Petroleum engineering in time of global climate change and resource depletion

Earth Science and Engineering Graduate Seminar

Speaker: Professor Tadeusz W. Patzek, Ali I Al‐Naimi Petroleum Engineering Research Center (ANPERC), Energy Resources and Petroleum Engineering (ERPE), and Chemical Engineering (CE), KAUST.



Petroleum engineers and earth scientists involved with resource mining face now a different world in which the public and investors demand that we demonstrate continually our stewardship of the earth systems we impact.  They also want us to be efficient and profitable with less investment.  The public is confused about what it takes to deliver the energy and resources they want and what are the global consequences of the giant power and mass flows we generate.  The public in developed countries wants to have “clean energy” but doesn’t want to change their lifestyles that are incompatible with the clean world they desire.  The public in developing countries wants to be just like their rich cousins, not recognizing that the planet is already too small to accommodate all our wants.  So how to educate the resource engineers to educate others? How to cope with climate change, and teach ourselves and others that less of everything in the developed countries is the only possible path forward?


Tadeusz (Tad) Patzek is Director of the Ali I Al‐Naimi Petroleum Engineering Research Center and Professor of Petroleum and Chemical Engineering at KAUST. Until December 2014, he was the Lois K. and Richard D. Folger Leadership Professor and Chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin. He also held the Cockrell Family Regents Chair #11. Between 1990 and 2008, he was a Professor of Geoengineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining Berkeley, he was a Senior Reservoir Engineer at Shell Western E&P in Bakersfield, CA (1989‐1990), and a Senior Research Scientist at the venerable Shell Development Bellaire Research Center (BRC) in Houston, TX. (1983‐1989).

Patzek is also a Presidential Full Professor in Poland (highest honor) and a Distinguished Member of the SPE. By education, he is a chemical process engineer and physicist trained in catalysis and computational fluid mechanics. In 1983, at Shell, two UT professors, Larry Lake and Gary Pope, introduced Patzek to petroleum engineering and his life was never the same.

Patzek has engaged in the studies of complex systems, focusing on the human factors in ultra‐deepwater offshore operations. He briefed Congress on the BP Deepwater Horizon well disaster in the Gulf, and was a frequent guest on NPR, ABC, BBC, CNN, and CBS programs. In 2011, Patzek became a member of the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee for the Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). He co‐ wrote a popular book with a famous historian, Joseph Tainter, "Drilling Down: The Gulf Debacle and our Energy Dilemma." 

Patzek, Michael Marder and Mr. Frank Male received the Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences for the best paper in engineering in 2013, "Gas production in the Barnett Shale obeys a simple scaling law."

Since 2003, Patzek has engaged in the studies of sustainability, and industrial agricultural and agrofuel systems, all viewed through the lens of ecology and irreversible thermodynamics. Patzek’s papers in this domain are among his most cited. In 2007, Patzek participated in the OECD ministerial meetings in Paris that coped with the new biofuel mandates established in the US. In 2006 and 2007, Patzek and his son Lucas argued in vain against the irreversible damage of the tropical ecosystems in Indonesia, Malaysia, equatorial Africa and Brazil. At KAUST, students in Patzek’s environmental class, E^4, created the Students for Sustainability organization.

For his work, Patzek received the Desiderius Erasmus Award from EAGE in 2020. 

For the last decade, Patzek has maintained a blog, LifeItself, about the environment, ecology, energy, complexity and human activities with some 800,000 unique readers.

Patzek coauthored over 400 papers and reports.


Professor Tadeusz Patzek

Event Quick Information

05 Oct, 2022
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
KAUST, Bldg. 9, Level 2, Lecture Hall 2