The SPE ‘guardian angel’

Anthony Onukwu

August 1, 2014

Anthony Onukwu, SPE Aberdeen chairman.

SPE Aberdeen chairman Anthony Onukwu reflects on society’s impact on the North Sea oil and gas industry as the Aberdeen section celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Having started out with the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) during my time as a student at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, it has filled me with great pride to chair the Aberdeen Section for the last two years.

SPE Aberdeen was established in 1974, three years after the first Offshore Europe was held in Great Yarmouth in 1971, under the name of Oiltech. Since then, the workforce that has amassed in this area is diverse. The 2500-strong SPE Aberdeen membership comprises of different age groups, nationalities, backgrounds, interests, and genders. Currently, our board has two female committee chairs, ages ranging from 29 to 60, eight nationalities, Masters and PhD holders, Distinguished Lecturers, and a number of industry professionals, both technical and non-technical.

SPE Aberdeen has spent the last 40 years establishing events such as the European Artificial Lift Forum (EuALF) to address problems such as artificial lift for horizontal wells. This is a particularly challenging topic in the oil and gas industry at the moment. Techniques for horizontal wells are mostly based upon methods established in vertical wells, although often without acknowledging the fundamental differences. The merits and demerits of various techniques in horizontal wells are not well-established and modeling tools for comparing the performance of different approaches are not there yet for horizontal wells.

By encouraging the upstream oil and gas industry to engage in an open dialogue and share breakthroughs and lessons learned in niche sectors, such as artificial lift, SPE has made a significant contribution to driving forward major industry developments.

In my own professional life, SPE has been somewhat of a guardian angel, with me along every step of my career journey. During my time as chairman, one of my proudest moments was when our section won the SPE International President’s Award for Section Excellence for the fourth consecutive year and the Innovation award for the first time.

On a personal level, I received the SPE North Sea Regional Outstanding Young Member Award in 2008 and the SPE International Award for Young Member Contribution to the Society and Petroleum Industry in 2009. To be nominated and voted for by my peers was an incredible feeling.

More broadly, this is a very special year for SPE Aberdeen and we have reached this landmark thanks to the support of the North East Scotland oil and gas community but, more importantly, the support of our members, who are the core of the SPE. We were here shortly before the first drop of oil was extracted from the North Sea forty years ago and we hope to be here when the last drop of oil will come out of it.

Anthony Onukwu joined SPE Aberdeen in 2002 as a student member and has been a chair of the Young Professionals and Membership committees, as well as a member of steering committees responsible for organizing events in Aberdeen, such as the Sand Management Forum and European Artificial Lift Forum. Internationally, he has been the editor-in-chief of SPE’s The Way Ahead journal. He became the chairman of the Aberdeen Section in 2012.

Onukwu worked as a project engineer at Vetco Gray (now GE Oil & Gas) before going on to work for Eclipse Petroleum Technology and then ITF, where he worked with a number of exploration and production companies on projects in the North Sea, Gulf Coast, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. He is currently a production technologist at Shell UK, responsible for a brownfield well and reservoir management and well abandonment activities.