In Memoriam: Hubert (Hugh) L. Elkins

Hubert (Hugh) L. Elkins, an industry pioneer in offshore drilling equipment and technologies, died 18 March 2016. He was 81.

Elkins is recognized as a subsea innovator and contributed more than 53 years of professional service, focusing his work on building safe, innovative technologies. The 6-ft radius technology that he developed for subsea wellhead guide bases and blowout preventer (BOP) stack guide frames improved deepwater operations safety and became an industry standard. He held multiple patents on BOPs, control systems, wellbore pressure controls, and directional drilling technology.

Elkins joined Hydril in 1973 and served in a number of executive positions for 2 decades. He retired as director of business development from National Oilwell Varco (NOV) in 2009.

He was part of important industry innovations in drilling. Representing NOV, Elkins contributed to the joint industry project supported by UK’s Industry Technology Facilitator that led to the development of the continuous circulation system (CCS) technology in 2003. For the first time since rotary drilling was introduced, CCS technology enabled drilling of a hole without interrupting circulation while new joints of drillpipe were added to the drillstring. CCS also improved safety by reducing the likelihood of kicks.

Several industry studies and initiatives aimed toward improving the safety of deepwater operations benefitted from his knowledge and expertise. He was a member of the equipment subcommittee of the task force that put together the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC)/Offshore Operators Committee Deepwater Well Control Guidelines, and a member of the drilling vessel and equipment committee for the IADC Surface BOP Guidelines for Floating MODUs.

Elkins was a contributing author of books and training manuals on offshore technology. He authored technical papers for SPE’s technical journals, including SPE Production Engineering and SPE Drilling & Completion.

For his specialized work in pressure control, motion compensation, and subsea products, he was awarded the Exemplary Service Award in 2005 by the IADC. In 2010, he was recognized with the Distinguished Achievement Award for Individuals by the Offshore Technology Conference, and was included as a Technology Pioneer in the Offshore ­Energy Center (OEC) Hall of Fame in 2003. In later years, he led various committees of the OEC’s Hall of Fame initiative and refined the process for recognition of industry and technology pioneers during their lifetime.