Senior Design Project: Solving Real-World Problems

This month’s blog post comes to us from Alex Beem, a senior majoring in petroleum engineering. Originally from Houston, Texas, Alex decided to pursue his passion for the oil and gas industry. After visiting LSU’s College of Engineering, Alex knew that Baton Rouge would be the place he would call home and earn his undergraduate degree.

A long journey will finally come to an end on May 15, 2015. It all started my freshman year with the basic arithmetic and science classes when I was trying to find my place in this new world we call “college.” As I worked my way through the course flowchart, I kept my focus on the prize; which was to graduate from LSU (and receive my ring and diploma). I entered my senior year as motivated as ever to reach this goal and the courses were much more interesting than the ones I had taken earlier in my college career. Before my classmates and I could graduate, we had one more task to complete: a Senior Design Project.

Alex Beem

Alex Beem

In case you are not familiar with the Senior Design course, it is a class that is required for LSU engineering students to graduate. Future engineers have the opportunity to showcase their knowledge by solving a problem for industry professionals. This class is two semesters long and is composed of two phases. The first phase is planning, while the second is implementation. The planning phase taught me the organizational skills I needed to achieve the task at hand, and the implementation phase showed me that not all things can be planned for.

My group did our project on “Decline Curve Analysis for Unconventional Reservoirs.” If you are familiar with the oil and gas industry, you know that a major hurdle has been crossed recently. Due to new technology, many companies have started drilling into shale formations as opposed to sand formations. A reservoir in a shale formation would be considered an “unconventional” reservoir. The project we are working on analyzes new methods of determining production rates from these formations, since research has proven that the old way of making these decline curves resulted in inadequate results.

When first learning about this project, we knew it would be a difficult project that could yield great results. My group consists of three other guys: Ryan Burke, Paul Caplis, and Stephen Harris. What was so great about this group is that we all had different strengths to offer the team. Paul utilized his skills with computer programming, and designed a program in MATLAB to run his simulation. Stephen did the same for his model, and offered some much needed charisma during our many presentations. Ryan was very good at understanding the big picture of the project, and used his experience from his past internships to help guide us in making a professional presentation. I used my organizational skills to effectively communicate with the group, plan meetings, and set deadlines for various facets of our project.

For our senior project, we each took a developed model and applied it to a specific geographic region. We then took the data that was made available to us and forecasted decline curves. After making our forecasts, we were able to show that certain methods worked better than others. My teammates and I are very proud of our project. We believe it is a very relevant issue, and that our project will make a difference for some companies in the industry.

Forecasted decline curves for senior design project

Forecasted decline curves for senior design project

When I was a senior in high school, I remember touring the petroleum department and seeing the students mixing mud in mud lab. I remember seeing people sitting in front of the computers in the Patrick F. Taylor computer lab with three or four books open at the same time trying to do their homework, and thinking to myself that will be me one day. I think the biggest thing I have taken away from my senior year at LSU is that all of the hard work from early on has finally paid off. It is rewarding to know that you can work hard, but also have fun with what you do. That is the purpose behind the senior design project. We are now equipped with the knowledge to solve real-world problems and we can find fun and creative ways to do it.

-Alex Beem
Petroleum Engineering

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