Michael J. Fetkovich Technology Award

PS! Video can be found here: https://youtu.be/9jHoEFFWRYI

This award is dedicated to the many and important technological achievements made by Mike Fetkovich in the field of petroleum engineering. Its intention is to honor new technology that would have been recognized by Mike as improving the accuracy and certainty of resource determination and production forecasting.

2022     Braden Bowie, Apache

             Numerical Rate Transient Analysis

About Mike’s journey – from Pennsylvania steel mills to Oklahoma technology giant

Michael James Fetkovich was born on March 11, 1933 in West Aliquippa, Pa. He was affiliated with Phillips Petroleum Company (now ConocoPhillips) during his entire career from 1954 to 1992. Mike passed away on Feb. 3, 2020, at the age of 86.

Mike studied petroleum engineering at University of Pittsburgh, graduating with his BSc on June 9, 1954. He received his PhD in 1989 from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). His PhD was based on a collection of sixteen papers and publications written during a quarter century, from 1964 to 1988. The two PhD evaluators were Dr. Hank Ramey and Dr. Raj Raghavan (both National Academy of Engineering members). Dr. Ramey was the PhD advisor of Dr. Raghavan at Stanford U. Mike Fetkovich was introduced to transient fluid flow in porous media in the late 1960s at a course given by Dr. Ramey, a course that strongly influenced Mike’s innovations in decline curve analysis.

Mike Fetkovich is best known for the following four areas of work and publication: (1) modeling water influx, (2) inflow performance models for gas and oil wells, (3) generalized decline curve analysis that included the early “infinite-acting” before boundaries impact decline, and consistently tying this behavior to the empirically-derived Arps decline equations, where Fetkovich was the first to show how the Arps decline equations were theoretically founded on Darcy’s law and material balance for a well depleting a closed-boundary system, and (4) the behavior of multi-layer no-crossflow reservoir performance. Key papers on each topic include:

  • A Simplified Approach to Water Influx Calculations – Finite Water Systems (1969).
  • The Isochronal Testing of Oil Wells (1973); Multipoint Testing of Gas Wells (1975).
  • Decline Curve Analysis Using Type Curves (1973).
  • Depletion Performance of Layered Reservoirs Without Crossflow (1988).

Mike was elected to the National Academy of Engineers in 2005. He had a long and illustrious career that was exclusively tied to presented papers and publications made in the AIME Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). Mike was a Distinguished Member of SPE who awarded him with the Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal in 1999 (SPE’s major technical award), Lester C. Uren Award in 1993, and the Reservoir Description and Dynamics Award in 1989. Mike was also an SPE Distinguished Lecturer.

Mike’s life started in all modesty, with considerable obstacles. He wanted to escape the steel mills of West Aliquippa.  That was his motivation.  During college, he would walk a mile to the nearby bus station to take a bus five miles to the train station, to take a train 20 miles to Pittsburgh, to walk another mile to the University of Pittsburgh.  He worked in the mill over breaks to earn money, and he lost most of his hearing in his left ear after a summer working with a 10-inch mill.

Mike graduated at the top of his class.  When it came to applying for a job, he had a great hurdle to overcome. A severe stutter.  Most companies wouldn’t take a chance on Mike after hearing his stutter during job interviews.  He kept his many rejection letters, one from Shell Oil Company.  Phillips Petroleum Company saw his potential and didn’t consider his speech to be a problem without a solution; they sent him to speech courses, and the rest is history. He eventually taught courses, conducted lectures, presented papers, and represented Phillips as head technologist in some of the world’s largest oil and gas field developments. This was far away from his modest beginnings, when he took his young wife to west Texas to work for Phillips, living in a company camp in Dumas, Texas. 

Mike Fetkovich lived with intensity in all aspects of life that he considered important. Those areas – outside technology and engineering – included family, friends, fishing, food, and football. Perhaps in that order also.

The name of “Fetkovich” has forever made its way into the annals of petroleum engineering. His person has made its way into the many lives around him, and he will continue to influence individuals for many generations to come. This award is great honor to the recipient, Braden Bowie.

The method of Numerical Rate-Transient Analysis, Numerical RTA, by Braden and his co-author James Ewert, from 2020 (the year of Mike Fetkovich’s passing) has many characteristics in common with the work of Mike’s generalized DCA methods.

  • Graphical rate-time performance plot using real time on the x-axis
  • Clear differentiation of infinite-acting and boundary dominated flow periods
  • Handles superposition with variable wellbore pressures
  • Handles multi-phase, compressible flow
  • Honors all parameters controlling pressure depletion
  • Generalizes using dimensionless analysis
  • Pioneering, new, practical, and data driven (rates and pressures)

I honestly believe, Braden, that your Numerical RTA method is one of the most important publications since Mike Fetkovich’s Generalized Decline Curve Analysis paper in 1973 – 50 years ago.

Why? Because it extends the fundamental methods originally introduced by Mike Fetkovich, but making use of numerical modeling to tame the complexity of multi-phase flow and superposition for fluid systems ranging from dry gas to undersaturated oil and every complex fluid system that can exist in tight unconventional basins that are developed with hundreds of hydraulic fractures along a 1-2 mile wellbore lateral, where each and every fracture drains a more-or-less independent volume.

Also, your method can be automated to apply in less than an hour per well, where operators typically have hundreds to thousands of wells requiring a consistent methodology to model and forecast reserves.


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whitson supports energy companies, oil services companies, investors and government organizations with expertise and expansive analysis within PVT, gas condensate reservoirs and gas-based EOR. Our coverage ranges from R&D based industry studies to detailed due diligence, transaction or court case projects. We help our clients find the best possible answers to complex questions and assist them in the successful decision-making on technical challenges. We do this through a continuous, transparent dialog with our clients – before, during and after our engagement. The company was founded by Dr. Curtis Hays Whitson in 1988 and is a Norwegian corporation located in Trondheim, Norway, with local presence in USA, Middle East, India and Indonesia.

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