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FRED H. POETTMANN 1919-1995 BY LLOYD E. ELKINS, SR. A TRUE SCIENTIST-ENGINEER, Fred H. Poettmann was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1978. He also had the qualifications to be considered for membership in the National Academy of Sciences. Fred's main attribute throughout his career was the ability to bring to engineering systems the appropriate mix of scien- tific facts. He knew how to match engineering systems to the rigid requirements of plant design or to the highly complex porosity systems forming underground of! anct gas reservoirs. Fred realized early in his career that one must ask the right questions or pay the penalty for making choices leacling down blind alleys. The first two phases of his career were in research with major companies-Phillips Petroleum (1946 to 1955) and Marathon Oil Company (1955 to 1983) his leadership and research on oil and gas recovery highlight the technology profile now be- coming available to the world at large on the Tnternet. The last phase of Frecl's career was teaching and challenging graduate students at the Colorado School of Mines in of] and gas recovery and in refining operations (1983 to 1995~. Upon his cleath he left a legacy of technology and, through his students, a legacy of talent to a variety of of! en cl gas resource systems need- ing special consideration as we move into the next century. 187
188 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES Born on December 20, 1919, in Moers, Germany, Fred came to the United States with his parents at an early age. He was left with a walking disability after a childhood bout with polio. But rather than let this handicap hold him back, he user! his "recreation time," while his friends took part in athletics, to advance his interest in scientific and engineering matters. His academic education began at the Case Institute of Technology, where in 1942 he earned his B.S. degree in chemical engineering. He then went on to the University of Michigan, where he received a master of science degree in 1944 and a doctor of science degree in 1946, both in chemical engineering. While earning his doctorate, he was exposed to the many phase-relation problems prevailing in petroleum processes. His professor at the University of Michigan advised the Phil- lips Petroleum Company of Fred's great potential. So upon graduation in 1946 he joined the Phillips Research Depart- ment as a manager of hydrocarbon phase research in of] and gas production. During his nine years at Phillips, Fred demon- strated to both Phillips en c! the industry at large the need to incorporate the funclamentals of phase relations in most oil and gas operations. In the early 1950s Marathon took steps to join the ranks of a dozen other major oil and gas companies and create a strong program in exploration and production research. The compa- ny built a large research center in Littieton, Colorado, and wisely chose to build personnel from the top clown, selecting Fred to fill a key spot in the production research effort. This was the beginning of a highly productive program in which he played a major role for twenty-eight years (1955 to 1983~. It was during this period that the major of] and gas compa- nies began cleveloping en cl improving technology for maximizing of! recovery over that achieved by primary and conventional gas injection ant! water flooding. Their primary motivation was to perfect performance parameters and trans- fer the technology to their own company operations. For example, they sought unique chemical combinations that would make a process more effective. Many of the patents filed were defensive in nature. Under Fred's stimulating leaci
FRED H. POETTMANN 189 ership, Marathon mastered most of the enhanced of! recovery (EOR) methods offered through the industry's technology- transfer programs. Marathon obtained a patent on a microemuIsion MicelIar-Polymer-Flooding System, which was then trademarked as Maraflood and available under license. At the same time, a group of EOR systems was being de- signed and pilot tested. The basic technology and field test results were documented in the appropriate technical litera- ture. There were four broad types of systems, all of them involving phase shifting, interfacial forces mollification, or vis- cosity adjustments: (~) thermal steam front sweep; and in situ combustion sweep, (2) improved water flood sweep en c! displacement efficiency; (3) injection of hydrocarbon fluids miscible with reservoir oil; and (4) carbon dioxide injection to swell of! and reduce viscosity and significantly improve water flood clisplacement and sweep efficiency. In all these systems the reservoir, after of! recovery, is left full of fluid essentially water, residual oil, and perhaps some trapped gases. Fred was involved in several national studies pointing up the potential of EOR techniques for significantly adding to U.S. oil reserves. However, two major hurdles had to be cleared first; the well-definec3 technologies had to be selected and ad- justed to match individual reservoir systems, and the price of crude oil had to be adequate for profitability. While some massive EOR projects are getting by at prices con- trolled by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (e.g., Prudhoe Bay miscible gas injections), many smaller scale projects are lingering on the shelf waiting for a sustained world price increase of 10 to 20 percent. Whether or not Fred sensed that the aggressive type of research that he had been directing had accomplished its major objectives, he only knows. In the early 1980s, the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) apparently sensed the need to strengthen its petroleum engi- neering teaching staff. Fred was a natural candidate because of his vast knowledge and the fact that he lived only a short drive from the campus. Taking early retirement from Mara- thon, he joined the CSM staff as a professor in the Petroleum Engineering Department in 1983.
