A Look Back

September 2011

Women who have served as Distinguished Lecturers make significant contributions within SPE: Eve Sprunt, Cheryl Stark, Zara Khatib, and Marina Voskanian

Eve Sprunt

  • SPE Board of Directors 1991–1994
  • SPE Distinguished Lecturer 1998–1999
  • SPE Distinguished Lecturer Committee Member 2002–2004
  • SPE President-Elect 2005
  • SPE President 2006
  • SPE Past President 2007

Excerpt from Journal of Petroleum Technology, June 1998:

Poor use of the English language is not the only reason why abstracts are rejected and presentations never accomplish their objectives. Documentation forms the bases of external-work verification and application elsewhere. This presentation features the insights of an experienced author and provides guidelines for proper abstract construction.

Eve Sprunt, SPE, is a member of Mobil’s New E&P Ventures team. She holds 23 patents and is the author of 28 technical publications. Currently, a guest columnist for JPT, Sprunt served as Senior Technical Editor for JPT, Executive Editor of SPE Formation Evaluation, and as an SPE program committee chairman.

Cheryl Stark

  • SPE Distinguished Lecturer 1994–1995

  • SPE Distinguished Lecturer Committee Member 1996–2000

  • SPE Distinguished Lecturer Committee Chair 2000–2002

  • SPE Board of Directors, Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Technical Director 2002–2005

Excerpt from Journal of Petroleum Technology, June 1994:

Cheryl L. Stark
Drilling Cost Reduction. Stark will discuss ways to reduce drilling costs, such as defining a critical path and matching specific activities with other operators drilling in the same area. She also will cover slim-hole drilling, use of slag in place of cement, drain-holes, use of alternative mud systems to replace oil-based muds, and closed mud systems.

Stark is director of research at Baker Hughes Inteq, where she manages R&D of drilling fluid products, chemical compliance of drilling fluid products, environmental laboratories, and an analytical laboratory supporting worldwide operations. She chaired the 1991-92 SPE Environmental, Health, Safety, and Environmental Conference. She also served on the steering committee for the 1992 Production Waste Issues Forum. She holds a BS degree in chemistry from Baylor U. and an MBA finance/marketing degree from U. of Houston.

Zara Khatib

  • Distinguished Lecturer 1998–1999 and 2009–2010

Excerpt from Journal of Petroleum Technology, June 1998:

Produced water is the largest volume of associated wastes in E&P activities, contributing to economic and environmental problems. Essential to a cost-effective treatment selection is the characterization of produced-water streams. This area-specific presentation reviews the characteristics of produced water in oil and gas fields and focuses on current and potential water-treatment technologies.

Zara I. Khatib, SPE, is a staff engineer at Shell’s Westhollow Technology Center in Houston with more than 15 years’ experience in production operations, process/facilities engineering, and reservoir formation damage. Khatib holds a PhD degree in chemical engineering from the U. of Wales.

Excerpt from Journal of Petroleum Technology, June 2009:

Produced Water Management: A Legacy or an Opportunity for Sustainable Field Development
This presentation will target a volume reduction of produced water, improved oil production, and cost reduction while focusing on technologies that will contribute to the sustainable development of producing fields.

Zara Khatib is technology marketing manager responsible for Middle East and South Asia for Shell E&P International.

Marina Voskanian

  • Distinguished Lecturer 2006–2007 and 2009–2010

Excerpt from Journal of Petroleum Technology, June 2007:

Challenges and Opportunities for Operating in Environmentally Sensitive Basins: Learning from the California Experience
Smaller operators, who serve as stewards of resources in environmentally sensitive areas, have profited greatly from the benefits of advanced technologies in managing oil fields in sensitive environments. Using new technology from existing infrastructure combined with cooperative efforts between government agencies and operators, it has been demonstrated that successful development can be achieved with no, or limitable, environmental impact.
Marina Voskanian, Chief of Planning and Development with the California State Lands Commission, previously worked for Exxon, Southern California Gas Co., Aminoil, and Phillips Petroleum. She earned graduate degrees in petroleum engineering from the U. of Southern California.

