Student Congress of Petroleum Engineering

The event was kicked off for the students by a field trip to the OMV Refinery in Schwechat, in which not only students from MUL, but also from Clausthal (Germany), Moscow, Ufa and Almetyevsk (Russia) participated. We were shown a nice presentation about the refinery, how the process works as well as how OMV innovates and invests in environmentally sustainable technology. Then we boarded our bus and went through the refinery. We realized that the refinery turned into a comprehensible site: Suddenly all the “smoking tall towers” almost everyone knows from their way to the Vienna airport turned into chimneys, reactors, distillation towers and so on. After about an hour, we had seen all facilities, and we could return to the canteen, have lunch and return to Leoben. But on our way to Leoben, we encountered a little surprise:

About halfway to Leoben, the bus suddenly slowed down, and exited the highway for a stop in Ternitz in Lower Austria. To the surprise of the participants, we could arrange a quick visit at Schoeller Bleckmann Oilfield Equipment (SBO), one of the world’s leading manufacturers of special purpose drill string components, such as the basis for downhole motors, non-magnetic drill pipes or various logging and measurement devices. Although due to the current industry downturn the plant seemed nearly dead, we could get a good impression of how things could be here when the demand for high-quality products is high. The tour gave the opportunity to see the whole manufacturing process, starting from the raw steel cylinder over various treatment processes to the precision work of drilling out holes with diameters reaching from a few millimeters up to several inches, which are required to fit in various measurement tools, motors or electrical cables.

After returning from the Field Trip – and introducing our guests to the traditional Leoben semester opening events – we gathered again on Tuesday afternoon for the start of what would become two and a half days of intensive presentations, discussions and networking. The event started with Professor Thonhauser welcoming the guests, talking about the history of our department. His introduction was followed by interesting and inspiring keynote speeches from important and high-ranking industry veterans.

Christopher Veit (OMV), who chose to talk about the successful scientific cooperation between MUL and OMV, was followed by a speech by Gerald Grohmann (coincidentally the CEO of SBO which we had visited just the other day). He introduced the audience to his company’s operations. The keynote speeches were continued by a representative of Rosneft, Franz Wohlfart. He talked about his company, which seems to be quite unknown in Europe, despite being one of the largest oil companies not only in Russia, but worldwide, and more importantly, about the importance of strategic planning, exceeding just the next reporting period. In his opinion, even our industry, which is dominated by significant price fluctuations, has to think in dimensions well exceeding 10 years to position ourselves and to be prepared for the future!

Ted Christiansen of voestalpine Tubulars focused on innovation, and the role of our generation: We will be the ones whose visions will bring the industry forward in the future. He encouraged the audience to think out of the box, be curious and creative, and most of all persistent if we are convinced of an idea! The last keynote was by Kris Ravi, a former Halliburton Technology Fellow, now running his own consultancy, who talked about well integrity.

The day was concluded by a gala dinner in the Congress Leoben. Along with a great selection of typical Austrian food, we could talk and get to know each other. But even during dinner, we had the great opportunity to listen to another great presentation: Philip Keil, a professional pilot with Lufthansa, talked about the techniques pilots use to keep calm even in unusual and highly stressful situations. “Aviate, navigate, evaluate” and a technique called “FORDEC” (acronym for “Facts, Options, Risks & Benefits, Decision, Execution, Check”) does not only help pilots, but they are also things we could use for ourselves. The basic idea behind those models are to have a predefined “checklist”, what has to be done first before doing the next step. It also gives a clear priority to the important things (Aviate, i.e. flying the plane is the key, and only if that is guaranteed, the pilot can go to the next task, which is to follow his route. And only when on this route, he can deal with all the “greater picture”).

Wednesday morning was dominated by a panel discussion between Prof. Hofstätter, Prof. Ott, Kris Ravi (Halliburton), Helmut Langanger (ex-head of OMV E&P) and Matthias Meister (Baker Hughes, Regional Director of SPE) led by Prof. Thonhauser. The motto of the discussion was “Last 60 years, next 60 years”, investigating various aspects of the industry, what led us to the status quo, and more importantly the outlook to the future. While the panelists did not share an opinion on the role of renewables, and how much our own industry should focus on this subject, there was one thing quite clear: The future generation will see some significant changes, but oil will always be important, and a high quality education is the key to success. With this reassuring message, the official program of the 60th anniversary celebration was ended over lunch.

