmental regulations. Can you briefly discuss some of those environmental regulations that you’ve seen in your career? And what was the impact on the industry as a result?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, initially, the environmental regulations had what was perceived to be a negative impact because additional equipment had to be designed in order to recover the oil. But in fact, at the end of the day and after people understood how to optimize the design of this equipment, the recovered oil could actually pay for the equipment in the extra processing. So, it was not a major downside in terms of cost after the fact, and it would have been a competitive disadvantage if company A decided to install all its water treatment equipment but company B did not. When the environment regulations came in, it was a level playing field. Everybody had to do it, and so then it was just a matter of the competition to get the best, most efficient, least expensive technology that would do the job. But when you’re processing 100,000 barrels a day of water and you’re taking may be 200 or 300 or sometimes 400 parts per million of oil out of the water, turns out to be quite a bit of oil and there’s a pretty good revenue stream. At least now with oil at 70 or more dollars per barrel back then, when it was only $20 a barrel, the revenue stream wasn’t as strong.

ESDORN:

And can you maybe discuss a little bit some of the environmental regulations maybe that made the biggest impact, or when they actually happened, or if you can recall?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, the environmental regulations really started to come into play in the 1960s and ‘70s, but they really weren’t a major factor until the 1980s. And that was about the time that I started getting involved in the offshore work. And at some point in time, I’ll tell you about the environmental regulations in Southeast Asia because that was a very interesting problem for taking mercury and arsenic out of the water.

ESDORN:

Perfect. Okay. So, you discussed that the first thing, the way that the industry approached treated water was with hydrocyclones, and then the second one was with gas flotation and that you were the one to actually suggest gas flotation. Could you please discuss that a little bit in more detail?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, other people were using gas flotation. So, it wasn’t my suggestion, but I was able to help them implement and effectively use gas flotation because of the background that I had from the minerals processing industry. So, it was a matter of understanding the technology and helping to implement the technology. The hydrocyclones, that was a specific assignment from Unocal, and at that time, there was insufficient understanding in the industry of hydrocyclones. So, they were not correctly used and not used in an optimum fashion initially. So, through organizations like SPE, I could learn what other people were doing and how they were implementing hydrocyclones. I was able to get background information, and that helped me to vet the information I would get from the various suppliers, because suppliers want to tell you what’s going to happen or the right thing. And despite people’s opinions otherwise, they really do their best but they don’t always understand everything, even about their products. So, organizations like SPE are very important for disseminating this information in allowing people who are coming into the industry to work with these what were then new technologies.

ESDORN:

And people who will be watching this or reading the transcript in the future might know a little bit about hydrocyclones—I’m sure they will—but could you just discuss how they work and also how gas flotation works as well?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Sure Hydrocyclones have water coming in near the top. It’s a cylindrical top. The water comes in tangentially and circles around, generates very high what we call G forces. And because the oil is lighter than the water, the oil will tend to go to the center of the fluid in the hydrocyclone. The water goes to the outside. And then in the center of the hydrocyclone, what naturally forms is a core, a low pressure core that the oil moves into, and it’s taken out the top of the hydrocyclone, leaving the clean water to go out the bottom. And so you take advantage of between 1,000 and maybe 2,000 times the force of gravity spinning around for three to five seconds is all it takes for the oil to separate, and then you can pull that out the top. One of the things that happens if people don’t quite understand often is that small solids, even though those solids are supposedly heavier than water, will stick with the oil, and they’ll actually go out with the oil. So, the reject that we cull from the hydrocyclone is not only oil but also some trace mineral solids, and recycling those back into the process is a problem. And that’s one of the reasons why early installations of hydrocyclones were causing problems was because of this recycle stream. They would be taking the contaminant out of the water with the hydrocyclone, putting it back in the separator, and sending it right back through the hydrocyclone again. They didn’t have any way to take those contaminants out. So, then the underflow, the clean water from the hydrocyclone was in most cases, especially in US waters and the Gulf, the water is still not clean enough to go overboard.

So, then it goes to a flotation cell. And in the flotation cell, small gas bubbles are generated that will float to the surface, and they will attach. The gas bubbles will either attach themselves to oil droplets or oily solids, or as they arise, the oil droplets or the oily solids will follow the gas bubble to the surface. On the surface, they are captured and then removed, skimmed off either by use of paddles or by just skimming into a trough and taken out of the flotation cell. And they’re generally in horizontal flotation cells. There are four stages of flotation, and this is just a carbon copy of what’s done in the minerals industry. And so, they will clean the water four times, and the water then is clean enough to go overboard.

Now, initially, the use of polymers to help with the flotation was not well understood. But after a number of years -- and I would say it probably took a good 10 years for the chemical companies to understand what kinds of polymers to use in the right situation in order to remove these contaminants in the flotation cell. But then the water, the environmental regulations in the US were actually set based on the capability of flotation cells to remove oil from the water, and that’s how the 29 ppm -- well, initially it was 42 ppm average and 72 ppm max. Now, it’s 29 ppm average and 42 max. But most companies will maintain their water quality at less than 20 ppm residual oil. No one anymore is happy with 20 or 25 or something above 20, and in many companies, it’s in the low teens. It’s in the 10 ppm range. So, that technology, although physically it looks the same, works a lot better than it used to.

Now, since those early days and over time, I’ve developed a lot more understanding of the physics of the process as well as the chemistry and also the fluid flow patterns through flotation cells are very important to understand. That’s where we have used computational fluid dynamics in order to model the flow through flotation cells, and that has helped us to improve the design of flotation cells as well. And that’s another reason why this equipment and this technology now works a whole lot better than it used to. So now you still have a potential other problem because the second part of the environmental regulation is that you cannot have any sheen on the water. All right? You can’t have any sheen on the water, and you get a sheen even though you’re throwing 10 ppm oil and water overboard. Why does that happen?

