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Oil Recovery Expert and Ecology Spokesperson Tad Patzek of UC-Berkeley Named Chair of Nation’s Top Petroleum Engineering Department

Tad Patzek, professor of geoengineering at the University of California-Berkeley, will become chair of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin effective Sept. 1.

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Tad Patzek, professor of geoengineering at the University of California-Berkeley, will become chair of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin effective Sept. 1.

Tad Patzek

Dr. Tad Patzek has been named chair of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department. 

“Tad’s combination of enhanced oil recovery research skills with ecology lecturing experience, and wide contacts with academic and industrial communities worldwide will help the department,” said Ben Streetman, dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. “His experience will expand its leadership role in the investigation of diverse geosystems and new energy sources. He will make the nation’s top-ranked petroleum engineering department even better.”

U.S. News and World Report magazine ranks the university’s petroleum engineering graduate program as the best in the nation.

Before joining UC-Berkeley in 1990, Patzek spent seven years at Shell Development in Houston, where he improved oil recovery methods and evaluated the future U.S. energy supply. A native of Poland, he arrived in the United States on a Fulbright Fellowship after earning his master’s and doctor’s degrees in chemical engineering in 1974 and 1980, respectively, from the Silesian Technical University in Poland.

Patzek served as a Society of Petroleum Engineers distinguished lecturer and was selected as a visiting fellow at the Statoil Research Center in Trondheim, Norway. He also received two Special Recognition Awards from Shell for comprehensive studies of alternative recovery processes.

Patzek’s work acknowledges the challenges created by the disappearance of easily recovered, inexpensive oil and the lack of viable replacements—in the context of a warming global climate and a shrinking global supply of drinking water. While seeking alternative energy sources, Patzek believes creating new efficiencies in extracting oil from the ground offers more promise for providing affordable fuel in the short term than biofuels. He speaks and writes on the global debate concerning biofuels and their undesirable environmental and social impacts.

Patzek’s research involves mathematical modeling of earth systems with emphasis on multiphase fluid flow physics and rock mechanics. He is also working on smart, process-based control of very large waterfloods in unconventional, low-permeability formations and on the mechanics of hydrate-bearing sediments.

In a broader context, he works on the thermodynamics and ecology of human survival and energy supply schemes for humanity. As he did at UC-Berkeley, he will continue to share his knowledge with students and the public in hydrology, ecology and energy supply, computer science and mathematical modeling of earth systems at micro and mega scales.

Patzek said his new department’s highly regarded strength for enhanced oil recovery research, coupled with its other assets, offers great potential for providing new energy solutions. He said the department’s reputation as ranking among the nation’s best in educating petroleum engineers allows for quickly dispersing emerging solutions into industry.

His six goals for the department build on the exceptional blend of faculty talent to meet the challenges confronting petroleum engineers:

  1. Further strengthen the department’s leadership in developing methods of recovering more oil, more cheaply in ever more difficult formations. In particular, he foresees continuing preeminence in enhanced oil recovery engineering: CO2 injection; chemical, polymer and steam flooding, steam foam injection and heat injection;
  2. Continue to expand activities in modeling porous media and multiphase flow from microns to kilometers;
  3. Increase emphasis on natural gas engineering and, in particular, toward a better understanding of unconventional natural gas resources. He believes natural gas recovery and compressed natural gas-based transportation systems will create a major new thrust for the department;
  4. Leverage the department’s strengths and expand them using the talent and capabilities elsewhere at the university, including other departments in the Cockrell School of Engineering, the Jackson School of Geosciences, the Bureau of Economic Geology, the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the Energy Institute.
  5. Maintain the undergraduate and graduate programs as among the best in the United States; and
  6. Make the best use of student diversity.

Download a high-resolution photo of Dr. Patzek.