This was the time when the SPE Student Chapter took over, now under the motto “PEfficiency – New Technologies to Improve the Energy Efficiency of the Oil and Gas Industry”. On Wednesday afternoon, Matthias Meister talked about the newest developments in logging while drilling made possible by Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oilfield services providers. The second presentation was done by Peter Soroka and Anna Petitt, presenting their company Tendeka, a market leader in the production of completion equipment. They also talked very much about autonomous inflow control devices, a piece of technology Tendeka developed, which is used to control water and gas influx in oil wells. This allows a more efficient production of oil while not having to shut in perforations completely.

The sessions on Wednesday were concluded with the Poster Contest sponsored by Schlumberger, the world’s largest oil field service provider. 14 contestants from nearly all attending universities competed with interesting topics reaching from reservoir engineering over drilling and production technology as well as pipeline engineering and even alternative fuels. At the end, the proud winner of the contest was Airat Kashkarov, representing Ufa State Petroleum Technological University. Congratulations to him, and of course to all the participants to the Poster Contest for their outstanding research work!

Thursday was again under the patronage of your local SPE Chapter. Our participants could hear an interesting presentation about an exciting technology developed by the Austrian company RAG: The MURAG system, which allows an automatic measurement of the liquid level in a well, which is used to adjust pump speed for an optimized efficiency. The presentation, followed by a nice discussion about the benefits of this tool, was held by Christian Burgstaller, one of the leading developers of the MURAG system. His presentation was followed by the former chairman of the SPE Vienna Basin Section, Reinhard Pongratz. He talked about his own worldwide career with Halliburton, and then OMV as well as within SPE. His speech was a motivation to join SPE and to be active there – as he said, a very rewarding experience, although it takes a certain commitment.

The third presentation of the morning session was then somewhat science-fiction, reminding the audience of the legendary film “Armageddon”: David Kutas and Alexios Koulidis, a recent graduate and a master student of MUL, presented their research about drilling in outer space. A well-prepared and really interesting presentation was followed by a lively discussion, in which pros and cons of such a missions were discussed. While apparently the time for drilling in outer space is yet to come, it needs great visions and free spirits like these two guys to drive development and innovation!

Last but not least, Prof. Helmut Weiss of Montanuniversitaet Leoben’s Electrical Engineering Department introduced us to the electrical engineering of sucker rod pumps and the enormous potential for increasing efficiency on that field!

After lunch, SCOPE was concluded with a fun event called PetroQuiz, which was hosted by our sponsoring SPE Section, the Vienna Basin Section. Under the guidance of a jury of four industry professionals, about 30 participants competed, showing off their knowledge on various fields of petroleum engineering, and our knowledge from drilling, production and facilities, to reservoir engineering, and even our general engineering knowledge was put to the test. The final round was won by the team “SPEcialists”, consisting of students of Leoben and Zagreb university, closely followed by a Russian-German-Ukrainian trio and another team from Leoben.

A great thank you to every participant, making this event possible. At the same time, we would also like to thank all those involved in the planning and execution of this memorable event – organizing the framework, inviting speakers, putting up the questions for the quiz etc. – it could not have been such a great experience to everyone without your input!

Finally, we would like to congratulate our Department of Petroleum Engineering to its 60th anniversary, and wish the department, its members and most all its students a bright future! To many more great years to come!

Adventures in the Middle East – ATCE 2016 in Dubai

From the 26th -28th of September professionals and students from around the world gathered in this wonderful city to address the future challenges that this industry has to face. Alongside of them were three members of the SPE Student Chapter Leoben, using this opportunity to participate in panel discussions, workshops and technical sessions. Besides that, there was also time for some sightseeing, networking and meeting some good friends from other student chapters. The following is the story about their visit.

On the 25th of September Emirates EK 128 departed at 15:05 from Vienna International Airport and was heading to Dubai. The main reason for using Emirates was that this route is operated by an A 380 and Emirates offered some discount because they were the official partner airline of the conference. After 6 hours of flight we arrived in Dubai and spend the rest of the day in the hotel meeting some friends from overseas.