Excerpt from Journal of Petroleum Technology, June 2009:

Incentives to Revitalize Mature Fields in an Environmentally Safe Manner―California Case Studies of Government/Industry Collaborations
This presentation will demonstrate how economic incentives provide stimulus for operators to apply off-the-shelf advanced technologies to revitalize mature oilfield production and promote development in an environmentally safe manner.

Marina Voskanian is chief of planning and development with the California State Lands Commision.



July 2011

John Veil, a Distinguished Lecturer for the 2008–2009 lecture season, visited South America during one of his international tours where he delivered his presentation “Produced Water Management Options--One Size Does Not Fit All.” The following excerpts are from his travel log on this tour.

The South American tour was my first international one. It included lectures in three cities in Venezuela and one in Argentina.


Western Venezuela Section, Maracaibo

In addition to my planned late-afternoon lecture to the Western Venezuela section in downtown Maracaibo, I was invited to a PDVSA research center to the east of Lake Maracaibo. The next morning, we drove to a large active oil field on the eastern side of the lake.

On the way back to the city, we stopped for gas and took a picture of the pump. It shows about 40 liters (11 gallons) at a cost of 3.9 bolivars (less than $2). This works out to be less than 20 cents per gallon for super unleaded. The price is fixed by the government and has not been changed in a decade.

I delivered the lecture in Maracaibo, W. Venezuela section, to an audience of 15 people at around 4:30 in the afternoon.

Caracas Petroleum Section, Caracas

Arriving in Caracas, the airport is on the coast, but the city is on the other side of a set of mountains. Immediately after leaving the airport, we climbed up a long hill. The mountaintops were covered in clouds and the hillsides were covered with tropical trees. After 15 minutes, we went through a short tunnel. When we came out the other side, there were small orange brick houses all over the hillsides. Many of these houses were tiny with no glass in the windows. This is typical of large Latin American cities—loads of very modest houses on hillsides.

My hotel was definitely a 5-star hotel with beautiful grounds and all the possible amenities. Unfortunately, all the amenities cost an arm and a leg. The SPE section program chairman, Simon, met me in front of the hotel. Simon has lived in the US before and spoke excellent English. We drove through heavy traffic. One interesting thing to watch were dozens of men standing in between lanes of creeping traffic selling merchandise. I have seen this type of street vendor, but never so many as this. Further, they sold all sorts of food and gadgets.

The SPE Caracas section meeting was held in a room of a small private swimming club. About 30-40 people attended the lecture. The demographics were interesting—nearly all the attendees were either retired or young students. There were very few people between the ages of 30–50 in attendance.

Eastern Venezuela Section, Puerta la Cruz

There were more section members for the size of the room (about 60 people) and many stood in the back. My presentation was followed by a short discussion about the section website and a second lecture by a local man.

The next day, I left the hotel early in the morning to get a 7:00 am flight back to Caracas. I got through security without any problems. The gate area of the international terminal was modern and comfortable. Since my flight was delayed, the airline had given me a voucher for a free lunch at a particular restaurant. I had a Venezuelan dish that was like a large and sweet corn pancake filled with ham and cheese. It was filling and good.


Golfo San Jorge Section, Comodoro Rivadavia

Comodoro Rivadavia is a coastal city far to the south in Patagonia. I was greeted at the airport by Marcelo, the chairman of the Golfo San Jorge Section. The region around Comodoro has produced oil for nearly 100 years. Everywhere I looked, I saw evidence of oil wells, processing facilities, and tankers. The old looking well above was placed on the front lawn of the town hall as a reminder of the importance of oil to the local economy. The Argentine oil company (YPF) was most prevalent, but other brands of gasoline could be found here (e.g., Petrobras). At the Petrobras station, the cost for regular gasoline was 1.7 pesos/liter or roughly $1.80/gallon.

The lecture was held at the Austral Hotel where I stayed and was attended by about 40 person. Marcelo made arrangements for a translator, an American who taught English lessons locally, to provide simultaneous translation into Spanish for those in the audience who needed help.


May 2011

In 1960, the SPE Board favored a proposal to start a distinguished lecturer program. E. S. Morris, Ray Ousterhout, and John G. Richards formulated the proposal.

