Interview with Dr. Oliver C. Mullins, Schlumberger Fellow, Member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering


Interview with Dr. Oliver C. Mullins, Schlumberger Fellow, Member of the U.S. National Academy of EngineeringOILMAN: Tell us about your journey within the energy industry, and can you highlight some of your key achievements?

Oliver Mullins
Dr. Oliver C. Mullins

Dr. Oliver C. Mullins: I joined Schlumberger in 1986 as a research chemist, which has a dual role in technology and science. My colleagues, collaborators, and I developed downhole fluid analysis (DFA) for wireline and now for drilling, which provides measurements of key crude oil properties and their gradients in reservoirs. In addition, we led the elucidation of the molecular and hierarchical nanocolloidal structure of asphaltenes, now known as the Yen-Mullins model. This made it possible for us to develop the first equation of state for asphaltene gradients, the FHZ EoS. For the first time, we can determine whether reservoir crude oils are equilibrated or are in disequilibrium due to ongoing fluid processes acting in geologic time. These fluid processes constitute a new technical discipline called “reservoir fluid geodynamics,” which is the topic of my latest book. This discipline significantly improves reservoir evaluation, which we’ve established in 70 reservoir studies.

OILMAN: Can you share with us your view of the ongoing energy transition – what role will oil and gas play?

Dr. Oliver C. Mullins: We need to acknowledge that affordable, dependable energy provided by the oil and gas industry has played a central role in lifting billions of people out of poverty. Energy must continue to be affordable and dependable throughout the energy transition, and all major apolitical energy organizations such as the EIA and IEA have predicted that oil and gas will continue to be a major contributor for the foreseeable future. Consequently, carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) must be exhaustively explored to mitigate climate change. There’s no question that fossil fuels have an impact on the environment and on climate, but without them, the world loses access to a dependable, affordable energy source. Throughout the energy transition, the industry must balance fossil fuel production with footprint and emissions reduction to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Technological innovation will play a key role in making this possible, as well as making fossil fuel production more economic as new constraints and costs are introduced.

OILMAN: What is the significance of dialogue to advance the oil and gas industry and ensure that it keeps up with the global energy transition?

Dr. Oliver C. Mullins: The oil and gas industry could do a better job of communicating its role to the public. The standard of living aligns with energy consumption as affordable, dependable energy is required for today’s world to function and that requirement continues to be met largely by oil and gas. Another aspect that is less well-known is that the oil and gas industry is perhaps the most diverse in the world, with technical and business contributions from all points on the globe. The oil and gas industry in general, and Schlumberger in particular, serve as exceptional models for incorporating diversity and inclusion while maintaining strict standards of excellence.

OILMAN: How can the oil and gas industry attract and retain talent for the future development of the industry?

Dr. Oliver C. Mullins: There are many opportunities for talent and, with greater connectivity now, talent can seek the best opportunities anywhere. My experience in the oil industry provided me with a path to motivate people’s career choices. I love the multidisciplinary challenges in geoscience and engineering that are fundamental to the oil and gas industry. Being part of diverse teams that investigate reservoirs around the world is also fulfilling because each one is unique. The individual can make a difference in this industry and improve our mission to provide energy, and we’re eager to tackle new challenges managing complex fluids in the subsurface as required for CCUS. The oil and gas industry has a proven track record of advancing diverse talent to successfully meet increasingly demanding challenges, and while the energy transition might be the greatest challenge of all, it provides opportunities of the highest order for those seeking a fulfilling career.

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