Well, after a little bit of study, we were able to determine two things. One, you may have some oily minerals left in the water that would dissolve in seawater, releasing free oil that would come to the surface, or that you had some entrained gas, and the gas then as the water went overboard, it would then act as a flotation cell in the sea and bring that oil back up to the surface. The solution to that was just to have slightly larger disposal pipes and to take that deeper into the water so that the oil could disperse. And not only did you meet environmental regulations, you also had to pass a toxicity test. And so, anything, any chemical you put in, anything you would add to the water, if it added to the toxicity of the water, you would fail the toxicity test. You can’t do that. So, I’m using the words you throw the water overboard, you dispose of it, yes, but it is nontoxic. Not only does it seem not to bother the fish and the other sea life, they seem to gather -- sea life likes to be around the platform. And so, around the platforms, you often find a very rich community of sea life.

ESDORN:

That’s really interesting.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Yeah. It really is. And when you’re in normal waters like in the Gulf of Thailand, I could go down to the lower levels, and it was like watching an aquarium. It was just all kinds of fish swimming around—big fish, little fish, and colorful fish. And so, it was just like you’re there just on top of the aquarium looking down because the water was very clear.

ESDORN:

That’s wonderful. So, you mentioned just now recycling the mineral solids that were at first going through the hydrocarbons

FRANKIEWICZ:

Mm-hmm.

ESDORN:

… and being just accidentally -- just kept…

FRANKIEWICZ:

Recycling around, yes.

ESDORN:

… going, recycling through and recycling through. How did was the problem solved to -- how was that discovered that that was a problem, and how then was that solved, that problem?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, it’s one of my soap boxes and there a few other process chemistry type people in the industry who had the same soap box. We look at process and we ask: is there a positive path for removing the contaminants from the process? And if there is not, then we need to provide one so that contaminants, when they’re removed are removed from the process and not returned. So, we can take the reject from a hydrocyclone or the skim from a flotation cell, for example. And it’s mostly water. It’s still 95, maybe 98 percent water. And we put that into a separate vessel which is properly designed. The oil will separate, and it actually doesn’t retain a lot of water. So that oil with the extra solids and the chemicals can then be mixed with the sales oil and go out with the sales oil. It’s not returned to the process. Because of the solids and the chemicals, if it’s returned to the process, not only does it disturb the water treatment, it also disturbs oil-water separation because those chemicals and those solids tend to reside right above the oil-water interface and they actually interfere with the dehydration of the oil. So, we help not only the water treatment system by removing these contaminants, we actually help the oil-water separation process by removing the contaminants.

ESDORN:

And how did you recognize that this was a problem to begin with? Was it very obvious, or…

FRANKIEWICZ:

The first time I recognized the problem with the recycle of the mineral solids and the contaminants was on a platform actually in the North Sea off the Dutch sector, and they had mentioned that they seem to have a lot of black stuff in there, what they called it. I think they called it a different four-letter word, but anyway. They had this stuff that was going around but they couldn’t get rid of it. So, I took a sample and measured the amount of solids that were circulating around, and it was about 150 parts per million, which is pretty high. So, I then took a sample of the water coming in and measured the amount of solids in the water coming into the facility, and that was about 50. I thought, “Wait a minute. How can it be 50 coming in and 150 going around?” So, then I started tracing through the process of what happens to the solids in the process, and what I found was that they would take the hydrocyclone reject, they took the flotation skim, they it sent to a tank, but then everything from that tank went back into the front of the process. And so I thought, “Okay, that’s where the problem is.” So if we take that tank and we have a separate exit for the oil and a separate exit for the water, we can recycle the cleaning water but we don’t recycle the dirty solids and oil. Problem goes away. And that’s in fact what happened.

ESDORN:

That’s exciting.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Yeah, it was fun [laughter]. It’s one of those things when you do something like that, you see the solution to a problem, and it gets implemented -- the people involved on the platform, they’re fighting this problem. They’re not happy about it. When you help them, they’re delighted that you’ve help to make life easier for them. So, you eliminate process upsets, you eliminate the overboard sheens, and you eliminate the going out of spec going overboard and whatnot. So they’re delighted.

ESDORN:

You mentioned some challenges of treating produced water, but are there any other challenges that you didn’t cover that you’d like to discuss?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, at one point, I’d like to talk something about the problems in the Gulf of Thailand. Because of my minerals background, it was funny -- I remember the day that my boss -- there were several of us in the hallway, and my boss comes in and says, “Unocal Thailand has some problems with mercury in their water. Does anybody know anything about mercury?” Everybody scurried into their offices, and I was the last man in the hallway. And I said, “Well, I know something about copper,” because I’d worked for a copper company. He said, “That’s good enough. It’s your problem.”

So, then I was assigned the problem to work on the issue of mercury in produced water. Then I found out it was not just mercury, it was also arsenic. Well, I understood mercury chemistry actually pretty well, but I did not understand arsenic chemistry. But fortunately, I had a friend chemist who did. So I contacted him and rapidly he brought me up to speed on arsenic chemistry. So, we went out to the Gulf of Thailand, and at the time, I had a research lab and I had trunks of laboratory equipment that they would send out to the platform and I would spend two to four weeks at a time working on the water out there, first to try to understand on a fundamental basis what was the issue, what was the form of mercury present, what was the form of arsenic present, and therefore, how could we take it out.

Well, it turns out that the mercury that was present is elemental mercury. Now, everyone was assuming that it was water-soluble mercury, but that was not the case. That was a difficult sell job, but the way I did that was to filter the mercury out of the water. If you can filter the mercury out, it can’t be dissolved. And then, by a series of filtrations, we were able to determine what the droplet size was for the mercury. And it was all pretty small, but it pretty much filtered out on a 1-micron filter. And so then, we also determined that these very small mercury droplets could be removed in a hydrocyclone. So, that was the first step. It was in the hydrocyclone.