In 1961, the Distinguished Lecturer Committee became an SPE standing committee for the first time. Three members served for three years and were appointed by the Board of Directors. Members of the first DL Committee were Ray S. Ousterhout, Chairman, John G. Richards, and Roy H. Smith.

The DL Committee found potential lecturers and submitted their names to the Board of Directors which approved all topics and lecturers until 1994 when the SPE Board gave authority for the DL Committee to select the topics and lecturers.

Due to the increased responsibility of the DL Committee, it has grown from the original three to 35 members. Today’s DL Committee consists of 20 standing members serving a three-year term appointed by the SPE President-elect plus 15 regional members serving a one-year term appointed by the Regional Directors.

Ray S. Ousterhout

First Distinguished
Lecturer Chairperson


1971-1972 DL Committee Members

Seated (left-right): Robert Huggins, Amoco Production Co, Chairman; and F.R. Conley, Continental Oil Company. Standing: Edward H. Mayer, THUMS Long Beach Co.; and Robert L. Magnie, United Bank of Denver. Not pictured: George Sawyer, Humble Oil & Refining Co.

Curtis G. Blount

Current Chairperson


2010 DL Committee Members

(Back Row) Donna Neukum, SPE DL Program Manager; Marcel Boucher, NOV Downhole; Paul Worthington, Gaffney, Cline & Associates; James Crafton, 2010-11 DL Committee Chair Ex-Officio, Performance Sciences; David Cramer, ConocoPhillips; Robert (Buddy) Woodroof, ProTechnics; Curtis Blount, 2010-11 DL Committee Chair, ConocoPhillips Company; Carlos Pedroso, Petrobras; Charles Svoboda, Wellbore Productivity; Peter Bastian, Unconventional Gas Resources

(Middle Row) Donald Purvis, BJ Services Company; Stephen Cheung, Retired;
Roger Myers, North Coast Energy; John Karish; ENSCO International

(Kneeling) Sami  El-Halfawi, 2010-11 DL Committee Vice-Chair; Weatherford Oil Tool Middle East; Fernando Antonio Machado, Petrobras

March 2011

New Venezuela Local Section Elects Officers

Below is an article as it appeared in the August 1969 issue of JPT.

The Venezuela Local Section has elected officers and is now holding monthly meetings. The establishment of this local section was authorized last December by the AIME Board of Directors.

The May meeting, held at Chepa’s Icehouse at Anaco, featured a talk by T.A. Pollard, of Magnolia Petroleum Co., Dallas.  H spoke on “In-Situ Combustion,” explaining his company’s recent research efforts in the laboratory and field on this form of secondary recovery.  As treasurer of the Petroleum Branch and a member of the Executive Committee, Pollard also welcomed the new section into the AIME.


The meeting was attended by 70 members and guests.  Every company in the area was represented, with some engineers making overnight trips from distant points to attend.

Chairman Don M. Chase would like to have several programs each year featuring speakers from the United States who are in Venezuela on business.  He has requested that AIME members contact him should they plan to be in that area and be willing to make a talk.


February 2011

A Modern-Day Odyssey

The primary task of an SPE Distinguished Lecturer is to provide an engaging presentation of the best  technology of the oil and natural gas industry to the far corners of the world for the some 170 SPE Sections, from Grayville, Illinois to Perth, Australia.  Occasionally, that commitment takes on monumental proportions, especially when a volcano intervenes, such as Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul did recently.

blahDr. Steve Tipton of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Tulsa certainly qualifies as a modern day Odysseus, rivaling the famous Greek’s travels and travails.  Rather than from Ithaca, the island in Greece, to Troy (not New York), Steve’s Odyssey went from Stavanger, Norway to Paris, via Prague, Munich and a few other stops, a distance of some 5300 kilometers (3300 miles), by just about every mode of transportation, except moped or bicycle.  Steve had committed to give presentations to SPE Sections in Trondheim, Stavanger, Great Yarmouth, Vienna and Croatia, over eight days from April 14 to the 22nd.  Then “Eyjafa”, the Iceland volcano, intervened, sort of like Cyclops did to Odysseus.  This time, Cyclops was a one-eyed Norwegian boxer on his way to a boxing match.

