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Petroleum Engineering Professor Honored

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A distinguished professor at the University of Kansas School of Engineering has received the highest honor bestowed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

G. Paul Willhite, the Ross H. Forney Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, was awarded an SPE Honorary Membership at the 2012 SPE annual conference. The society says the honor goes to those “who have given outstanding service to SPE and/or who have demonstrated distinguished scientific or engineering achievements in the fields within the technical scope of SPE.” Honorary membership is limited to only one-tenth of 1 percent of the 104,000 members of SPE.

“You certainly don’t set out trying to earn awards, so this is a nice thing that happened. I feel fortunate to receive such a high honor,” said Willhite.

Willhite joined the faculty at KU in 1969. He is a co-founder of KU’s Tertiary Oil Recovery Project and served as co-director from 1974-2009. He was named to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering in 2006. He’s known as a leading expert on water flooding – a process to extract oil from reservoirs after the initial pressure drops when a well is first dug. Willhite wrote the textbook on the subject that remains the industry standard more than 25 years since it was first published.

In his six decades as an educator at KU, Willhite has earned a reputation of teaching a vigorous class and ensuring that when the semester ends, students have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of water flooding.

“Paul is an outstanding educator and researcher and remains a wonderful asset to the School of Engineering,” said Stan Rolfe, interim dean of engineering. “This recognition from SPE is further confirmation of what we’ve known here for years.”

KU offers the only petroleum engineering program in the state of Kansas. Enrollment in the program has grown to more than 125 students, which is a fourfold increase since 2005.


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