And then the second step was flotation. So, whatever didn’t get taken out in the hydrocyclone was taken out of flotation. Now, mercury is very heavy, and so you might think, “Well, wait a minute. Wouldn’t the hydrocyclone send the mercury with the water?” Because the water is heavier than oil, oil is going to the middle. Why is that mercury going to the middle? Because it was very small droplets, 1 micron or less, and it was being associated with the oil and so the droplets coated with oil associated with other oil were light enough together to come to the center. And so wed remove the bulk of the mercury in the hydrocyclone, which was counterintuitive. The droplets being heavy, should’ve gone to the outside. Nope, they went to the middle. And actually took a test hydrocyclone unit out.

Because of my previous work with hydrocyclones with the hydrocyclone companies, I had friends there. They would lend me equipment that they wouldn’t lend to other people because they knew that I wouldn’t do it incorrectly. I understood the physical principles involved, so they would lend me equipment and I could take it out there. Then, in the flotation cell, again, because the mercury droplets were A, small, and B, hydrophobic, they would come out as long as I use the correct polymer. I could take them out in the flotation cell. So, we were able to reduce the mercury in the water from several 100 parts per billion—not million but billion—down to less than 10 parts per billion.

The reason this was important for Thailand is the Gulf of Thailand is a very important fishery and Thailand is the sixth leading seafood export country in the world. And so, if their fish that they were catching in the Gulf of Thailand were perceived to be contaminated, they wouldn’t be able to sell that fish. So, it was very, very important that we take it out. Toxicity or not, you know, it was a commercial and economic… that commercial and economic importance to the Kingdom of Thailand. Well, the arsenic then it turns out we had to oxidize the arsenic from the +3 to the +5 state—again, you had to understand the chemistry—then we would precipitate the arsenic out, along with some iron, and that we could take out in the flotation cell. Okay?

So, we had to put in an oxidant to oxidize the arsenic. So now we had a problem. Because if we put in the oxidant and oxidize the mercury, it would not come out in the flotation cell. But we had to put in enough oxidant to oxidize the arsenic so it would come out in the flotation cell. And we found that there was a certain level of what we call oxidation reduction potential or ORP that would allow us to oxidize the arsenic but not oxidize the mercury. We constructed a pilot plant on the platform after demonstrating this in principle. We constructed a pilot plant on the platform in the Gulf of Thailand, and I have to really compliment the Thai engineers because they really had to go out on a limb to encourage this to happen to fund it and everything.

We operated that pilot plant for a total of about six weeks, and all of the commercially applied process conditions resulted from one afternoon of testing. We tried this and this sort of worked and didn’t. We tried this and this sort of worked. One afternoon, we had the brilliant idea of controlling the oxidation reduction potential. We did control the conditions through the hydrocyclone through the flotation cell. We got very nice set of data. We said, “Okay. If you do this, it will work.” And so that was the basis of design for the water treatment system that was actually installed in the platform, and it worked as advertised.

Now, at the time, the Kingdom of Thailand was considering environmental regulations for allowable arsenic and allowable mercury in the water. They did not have regulations. They just knew that it shouldn’t be there. So, based on our work -- and Unocal Thailand had a good relationship with the government, very supportive relationship. It wasn’t adversarial. It was very supportive. The Thais then adopted regulations based on what the technology would do, and then Malaysia followed suit, Singapore followed suit. So, less than 10 parts per billion of mercury is pretty much standard now for Southeast Asia mercury discharge. So, it’s kind of nice to be able to develop and see that implemented.

ESDORN:

Absolutely.


FRANKIEWICZ:

The one thing I have to say about the Gulf of Thailand and the really nice platforms out there -- the food was great and everything, but the housekeeping support you got and everything was absolutely first class. Your dirty clothes go out at night and they come back folded and cleaned in the morning. I can’t get that service at home [laughter].

ESDORN:

So, I’m just curious. So, this issue with the elemental mercury and the arsenic being in the produced water in the Gulf of Thailand, what was it about the Gulf of Thailand that produced those sorts of things in the water, and how is that different from other places?

FRANKIEWICZ:

The issues for having mercury and arsenic in the water are generally that you have to come from a very hot formation. This is especially true for the mercury because the mercury will be present in the rock as mercury sulfide. And if it was a high enough temperature, that mercury sulfide would break down and release elemental mercury. And if there was gas present, in the Gulf of Thailand it was a gas condensate production, then that mercury after breaking down, would vaporize and come up with a gas. And as it came up with the gas, it would then condense into small droplets, which ended up in the water. And the arsenic, I think that is more closely associated with past volcanic activity—again, when it’s very, very warm, typically above 300, sometimes above 350 degrees Fahrenheit. And what you’ll is that in other areas of the world, that’s when you have -- you don’t always find mercury, but that’s a condition that has to be present for you to find mercury in the produced water.

ESDORN:

That’s very interesting, actually.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Yeah.

ESDORN:

And so I’m assuming that -- I think you kind of mentioned this before that different bodies of water have different challenges. So, could you maybe discuss some of those that you’ve worked with?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Yeah.

ESDORN:

Some of the challenges.

FRANKIEWICZ:

It seems like everywhere you go, the challenges are a little different. The oil is different. The character of the oil is different. The scale minerals that precipitate are different. They precipitate under different sets of conditions. So, for example, if you have carbon dioxide in the water and you have a pressure drop in the process, then the carbon dioxide comes out and the pH of the water goes up. And as that happens, the solubility of the minerals goes down and they precipitate. And so, then you have an issue with controlling that precipitation.

Other times, the process involves high pressure coming onto the platform or into the facility, and when that fluid goes through a control valve, the pressure drops very rapidly, and that shears the oil into very small droplets. And the facility perhaps was not designed with that in mind, and so the facility will not be able to take out those oil droplets because they’re simply too small for the hydrocyclone to take out. And perhaps the oil content might be too high for it to be fully removed in a flotation cell. Whether it’s a heavy oil or a light oil makes a difference.

It turns out that the produced water from heavy oil is actually easier to clean than the produced water from light oil, and that is in part again because of the low viscosity of the lighter oils, and so as they go through, that pressure drops the control valves or whatnot, it tends to make smaller droplets. And so that then becomes more difficult to remove—not impossible as long as you understand that and you design the equipment appropriately. Other times, they’ll be mixing produced water from different zones, and that water maybe incompatible. Well, that used to be difficult to predict or difficult to understand.

