Brian Skeels Recognized for Pioneering Work
Brian Skeels, adjunct professor with the subsea engineering program at the University of Houston, received the 2018 Distinguished Achievement Award for Individuals at the Offshore Technology Conference – one of the biggest energy expositions in the world – on May 1.
“To be recognized with the giants of the offshore industry is truly humbling,” Skeels said. “My career has been filled with wonderful mentors and leaders, some of whom have been recipients of this award.”
The award recognizes Skeels for his pioneering new subsea completions in record water depths and the development of new tieback connections that have redefined industry standards. His innovative designs in subsea completions – systems of pipes, connections and valves on the ocean floor that gather hydrocarbons produced from completed wells – held world record water depths from 1986 through 2010 and established the first 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi) and 15,000 psi subsea completions in the Gulf of Mexico.
Other firsts under his belt include the first guideline-less subsea tree, first driverless lay-away flowline system in Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico, and the first subsea well tieback to a Spar (a type of floating oil platform).
“Being able to be part of the first of anything is every engineer’s dream, and it’s gratifying to see that subsequent generations of design haven’t wandered too far from what you originally dreamt up,” Skeels said.
“I’m a designer at heart. Present me with a problem and a clean sheet of paper, and I’m a happy camper.” ~ Brian Skeels
Skeels has about 39 years of experience in subsea completion and offshore pipeline design and installation. He authored nearly 40 technical papers and articles and holds 14 U.S. patents for oil and gas industry-related technology. He has served on API’s Subcommittee 17 for Subsea Production Systems – on their leadership team and chairing several task groups for equipment standards – since 1984.
In addition to teaching at UH, Skeels serves as senior technical advisor, the technology fellow and the emerging technologies director at TechnipFMC. His work involves strategic planning for frontier technologies – such as HPHT equipment, deepwater and remote light well intervention – and new business opportunities, including ROV and remote robotics technology, and hydrate remediation programs.
Skeels became an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Fellow in 2010 and received the UH-ASME’s Titanium Crawfish Award that year.
He has been involved in an advisory capacity with OTC, Deep Offshore Technology (DOT) Conference, World Oil HPHT Conferences, ASME (IPTI) Deepwater Conference, SPE Forum Series Conferences on Subsea Production and other organizations.
“It’s a proud moment for our subsea program and UH to have our adjunct professor receive the highest individual award at OTC for his pioneering and extraordinary work,” said Phaneendra Kondapi, director of the UH subsea program and a former colleague of Skeels at FMC Technologies. "Brian loves to share his wisdom and experience with our students through his Subsea Systems class and we are very fortunate to have him in the program. He is one of our best instructors and it’s very rare to see such passion and dedication towards students."
Skeels’ advice for recent graduates entering the subsea engineering field
- Read Colin Powell’s autobiography “My American Journey” and “The Unwritten Laws of Engineering” by J.G. Skakoon and W.J. King. They contain common sense advice that’s pretty sage and that we all too often forget.
- Family always comes first.
- Ask questions and learn from them, keep asking questions forever.
- Presentation skills get you noticed.
- Delegate with equal amounts of responsibility and authority.
- Working hard gives you the right and opportunity to play hard.
- Keep it simple — make it symmetric.
- Management can be a technology contradiction.
Be skeptical, but stop short of becoming a curmudgeon.