Monday the 26th of September was the official starting day for the conference. During the opening ceremony the CEO of Saudi Aramco addressed the current issues in the industry and pointed out a possible solution for the future that included a concept for dealing with the low oil price. Afterwards a panel discussion took place. High ranked managers from different companies among them the CEOs of Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and the Kuwait Oil Company were discussing about the topic “E&P 2.0: Shaping the future“. The overall conclusion of this discussion was that every part of the industry has to adapt to the new environment because most likely this situation will last for a longer time.

In the afternoon the workshop “How to write a good technical paper” gave some useful insights into the procedure of successfully writing a paper and the whole reviewing process that is carried out if you submit a paper for an SPE Conference.

In the evening we spent our time with a sightseeing tour through the Dubai Mall. Finally, we made our way up to the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa­ which is currently the highest building in the world, with a total height of 828m. Afterwards we finished our day with dinner at TGI Fridays.

On the second day of the conference we participated in the leadership workshop. People from different industries amongst them 2010 SPE President Behrooz Fattahi taught us about the important difference between being a leader or a manager. Then we attended the Students Luncheon were Outstanding SPE Student Chapters and the PetroBowl Winners were honored by 2016 SPE-President Nathan Meehan. After lunch we toured through the exhibition and talked to some professionals to expand the personal network but also to get some people interested in our Student Chapter and the work we are doing here in Austria. The evening featured the Young Members Reception where a lot of students together with young professionals gathered and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere in one of the ball rooms of the convention center. Later went to the beach to relax after an interesting but also exhausting day at the conference.

On the final day of the conference we decided to leave earlier to explore the city of Dubai. By using the monorail, we went to the hotel “Atlantis” which is located on the world famous Palm Island. Afterwards we went to the Burj Al Arab. This world class hotel features a great bar located on the 27th floor. It features an amazing view over the city of Dubai.

Finally, on the 29th of September we left Dubai in the afternoon. Our journey had finally come to an end after 4 days in this amazing city. When the plane departed from the Dubai International Airport during the sunset we got a last glimpse on the city of Dubai and it is not going to be last.

Next year the Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition is going to take place in San Antonio. We are already looking forward to it.


Field Trip to OMV Refinery and SBO

Arriving there we were greeted by Mr Martin Müller, our tour guide. At first we were invited into the meeting room for a presentation about the refinery, giving us not only a good overview of the processes that happen in a refinery, but also about the in- and output of the refinery, as well as some interesting statistics.

For example, did you know that despite Austria’s reputation of producing hardly any oil 10% of the oil processed in Schwechat actually comes from the oil fields in Lower Austria? Or did you know where the by far largest amount of oil refined in Austria comes from? (If not, you’re probably not the only one. The correct answer is Kazakhstan, by the way.). All the imported oil, we learned today, comes to Austria via pipelines from Trieste in Italy. To transfer the same amount of oil by truck, more than 900 trucks would be required to travel the distance – per day!

Now that we knew where the crude oil comes from, we could start following its course through the refinery. The first step – after leaving the storage tanks (which can store three months’ worth refining, equaling about 2.4 million tons) – is distillation. The crude gets heated up, thus separating its constituents due to the different boiling points. Since the oil is often contaminated, for example with acid components like Sulphur, it has to be sweetened, i.e. the sour components need to be removed in order to avoid corrosion as well as other problems, e.g. harmful exhaust fumes.

Since the refinery cannot create the products in the same proportions as they are required, the distilled and desulphurized products are “upgraded”. This includes thermal and chemical treatments such as cracking and reforming, where the output can be precisely controlled via the operation parameters. This allows to adjust the refinery output to the actual consumer needs. In the case of Schwechat, this is about 40% diesel oil, 20% gasoline (Yes, we actually consume nearly twice as much diesel than gasoline in Austria!) and 10% jet fuel and petrochemicals each. The remaining 20% of the refinery output include for example hydrocarbon products such as bitumen and asphalt, LPG or CNG and byproducts such hydrogen, Sulphur or sulphuric acid, products that are required in large amounts by other industry branches, such as the steel industry.