Now, we have very good thermodynamic chemistry programs for water that are used in determining when those scale minerals will precipitate under what circumstances they will precipitate. So, we can simply take an analysis of a produced water here, analysis of the produced water there, and then compare them, mix them together in the program. It gives us a very good prediction of whether scale will be a problem or not. In other cases—and this gets back to heavy oil—if that heavy oil has been biodegraded—so it’s acidic, for example—they would have naturally occurring surfactants, and that again is more difficult to clean that water. But if we understand the fundamentals of the chemistry, we can then work with chemical companies because they’ve seen this before somewhere else in order to select the right chemical program to clean this particular produced water.

ESDORN:

This is great [laughter]. So, at Natco you developed an effective vertical column flotation vessel. What issues with the existing vertical column flotation units were you attempting to resolve with your unit, and how did you resolve them?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, as platforms were moving into deeper water, they wanted to handle more water with less weight and less space, and the typical flotation cell is big. It has about 5 minutes of residence times or 6 minutes of residence time in the cell, and if you have a high water volume, that’s a lot of water. So you got this big thing sitting out on the platform, and that costs a lot of money for the weight and space. So, there was a demand for smaller, more compact flotation.

Several companies had designed vertical column flotation, which I heard first heard about again back in Kennecott in my minerals days, and they did not perform all that well. They would take out maybe 60 to 70 percent of the oil from the water. And that was an efficiency which was too low to be of use. It really needed to be 80 to 90 percent, even in the single cell. The designs I noticed and then were later verified with computation of fluid dynamics did not do a good job of introducing the water into the flotation cell, having uniform distribution of water down the cell and a uniform distribution of bubbles coming up to remove the oil, interact with the oil, and sweep it to the surface. So, I was very fortunate working with Natco that I had an engineer assigned to my group full time to do computation of fluid dynamics.

So, we thought, “All right, let’s look at these cells. Let’s do computation of fluid dynamic studies,” which we did over a number of months, and we developed the method for introducing a gas through what’s called an eductor into the cell that would spread the bubbles out uniformly within the cell and give us a uniform bubble pattern coming up to the surface. And when we implemented that theory, we were able to get 85 to 90, and then with effective chemistry, sometimes even higher removal efficiencies. So, the flotation cell then we could say was not one stage. It was a one-and-a-half or two-stage flotation, and that was really almost equivalent to the horizontal flotation cell so we could reduce the size and space required.

Again, it gets back to fundamentals and really understanding the fundamentals and then reducing those fundamentals to practice. Getting back very quickly to the arsenic and mercury, once we understood the chemistry, the challenge was how do we implement the chemistry in ordinary oil field process equipment that the operators would be able to understand and work with.

ESDORN:

That’s great. Let me think. So, you’ve talked about fluid flow and offshore, and I’m trying to sort of in my own -- I’m putting together a little question. So, please forgive me. If you’d like to take a sip of water right now, you can.

FRANKIEWICZ:

I can talk about CFDs [Computational Fluid Dynamics] a little bit more.

ESDORN:

Yeah.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Which I’d like to do that.

ESDORN:

Let’s go ahead and do that.

FRANKIEWICZ:

When I was at Natco, another one of the challenges was to design separators, long horizontal vessels that could be installed and work effectively on floating platforms, because this was just the early days of putting vessels on FPSOs [Floating Production Storage and Offloading] and on floating platforms, spars and whatnot. And so, especially under storm conditions, those will slosh around, and it totally messes up the oil-water separation. You can imagine things are sloshing back and forth this way and there. I mean, there are six degrees of freedom for the motion, and so you had to control that motion within the separator.

So, we started doing research with computation of fluid dynamics on the use of perforated plates in separators in order to dampen out the movement of the water and the separators and maintain the oil-water separation. And then, as the oil would flow over a weir to the oil processing, we didn’t want any water flowing the weir. We didn’t want any oil going out with the water. And so, each platform or FPSO had its own environmental conditions. So, the end user would provide us with all of the motion conditions—the role, the pitch, the heave, everything—and each one had a different period of motion. So, this one might have a 15-second, this one might have an 8-second, this one may have a 6-second. So it was interactive.

And what the engineer that was doing our computation of fluid dynamics for us at Natco was able to do was to develop an algorithm that would allow us to move the separator with all these degrees of motion completely independently so we could watch the sloshing develop, and then we could install in the model the perforated plates here, there, there, run through the simulation, which sometimes took up to two weeks to run, and see whether or not that was effective. And from watching it, we could say, “Oh, okay. We weren’t so smart. So let’s move this here and here and to put there. Let’s try it again. No, we still weren’t so smart.” So, CFD is a very humbling technology. You think you know what’s going to happen and then it’s like oops, doesn’t happen.

And then by trial and error -- usually after three to four trials we were able to have a pattern of perforated plates that would dampen out the motion and allow effective oil-water separation to take place even under storm conditions. So these vessels were then placed on a number of FPSOs and floating platforms, and that really is the basis of design. There are a number of people who do this now, but in terms of the initial CFD work, some of the earlier work was done in our group at Natco. That’s a general practice in the industry.

ESDORN:

Is there anything else you would like to discuss on that?

FRANKIEWICZ:

It was interesting in my career first working for an operating company and being the one who had to select the equipment. And so, I was able to gain an understanding of what would happen with the equipment, how would it be operated, how would the operators respond to it and whatnot, and then later on going to a manufacturing company. Since I had the operating experience, it was very valuable in saying, “Well, if we do this, the operators are not going to respond very well. But if we do something else and if we give them these other control options, they will like that a whole lot better.” So I was able to put those two things together, the design and manufacturing, especially with the increased understanding of computation of fluid dynamics in order to provide equipment to operators that the operators would be able to use and understand and would work the way it’s designed, not just, “Here it is guys, deal with it.” No. It’s something that these people would like to work with. And the thing that was hardest for me to appreciate was that when we built a piece of equipment and it worked well, we never heard anything, and if it didn’t work, okay, then we would hear something about it.

