Michael J. Fetkovich Technology Award 2023

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.

2023     Leslie Thompson, Cimarex (2012-2022) and Barry Ruddick, Cimarex (2013-2022)

             Multiphase Flowing Material Balance without Relative Permeability Curves

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 Feb. 3, 2020, at the age of 86.

Mike married his Emily in 1954; she passed away far too early in 2000.  Mike and Emily had four children, Laura, Michael, Eddie and Kit.  He had thirteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren prior to his passing, with four more after his passing. 

Mike studied petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, graduating with his BSc in June 1954. He received his PhD (dr.techn.) in 1989 from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. 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. Henry James Ramey and Dr. Rajagopal S. Raghavan. Dr. Ramey was the PhD advisor of Dr. Raghavan at Stanford U., and Mike Fetkovich was introduced to transient fluid flow in porous media in the 1960s at a course given by Dr. Ramey, a course that strongly influenced Mike’s innovations in water influx and modern decline curve analysis.

Mike Fetkovich is best known for his contributions to the following four areas of petroleum engineering:

(1) water influx

(2) inflow performance

(3) decline curve analysis – treating IA&BD, superposition, and multiphase

(4) layered no-crossflow well performance

Renowned papers 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 in the 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 Fetkovich lived with intensity in all aspects of life that he considered important. Those areas – outside technology and engineering – included family, friends, faith, fishing, food, and football.

Mike 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 lost most of his hearing in his left ear after a summer working too close to 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 strong stutter.  Most companies wouldn’t take a chance on Mike after hearing his stutter.  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. 

The name “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.

Fetkovich Technology Award 2023

The 2023 Fetkovich Technology Award is presented to Leslie Thompson and Barry Ruddick for their development of a Multiphase Flowing Material Balance based on readily available production data and wellbore pressures. CEO and Founder of whitson, said the following

“What I can say about their method is that it works. Many test examples with 3D reservoir simulators prove that it works, and many thousands of wells that have been analyzed with their method have been characterized by a reliable estimate of drained pore volume, or at least a lower estimate. I think we can safely say that we don’t know exactly why it works, and as Leslie and Barry write, “the fundamental assumption leading to their method “cannot (to our knowledge) be proved mathematically””.


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