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Petroleum professor wins international award in reservoir engineering

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “To have peers say that you are the absolute best worldwide in that field is really very amazing,” said Russell Johns, Victor and Anna Mae Beghini Professor of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering at Penn State, after winning the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Reservoir Description and Dynamics Award.

Russell Johns, Victor and Anna Mae Beghini Professor of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering at Penn State, accepts the SPE Reservoir Description and Dynamics Award from SPE President Nathan Meehan in September in Dubai.
Photo provided/Dubai Event Photography

Johns, who was presented the award at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition held in September in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, specializes in advanced oil recovery. His research on using water, carbon dioxide and surfactants has led to more efficient recovery practices.

About two-thirds of available oil is left behind even after primary and secondary recovery methods are employed, said Johns, whose research has contributed to significant gains in extraction of oil by tertiary methods. This leaves a large target for recovery by more advanced techniques.

Improving extraction efficiency is critical to the energy security of the U.S. because it closes the gap between imports and exports. Johns has advanced techniques to recover more oil including injection of carbon dioxide and surfactants (soaps). Along with his students, he recently published a major paper on prediction of phase behavior and oil recovery by forming microemulsions through injection of surfactants.

Johns is quick to share the credit with his students. “It’s really a matter of the students that you have because in the end if you don’t have good students you really don’t generate new discoveries,” said Johns. “I try to push students to come up with new ideas and new applications.”

But, said colleague Zuleima Karpyn, the new discoveries start with Johns.

“Russ is a first-class scientist and a petroleum engineer with the highest quality standards, said Karpyn, a professor and Quentin E. and Louise L. Wood Faculty Fellow in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering. “Many of us, both in academia and industry, have a large amount of respect and admiration for his pioneering contributions and work ethic, thus making him a much deserving recipient of the International SPE Reservoir Description and Dynamics Award.”

SPE president D. Nathan Meehan echoed that, saying “it is an honor to recognize Russ for his commitment and dedication to the oil and gas industry with the SPE Reservoir Description and Dynamics Award. SPE international award winners were nominated by their colleagues and selected by their peers for their achievement and contributions, and it’s my pleasure to congratulate him on receiving this prestigious international award.”

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