There was one interesting project that came up, happened to be in the North Atlantic, where an operator asked us to design a piece of equipment that was going to go downstream of a hydrocyclone and the hydrocyclone was “not working,” all right? So, we figured that out. So that’s a little part of the story. But when they gave us the size and said, “We only have enough room for a vessel of this size,” I said, “Well, it won’t work very well.” He says, “Well, it’s we all have room for.” So we’ll build this vessel, we’ll design this vessel but only if we can do a computation of fluid dynamic modeling vessel because I don’t want you to have misplaced expectations. The CFD will show you what the vessel will do and what it will not do, and he agreed with that. And so we did the vessel design. We validated the vessel design with CFD, and we did a lot of validation at CFD. CFD is garbage in, garbage out. We have to be really -- there’s a lot of art to it. It’s not just a technology that you can plug in and walk in and start using. You really need to know what you’re doing, and I was fortunate to have a CFD engineer who had that background, had that expertise.

Anyway, we designed the vessel, went offshore, installed it, and it worked as advertised. As a matter of fact, they had two vessels the way we had designed, an existing vessel, and they put three times more flow through the vessel. We had designed as they could through the other vessel to get the same result. So, everything was fine and then about six months later, I get a phone call saying, “Your vessels --” I said, “It’s not my vessel, you bought it.” But anyway, “Your vessels stopped working.” “Okay. What happened?” And they said, “Well, it got all clogged up with this really heavy crud.” I said, “Well, the only thing that would cause that to happen on your platform under these circumstances is if you used this particular type of chemical.” And there was silence on the other end of the phone. He says, “A week ago, we changed to that chemical.” I said, “Well, you got to shut it down, clean it out, and don’t use that chemical anymore.” That’s what they did, and it worked just fine. That was kind of fun, to be able to sit there and solve a problem for somebody, because it’s a big deal for them to have that issue.

ESDORN:

So, in treating produced water offshore, which is what we’ve…

FRANKIEWICZ:

Mm-hmm.

ESDORN:

… discussed so far and also onshore. What are the different challenges there?

FRANKIEWICZ:

The different challenges with treating produced water onshore are that the water is generally going to be sent into a disposal well, so you have to understand whether it’s going to be a fracture injection or matrix injection, and you have to understand something about the pore size, and you have to understand something about the rock that it’s going to go into. So, not only do you have to be a chemist, a process engineer, and a mechanical engineer, you also have to know something about the geology. You need a little bit of reservoir engineering knowledge as well so that we can determine what particle size needs to be removed from the produced water and understand whether or not we’re going to have any other mineral precipitation problems underground so that we can advise the operator as to what kind of chemistry he needs to implement in order to prevent those minerals from precipitating down in the well.

You can put perfectly clean water down the well, and it can still clog up the well if you don’t run the same chemistry. You have to understand the chemistry of the produced water that’s down there now, because when it comes up because of changes in the chemistry and the gas composition, that water is really different when you put it back down than when it came up. And so we have to understand that. And knowing all that, we can then design a process and the right equipment to treat the water to the point where it will be successfully injected, and that I think is the major difference is really knowing more about the specifics of the reservoir and the kinds of chemistry you can put down a hole and the size of solids you have to take out. My experience, if you go back to the Gulf of Thailand days, was that flotation is effective all the way down to 2 or 3 microns if you have the right chemistry involved in taking out solids. So, that allows us to do quite a bit well, and then from the flotation cell, we’ll then go through a nutshell filter and we know how that’s going to behave, and so then we’ll have water which is clean enough to put down back into the reservoir, either as a water flood or just as a disposal well.

ESDORN:

And you just discussed a little bit where you just touched on the fact that there’s a nutshell filtration system.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Yes.

ESDORN:

So, can you may be discuss a little bit the evolution of filtration systems over maybe the last -- well, in your career.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, the use of nutshell filters I think probably started in the 1980s. They weren’t really utilized very much because people didn’t understand how to clean the material off the nutshells and they had to find the right nutshell. It turns out black walnut shells are the most efficient, not necessarily the best for taking oil out but in terms of their mechanical properties, their ability to be cleaned and still be effective and everything. So people had to understand that. They had to understand the frequency with which you had to clean the nutshells and what not.

And there were a number of operators who have a number of variations on the designs, all doing essentially the same thing but slightly different techniques. Initially, people were using sand filters because sand filters are well known in conventional municipal water treatment facilities, but they don’t have the same capacity for taking out oil that the nutshells do. So, people went to multimedia filters, which were sand and garnet and anthracite coal doing a little bit better job of taking out the oil but still didn’t have the capacity. The nutshells have a higher capacity in terms of how much flow you could put down through a vessel of a certain size to take out the oil.

And over time, that’s evolved. Now there are a number of manufacturers, again, all with slightly different techniques but all basically doing the same thing that are very effective nutshell filters. In onshore work, when you’re putting the water back down into the reservoir, which most people are onshore -- and certainly, in North America is our standard of the industry. So, hydrocyclones or skim tanks -- that’s another thing, skim tanks. Get back to that in a minute. We had hydrocyclones, flotation, and nutshell. Now, I’m sure where they have space for taking up plenty of space, they like to use skim tanks. But skim tanks are process tanks. They’re not storage tanks. So, they’re different. And again, as a result of our work at Natco and computation of fluid dynamics, we developed an understanding of how fluid flows into, through, and out of a large tank. So, we were able to develop designs for large tanks onshore to make them much more effective at removing oil from the produced water or allowing solids to drop out of the produced water, whatever the problem happened to be, because we were able to control the fluid flow path, all because of the understanding that we had from the use of computational fluid dynamics.

ESDORN:

So you said that process storage tanks are different from skim tanks?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Process tanks are different than storage tanks.

ESDORN:

Okay.