The last step in the refinery process is the so-called blending. Individual fractions are recombined to achieve certain properties and specifications, such as the octane number for gasoline fuels, or freezing points (for example diesel composition varies between summer and winter to guarantee an optimum efficiency while not risking that the fuel freezes). OMV applies an in-line blending system, which means that the different semi-products are not mixed in a tank using a huge impeller to avoid separation, but by feeding different semi-products directly into the pipes. This has the advantage of being more efficient and at the same time achieving a more homogeneous product.

The now finished products are ready for shipping. They are pumped to the tank farms in Lobau (Vienna), St. Valentin (Upper Austria) or directly to the close-by airport (only jet fuel). From there, they are either distributed onwards using ships, trucks or trains, or directly sold to the consumers.

Passing by refinery on the way to the airport, it appears needless to say that such a plant consumes a lot of energy. Hence OMV has its own power plant on site. The energy created is not only consumed in the refinery itself, but also sold to the surrounding towns. Furthermore, OMV uses the heated water and steam to produce energy, and they also to provide the heat for heating homes and the airport.

Mr Müller also talked about the investments OMV makes to reduce the environmental footprint, and to make the refining process greener. This includes not only converting the generated heat, hot process water and the electricity as energy on site and in the surrounding area, but also the implementation of new technologies, such as the recent reactor upgrade or the ButaMax facility. This facility produces butadiene, a substance required for producing rubber (e.g. for tires). Furthermore, many other industry branches that rely on refinery products, semi- or byproducts are located next to the refinery, rendering transportation nearly unnecessary. For example, Borealis, who produce polymers, are located right beside the refinery itself.

After this presentation, packed with lots of information, we were glad to have a short coffee break before entering the bus and getting the opportunity to see all those facilities we had just heard about in operations. In about 45 minutes, we got a good impression not only of the immense size of the refinery, but also about the facilities it hosts, and their basic working principles.

Soon it was time for lunch, and then to travel back to Leoben, although we encountered a little surprise on our way back…

About halfway to Leoben, the bus suddenly slowed down, and exited the highway for a stop in Ternitz in Lower Austria. To the surprise of the participants, we could arrange a quick visit at Schoeller Bleckmann Oilfield Equipment (SBO), one of the world’s leading manufacturers of special purpose drill string components, such as the basis for downhole motors, non-magnetic drill pipes or various logging and measurement devices. Although due to the current industry downturn the plant seemed nearly dead, we could get a good impression of how things could be here when the demand for high-quality products is high. The tour gave the opportunity to see the whole manufacturing process, starting from the raw steel cylinder over various treatment processes to the precision work of drilling out holes with diameters reaching from a few millimeters up to several inches, which are required to fit in various measurement tools, motors or electrical cables.

Keep Your SPE Membership Alive!

Dear SPE Student Chapter Leoben members!

We would like to take a moment to remind you to renew your membership in SPE International. It only takes a few seconds after logging in to your SPE account on Remember that Chevron offers to cover your membership fee of 15US-$ for student memberships.

Why should I renew my membership?

  • Don’t miss out on great opportunities to extend your knowledge, in conferences, workshops, distinguished lectures or webinars – the access to these events is less expensive for members (or even free!). This does not only include technical skills, but also soft skills like team work, leadership and other management-related topics.
  • Grow your network! SPE is an international organization, which does not only offer networking opportunities during conferences etc., but in fact also has its own social network, SPE Connect. There you can ask your questions to the community, and you can join interesting discussions on almost any burning matter of the industry.
  • Local events: Your SPE Student Chapter Leoben works hard to bring the best possible program directly to you. Be it our SCOPE Congress, the distinguished lectures in cooperation with the Vienna Basin Section, soft skill workshops or the upcoming series of technical and company presentations. If you prefer to keep it light, here are some highlights for socializing in the next academic year: the famous Oil BBQ in summer, or the upcoming movie night in November.
  • Field Trips to facilities in Austria and abroad (2014: Kazakhstan, 2015: Russia, 2016 Germany)
  • Join the League of Volunteers: SPE is a non-profit organization, and all we do is done in our free time. It is rewarding, and a great opportunity to take serious responsibility, so we can only recommend to join the SPE League of volunteers, spreading the spirit of SPE!