Steve had to take a bus, a taxi, a ferry, a train on a ferry and several other trains, including 6 hours of riding standing up during the 46 hour trip between Stavanger and Vienna.  Several times, Steve had to make fruitless trips to the airport and train station just to see if transportation had become available.  In the original Odyssey, Princess Nausicaa helps Odysseus get home, but in this version, Steve helped a lady in the Munich train station find her way home.  And just like the good King Alcinous of Phaeacia helped Odysseus, StatOil’s Geir Titlestad made it possible for Steve to finally accomplish his travels.  In addition, Ms. Donna Neukum, the Distinguished Lecture Program Manager, and her staff made countless reservations to try to help him along.  Fortunately, Steve did not report any problems with nymphs, Charybdis or Scilla.

blahBy the same token, Distinguished Lecturer Mr. Mike Gunningham, Sakhalin Energy Investments, spent five unanticipated days with the opportunity to become better acquainted than he expected with the scenery and attractions of Springtime Moscow.

The diligence and commitment for the Distinguished Lecture program that Messrs. Tipton and Gunningham exhibited have really set the standard for all the lecturers.  Sometimes, it is necessary to make the extra effort, experience some pretty serious discomfort and sleeplessness to accomplish the mission.  It isn’t always about five star hotels, business class airplane seats and a day off between lectures.

Steve, Mike and all you other Lecturers, the SPE Distinguished Lecture Committee and the Society at large thank you for your extra effort.



January 2011

1961: Distinguished Lecturer Program established

The planning for the Distinguished Lecturer Program began in 1958. A proposal was submitted to the SPE Board of Directors to establish the Distinguished Lecturer Program as a means of assisting local sections to offer high quality meetings. Organization of the program was an ongoing discussion until 1961 when, aided by a grant from the AIME Henry L. Doherty Memorial Fund, SPE established the Distinguished Lecturer Program. 

The purpose of the new Distinguished Lecturer Program was “to assist local sections of the Society and Institute in obtaining outstanding speakers for local section meetings and to recognize the professional contribution of the persons selected as distinguished lecturers.” That purpose remains true still today.
The first Distinguished Lecturers delivered 28 presentations for 19 sections. Appointed by the SPE Board of Directors in 1961, they were:

J.J. Arps
Vice-President and Director
British-American Oil Producing Company

John C. Calhoun Jr.
Vice-Chancellor for Development
Texas A&M University

Herbert C. Otis
Chairman of the Board
of Directors
Otis Engineering Corporation

Due to heavy demand, the board enlarged the program for the fall of 1961 and spring of 1962. Six Distinguished Lecturers visited 32 sections and student chapters for a total of 63 lectures during the 1961–1962 season. They were:

Edwin O. Bennett

Albert C. Rubel

J.E. Brantly

Maurice P. Tixier

Donald L. Katz

M.R.J. Wyllie

The Distinguished Lecturer Program has grown to include as many as 40 lecturers delivering over 475 presentations each year by sending three lecturers to each of our 175+ active sections worldwide. Today SPE’s Distinguished Lecturers continue the strong legacy of delivering outstanding technical information by speakers who are truly experts in their field.


How the Distinguished Lecturer program worked in 1961

Local sections invited one or more of the lecturers by contacting the Distinguished Lecturer Committee Chair, Edward S. Morris. Sections indicated first, second, and third dates on which they desired a given lecturer. The Distinguished Lecturer Committee then coordinated travel schedules for each lecturer and notified the section when the lecturer would visit.
Travel expenses were paid partially by funds of AIME and SPE and partially by local sections that participated in the program. The Henry L. Doherty Memorial Fund of AIME supported the program in 1961 to a maximum of USD 1,500. Local sections were asked to pay a specific fee for each lecturer depending upon the sections’ size as of 1 January 1961.
Below is a table that appeared in the November 1960 issue of Journal of Petroleum Technology. This table shows how much a section paid per lecture, based on size.

Group Size of Section Cost to Section


25–100 members

$20.00 per lecture


101–210 members

$25.00 per lecture


211–400 members

$30.00 per lecture


401 or more members

$35.00 per lecture

The information for the above two articles was obtained from November 1960 and July 1961 issues of Journal of Petroleum Technology.