FRANKIEWICZ:

So in a storage tank, you really don’t care. The fluid comes in, it goes out. The in and out can be very close together. In a process tank, you have to decide do you want this water or whatever it is. It could be oil and water, whatever. Do you want it to flow horizontally, or do you want it to flow vertically? Do you want it to flow up, or do you want it to flow down? So, when you introduce the fluid, you want to introduce fluid so it will flow uniformly across the tank or uniformly down the tank so that you maximize the residence time that you actually use in the tank. Most of the large tanks that I saw when I first started getting into tank design were only utilizing 10 to 15 percent of the volume of the tank. We can design a tank -- it’s now not difficult to design a tank that uses 75 to 85 percent of the theoretical volume in the tank for oil droplet removal.

ESDORN:

And why were they only using 10 to 15 percent?

FRANKIEWICZ:

The reason they were only using a very small percentage—it’s 10 to 15 percent. Early on, I had one person tell me an interesting story. He was doing a tracer study. He put the tracer at the inlet, and he was supposed to have two hours before it came to the outlet. So, half an hour later, he goes to take these samples at the outlet, and what he found was that he missed it. The tracer was completely gone in a half hour, even though theoretically they had two hours residence time. So he repeated test and found that he was getting everything out in 10 to 15 minutes, and that was because of short circuiting in the fluid flow path. The computation fluid dynamics will show you how that short circuiting takes place. And I have an interesting photograph of a process tank 60 feet in diameter and the water is coming in here. Right there is the outlet. So, it’s like, “Why did you build the rest of this tank? It comes in here, goes out there, nothing happens over here.” So, it’s just a matter of understanding, again, fluid flow and hydrodynamics. I was very, very fortunate to have a good CFD engineer. The computation of fluid dynamic educated me. Anytime we thought we were pretty clever, we just ran another CFD study, and that told us we weren’t really as smart as we thought we were.

ESDORN:

It’s always the way, right [laughter]?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Yes. Yes. It was very humbling.

ESDORN:

Okay. So, which milestones in your discipline do you consider to have been the biggest impact on the industry, and why?

FRANKIEWICZ:

I think the biggest milestones were actually environmental regulations because it forced the industry to do some things that it really didn’t want to do because it required additional investment, but it forced everybody to do it on the same basis. So, everybody had a level playing field, and therefore you did not have an economic driver that says, “Gee I can’t do this because my competitors will not have that cost. They will be more profitable, so their stock price will go up and mine will go down.” Everybody had to deal with the same rules and regulations.

I think the other aspect of that is that once the initial shock of that passed and the industry accepted that they could do this, they could operate in an environmentally responsible manner without a major economic penalty—because again, oil recovery helped pay for the processing—they were then willing to take on other environmental challenges much more readily. They had viewed this one with the water treatment as a very difficult one. A lot of people look at water treatment as a black box. They have no idea. It goes in there, comes out there. There are a few people in the world who understand what happens in between, but most of the people don’t.

Production engineers, they worry about the wells and the completion of the wells and how things come up the well, and it goes onto the platform and they have no clue. So, that’s why us guys who work in facilities have to deal with this. But having dealt with that environmental regulation, then when it came to reducing gas emissions and handling other discharges we said, “Sure. We can do that.” It was not a matter of, “No, that was impossible, we can’t do it.” No, we can do it.

ESDORN:

And are there any specific environmental regulations that you could point to that you think really had the biggest impact?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, the environmental regulations that had the greatest impact were the limiting of the amount of oil that could be discharged, and along with the water and the fact that the EPA did work with the oil industry in order to determine what level was best available technology, BAT, Best Available Technology. And then as the technology improved, they tightened the regulations. Now the industry is working with water quality which is much better than that required by the regulators. In the future, we will see some additional tightening of those regulations, but because of the toxicity of testing that’s required, there’s no real hurry to tighten those regulations because the industry is working -- they are self-regulating. They’re doing more than what is required, and the operators are very serious about this. Well, for two reasons.

They take their environmental responsibility very seriously, but also, as long as the operator is following company policy and the water is clean -- but if the water gets dirty, he’s done everything right, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, he’s making every effort to keep that water clean, if something happens, then you’d give him some leeway. If he is not following company policy and he’s discharging water which does not meet the environmental regulations, he’s actually criminally liable, and the company cannot even support his defense. All right, so they’re very serious about this.

And then the other thing I think that this did was that onshore -- because now the technology developed offshore was not only effective but relatively inexpensive. That means the water onshore could be cleaned to a much greater degree, which allowed more water flooding to take place because we knew how to do this, and generally, reclaim the water to a much greater degree onshore for disposal than we do offshore, in particular if it’s a matrix injection. If it’s a fracture injection, what I tell people is you can’t put the kitchen sink down but you can put the bathroom sink down. You can put a lot of stuff down if you got fractures, but if not, then you have to clean that water.

Now, the onshore regulation that’s in place certainly in California and I think in most places is when you’re disposing of water, you’re not allowed to fracture the zone into which the water was going. So, you can’t just pressure up to inject more water. So that means that that water has to be clean. One of the companies that I deal with which I can identify because everything’s public in California, what used to be THUMS, now operated by Occidental, they produce about 25,000, 27,000 barrels of oil per day and over a million barrels of water per day, and they reinject 103 percent of the total amount that they produce. So here they’re producing 2.5 percent oil, they’re injecting over a million barrels of water a day, and they do that economically because of the -- again, the regulation started offshore, now you know how to do that, we can do this onshore.

And in a sense, this is where the industry is going. If you want to know where the major fields will be and what kind of water production they’re going to have to deal with in the future, well come visit us in California or certain places in West Texas, where producing 2 or 3 percent oil is in the norm. So, the regulations have actually I think helped the industry.

ESDORN:

And just to be clear, they’re reinjecting it to produce more oil to get enhanced oil recovery?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Yes. In the THUMS operation, it’s a water flood. So, it is to help more oil recovery. Other places in California, it’s just a disposal, because they’re introducing water as steam in producing heavy oil. So it’s a disposal well rather than a water flood well. But again, we have to understand how to do that. And again, we’re not allowed to fracture the formation. The water must be clean.