190 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES From early in 1984 until late 1994, Fred coauthored with grad- uate students twenty-six technical papers. Every one of the students who had the privilege of working with this brilliant man, whether they realizer! it or not, Earned one great truth: keep asking the right questions, and with perseverance a defensible answer can be developed. After formally retiring from CSM in 1990, Fred became an adjunct professor and remained as a part- time teacher and director of graduate research. The most straightforward way to reflect on Fred Poett- mann's total commitment to his profession and on his life of service is through the many honors en c] awards he received. In the following list, awards granted in recognition of outstand- ing overall achievement are indicated with an asterisk. participated in Department of Energy (DOE) Peer Review on "EOR using 19S6 Carbon Dioxide" ant! "FOR Heavy Oil Program", respectively 1987 chairman, Panel on "Reservoir Management" Con- ference on Research Needs for Hydrocarbon Fuels, sponsored by DOE Publications: sixty-four publications forty-six plus U.S. and foreign patents coauthor or coeditor of ten books Professional Societies: Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) of the American In stitute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers, 1 946-1 995 director, Denver Section, 1958 to 1962 chairman, Denver Section, 1961 national SPE director, 1966 to 1969 AIME board of directors, 1970 to 1973 vice-president, AIME, 1973 ctistinguished member SPE, 1983
FRED H. POETTMANN honorary member AIME, 1985 chairman or member of twenty plus AIME or national SPE committees over the period 1962 to present National Academy of Engineering Chemical/Petroleum Peer Committee, 1980 to 1983 191 member, National Research Council's Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems Committee on Innovative Concepts for Energy Conservation, 1984 to 1985 American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 1943-1995 Denver Section secretary and treasurer, 1957 board member, Denver Section, 1962 chairman of joint symposium committee member of AIChE-SPE, 196Ichairman, National Program Com- mittee, 1962 fellow, AIChE-1974 member, executive committee, Toledo Section, 1976 to 1977 American Chemical Society, 1942 to present member, Petroleum Research Fund Advisory Boarcl, 1963 to1966 American Petroleum Institute, 1955 to 1983 member of Research Committee, 1947 to 1965 Oil Re- covery Domain Committee, 1947 to 1965 Project 37 "Fundamentals of Hydrocarbon Behavior", late 1940s Interstate Oil Compact Commission, 1967-1995 appointed by Governor Love to the Research Committee, 1967 to present appointed by Governor Lamm to the Enhanced Oil Recovery Committee, 1980 to present chairman, Research Committee, 1988 to 1991
192 Honors and Awards: MEMORIAL TRIBUTES Lester C. Uren Award of SPE, 1966 University of Michigan Sesquicentennial Award of College of Engineering as Outstanding Alumnus, 1967 John Franklin CarI! Award of SPE, 1971 fellow, AIChE, 1974 elected to the National Acacl emy of Engineering, 1978 distinguished member, SPE, 1983 FOR pioneer, SPE/DOE, 1984 honorary member, AIME, 1985 Herbert C. Thober Award for Chemical Engineering, Toledo Section, AIChE, 1975 Henry Mattson Technical Service Award, Denver SPED 1983 honorary member, SPE, 1985 Halliburton Professional Award in Teaching, 1986 DeGolyer Distinguished Service Meclal of SPE, 1990 Charles F. Rand Memorial Award of AIME, 1992 honorary doctorate from the Mining University of Leoben, Austria, June 1992 ~ Katz Medal of the Gas Processors Association, March 1993 Civic Activities: South Suburban Metropolitan Recreation and Park District (elected office-Littl/ton, Coloraclo),chairman, 1966 to 1971 Littleton Press Council, chairman, 1967 to 1971 board member, Hancock Recreation Center (FindIay, Ohio), 1973 to 1977 chairman, South Suburban Foundation (Littleton, Colorado), 1980 to 1983 presiclent, Columbine Villas Townhouse Association, 198:1 to 1982 member and president of board, Columbine Villas Townhouse Association, 1989 to 1992
FRED H. POETTMANN 193 By all standards, Fred has left to all a legacy of technology that can lead to maximizing of! and gas recovery worldwide. This shouIcI be of special significance to interests in North Arx~erica, where premature abandonment of marginal wells can make reentry into reservoirs for enhanced oil recovery a little too costly. When any engineer accesses the various on-line sources of information on of] and gas recovery technology, Fred's name will be a frequent discovery. In fact, a printout of all of his papers on any specific of] or gas recovery technology would lead to most of the FOR technology available today. Fred is survived by his wife, Anna Bell, who was his constant traveling companion on his innumerable trips to worlclwicle symposia, conferences, and society meetings. In her special way, she assisted and supported Fred. She is therefore behind! the legacy that Fred has left to all of the technologists in tran- sition into the next century. He is also survived by a son, Phil, who graduated from Colorado School of Mines, and a daugh- ter, Trucly, and their families.