ESDORN:

And so, what are some of the specific challenges between, I guess, producing for reinjection and a disposal well versus reinjecting for enhanced oil recovery?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, they’re pretty the much same. You have to understand the geology and the pore size into which the water is going. Whether it’s going in for disposal or for water flood doesn’t make that much difference. It’s all dependent on the physics and the confirmation of the rock, and you have to adjust your water treatment process and the water quality to that rock. And we now have relatively easy tests that we can do on a surface to determine that the water in fact is clean enough to be injected.

ESDORN:

Wonderful. Okay. So, what do you consider to be some of the biggest challenges facing industry in the future?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, I think one of the major challenges facing the industry in the future—and we’re facing it now—is the resistance to the application of new technologies. There’s a lot of misinformation or disinformation out there that has affected the perception of our industry. The operators have become environmentally conscious. Environmentally, they’re much more careful than they were 30 or 40 years ago, and they have the technology and the capability of operating in a very clean manner. Not just environmentally friendly, but I mean totally clean, no discharge of oil under the ground for any reason or whatever.

So, we can handle all that, but the perception is that we’re still this wild bunch that just dumps whatever, wherever, whenever. And that just doesn’t happen. When I tell people about my experiences offshore and how clean the water is and the fact that the fish are out there and fishermen come out and fish around the platform because that’s where the fish are, they’re shocked. They’re assuming that it’s just a pool of oil around those platforms, and that’s just simply not the case. It’s squeaky clean out there. And then we even capture all the water in both onshore and offshore. If it falls on a facility in many places -- in California, it falls on a platform that water is captured and cleaned along with the produced water. It’s not discharged. So we can’t just take rainwater and allow it to flow back off the platform off the facility. We have to take care of it.

ESDORN:

And so you said one of the biggest challenges is just the perception of what’s being done there out to produce…

FRANKIEWICZ:

Yeah, treating produced water.

ESDORN:

… treating produced water.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Yes, but just operationally in general, minimizing gas releases, the use of fracture technology -- it’s unfortunate that it’s called fracking because “fracking” sort of has a bad sound to it. And I hear things like, “Well, this is a technology which nobody understands and nobody knows anything about all the chemicals that are being used.” I’m thinking to myself, “Well, I guess you haven’t been to the same meeting that I’ve been to, where this technology is discussed openly. And you’re certainly welcome to come and hear these presentations, at ATCE [Annual Technical Conference and Exhibit] and at various forums and conferences that SPE sponsors around the country and around the world.” There are a lot of people who understand a lot about the rock physics, a lot about the fracturing technology.

And then Frack Focus, which was set up as a voluntary website, where the chemical companies could disclose what chemicals are involved, most of the chemical companies put virtually everything on the site. It’s no longer a trade secret. It’s there. And it turns out that a lot of the chemicals are actually from the food industry. So, if it’s okay to put in your salad dressing, why isn’t it okay to have in the water? And plus, that water is not going to end up in the drinking water. It’s physically something that can’t happen. And if people will take the time to learn the fact, to learn about the reality of the situation and the reality of the physics involved [unintelligible - 01:25:28] fundamentals—you have to get the physics right first—then I think a lot of these issues would go away.

ESDORN:

Thank you. I meant to follow up earlier. You were talking about the EPA and the regulations, the environmental regulations that have been put in place, and that was a big driver in change over the years. But I was just wondering what that looks like as far as the EPA versus maybe other global environmental regulations. Were they all kind of evolving at the same time or some coming sooner than others? And as far as implementation is concerned, were they doing it kind of equally across the board, or…?

FRANKIEWICZ:

The development of environmental regulations was kind of like this, especially in the US and in the European theater, in the North Sea. That’s really the driver was the Gulf of Mexico and the European North Sea operations. So, they had the same concerns, and there were certainly a lot of cross communication, again, facilitated by organizations like SPE. That’s where the forums where people could talk about these things. So, the method for the analyses, which told you how clean the water was or wasn’t, we have a different methodology in the US than they have in the European sectors. Those methods, one or the other, are pretty much used around the world. So, it’s either gravimetric procedure very similar to EPA 1664, or a gas chromatography procedure, which is similar to what’s used in the North Sea. In the North Sea, they adapted some other regulations like limiting the total amount of oil that can be discharged, so that means that the concentration of oil in terms of parts per million is coming down over time. But technology is allowing us to meet those regulations, so it’s not something that is really onerous. It may be a bit of a challenge. You have to be a little bit more careful of what you do but it’s doable, so.

ESDORN:

And those challenges are what make it fun to work in the industry.

FRANKIEWICZ:

It does, [laughter] yeah. You meet a lot of people, and it’s fun to work with people who have a problem and if you’re able to help them solve their problem, put a smile on their face, or go home on the weekend and be much happier and you know you contributed not only to the industry, not only to the environment, but to people’s lives.

ESDORN:

That’s great. Okay. So, what has made working in the petroleum engineering industry meaningful to you?

FRANKIEWICZ:

The thing that’s made working in the petroleum industry most meaningful to me is really the ability to keep learning new things. In my career, I’ve done a lot of different things, and the constant thing has been learning something new. So, being able to learn new things and respond to a constantly changing series of challenges has been very interesting. It’s one of the things that really keeps me involved. And when I think about, “Well, what would I do when I’m retiring?” I’m thinking, “You know what? I’m kind of doing it.” So, traveling then around the world, working for an international oil company, you don’t have to join the Navy to see the world, join an oil company to see the world, going to remote places and meeting people from around the world and working within different cultures has been very, very rewarding.

People have different way of doing things in Southeast Asia or the Middle East than we have, and learning to work within their work ethic and within their work methodology, jobs get done. Maybe done a little differently, but gets done. That’s been very rewarding. I was very fortunate before I started to work in Thailand to have an expat engineer. He was from the US but he was very culturally sensitive to the way things were done in Thailand, and he advised me on a lot of stuff. And because of his advice, I was able to work with the Thais much more effectively than I would have been otherwise. And so, we were able to accomplish a lot more.

So, understanding the cultures and working with people has been really one of the most fun things. And what I find is that sometimes our governments don’t always get along. We don’t have the same policies. We can show up anywhere in the world it’s kind of like, “Well, glad you’re here. Welcome, we’re so happy you’re here.” Person to person, within our industry it’s a very welcoming community. We all have the same objective of producing oil inexpensively in an environmentally sensitive manner, and being able to that and work with each other. I was a distinguished lecturer in 2009, 2010, and it just doesn’t matter where you go. You’re going to be welcomed as an individual that they’re happy that you’re there.

ESDORN:

And what are some of your favorite memories about working in the industry?

FRANKIEWICZ:

Well, some of my favorite memories of working in the industry were, as I mentioned before, that first rope swing when I found out I wasn’t getting off this boat unless I grab that rope. That was interesting. And then, later on, when you had to start taking sea survival training before you can work offshore. People were telling me how terrible that was and how difficult it was because they’re going to put you in this helicopter simulator. They spin you around, turn you upside down, plunk you in the swimming pool, and you have to -- it sounds terrible. Actually, in both cases, I had two days or three days of great fun in the pool. So, if you want to have two or three days of fun in the swimming pool, take one of these sea survival courses. It’s really great. They teach you everything you need to know. In both times, our class of about 10 to 12 people, we had two who couldn’t swim, and both times, those people had no problem passing the course. So, it was just great fun.

So, that’s kind of one of my memories. Another one was when I had to work on a platform in the Gulf of Mexico. It happens to be a deepwater platform. The weather was bad, and so I’m at the heliport and they make the announcement that all helicopter flights have been cancelled, “So everybody go home, except Frankiewicz. Stick around.” And the platform said, “No. This guy’s coming out today.” So they found two pilots who would fly me out to the platform, and I was able to get out to the platform. So, I’m on the platform and it was heavy seas. In the room, there was a shower curtain, and it was 6 feet tall. I knew from that platform—because I had done some other work for that platform—where the center of gravity was on the platform, and from the movement of the shower curtain, I was then able to calculate what the translation of motion was on that platform. We’re going back and forth 13 feet. So, it was kind of fun.

And in the Gulf of Thailand, one of the things that I always remember there is that we set up the pilot plant, and we had it working for one day. Thais didn’t tell me this until the helicopter arrived with a whole load of newspaper and TV people to come and film the pilot plant to show how it was cleaning the produced water. We were very fortunate that day. The pilot plant was working very well, and we were able to show them nice clear water that we were generating. That was something else again, so. But I have a lot of fun memories from working various places around the world and meeting people around the world and just feeling that the industry is a great industry, and it just has a lot of great people working in it.

ESDORN:

And this is our final question.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Mm-hmm.

ESDORN:

How has being an SPE member affected your career?

FRANKIEWICZ:

SPE has been an essential part of my career because it provided the forums—ATCE, OTC [Offshore Technology Conference], various technologies, specific forums like water treatment forums or workshops or whatnot—and then publishing articles in various SPE journals. Now, I review articles, but it provided the forum for knowledge sharing. When we were first introducing hydrocyclones, trying to improve the operation of flotation cells, if it hadn’t been for the knowledge sharing opportunities that were provided by SPE, I would not have met people in other companies in other organizations that had the same objectives, the same needs as what I had for my company, and were able to share that information on an informal and professional basis.

So, SPE has really been a very important part of my career, and it’s one reason now that I do a lot of volunteer work for SPE, because the organization has given so much to me and we have so many younger folks coming into the industry that they need to take advantage of SPE. They need to understand what SPE provides to them. And despite their efforts—I can’t criticize SPE—despite their efforts I don’t think everybody understands how much SPE has to offer them. And so, that’s one of my things. That’s what I do now and they’re helping to select distinguished lecturers being section chair for the LA base and section reviewing papers and giving talks here and there, not only at forums but also at student chapters and whatnot. That’s my way of giving back.

ESDORN:

That’s great and I’ll just give you one more opportunity just to make sure if you covered everything that you wanted to cover.

FRANKIEWICZ: There’s one thing I want to double check. We talked about some of the biggest challenges in the industry, and I talked about the misinformation or the disinformation in the industry.

ESDORN:

Okay. Do you want to just set yourself and then…

FRANKIEWICZ:

Okay.

ESDORN:

Okay. Go ahead.

FRANKIEWICZ:

We talked earlier about major challenges in the industry, and we talked about the misinformation or the disinformation that’s out there and how the perception of our industry doesn’t match the practice. The perception is 40 or 50 years old. Then the other issue that we have is what to do with the produced water. Because of this misinformation, we can’t dispose of the water on the surface, so we’re putting it underground. Now, we’re being told, “You can’t put it underground,” or “We don’t want you to put it underground.” So, if we can’t put it underground, we can’t dispose of it on the surface, what can we do with it?

The only way we’re going to produce the oil is if we produce the water, and this is going to be a major challenge. Now, in some cases, we can clean the water sufficiently for surface discharge. A great example of this in the US is the Chevron San Ardo facility, which, as you know, produces over 100,000 barrels of water per day and is discharged into the streams into an aquifer, actually ends up in an aquifer in the San Joaquin Valley, which they need all the water they can get.

So, again, there’s technology that allows us to clean the water to meet the environmental challenge. We can dispose of the water underground without fracturing, without causing earthquakes, seismic activity, and whatnot, but people don’t understand that. So, that’s going to be a real challenge, because over time the number of barrels of water per barrel of oil that are produced is going to increase, and we have to do something with the water. It doesn’t go away.

ESDORN:

Terrific. That was wonderful. Thank you so much.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Sure.

ESDORN:

All right. Well, I think we’re all done. And so if you want to take the mic from him. This has been so -- it’s such a pleasure to interview you.

FRANKIEWICZ:

Thanks for the opportunity.