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National Academy of Engineering Member and UH Professor Chosen for Highest Honor by the Society of Petroleum Engineers
Rashda Khan
Ganesh Thakur, distinguished professor of petroleum engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering.
Ganesh Thakur, distinguished professor of petroleum engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering.

SPE Recognizes Ganesh Thakur with Honorary Membership

The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) has chosen to honor Ganesh Thakur, distinguished professor of petroleum engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, with a 2019 Honorary Membership. This is the highest honor SPE presents to individuals and is limited to 0.1 percent of the Society’s total membership.

The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to SPE or distinguished scientific or engineering achievements in the fields within the technical scope of SPE.

“The oil and gas industry has been good to me and led to a very lucrative and rewarding career providing exciting work where you can use advanced technologies, constantly learn new things and work all over the world, meeting diverse people and making friends everywhere,” Thakur said. “I’m humbled and honored by this most recent recognition.”

The University of Houston recruited him in 2016 as director of Energy Industry Partnerships with a $3 million grant from the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI) in Texas. Thakur is a globally recognized leader in reservoir engineering and management, secondary and enhanced oil recovery (EOR), offshore and onshore oil and gas field management, heavy oil, EOR of unconventional resources, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Under his leadership at UH, researchers have performed an extensive study on reservoir management and CCS pilot project for Oil India during Phases 1 and 2, which amounted to $2.25 million in research grants in 2016-18. His team is pursuing additional funding and extending the research into Phase 3 of this partnership.

“This ambitious partnership has offered clear benefits for both Oil India and for the University of Houston,” said UH President Renu Khator about the CCS project in a previous article. “Finding a way to safely meet the growing demand for energy in India and other parts of the world is a fundamental challenge, and we appreciate the opportunity for our faculty and students to play a vital role in solving such important real-world problems.”

During a career with Chevron that spanned 37 years, Thakur served in various roles including vice president and global advisor and Fellow. Serving as the highest level technical professional across the entire corporation with over 50,000 employees, he led teams in the design of several key deep water offshore, shallow water offshore and onshore major capital projects involving billions of dollars of capital expenditures, which successfully created significant values for the company through hundreds of million barrels of reserves and hundreds of thousand barrels of production. He also served as chairman of the Corporate Reservoir Management Forum, focusing on the development of oil and gas projects and surveillance, analysis and optimization of projects, and sharing best practices and lessons learned from projects around the world. He actively participated in corporate reserves reviews of various oil and gas assets around the world for 15 years.

In addition, he served as the SPE president in 2012 and is currently the treasurer of the SPE Foundation and a board member of TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas). Thakur will begin serving as the president of the SPE Foundation in October. 

He became a member of the NAE – an elite group that brings together many of the world’s most accomplished engineers – in 2016 for leadership in the implementation of integrated reservoir management techniques in the oil and gas industry.  He has written over 70 papers in SPE publications; presented over 250 seminars, workshops, distinguished lectures, and short courses around the world; authored/co-authored three books; and edited two SPE Reprint Series.

Previous accolades include: Orange County, California’s Outstanding Engineer of the Year award in 1994; Petroleum Reservoir Engineer of the Year Award from the SPE in 2005; Pennsylvania State University’s Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences in 2006; and the Indian Institutes of Technology – Indian School of Mines (IIT ISM) Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016.

He earned his Ph.D. in petroleum and natural gas engineering (PNGE) from Pennsylvania State University in 1973, after receiving his M.A. in mathematics and M.S. in PNGE there in 1971 and 1972.  He holds an MBA from Houston Baptist University and received his bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering in 1970 from IIT (ISM) Dhanbad in India.

Thakur will receive his most recent award at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition scheduled for Sept.30-Oct.2, 2019 in Canada.

He offered some advice for Cullen College students:

• Develop a positive attitude and “can do” approach.  Be persistent, stay focused, use your time effectively, respect others and embrace diversity.
• Our industry has seen many ups and downs and it has affected all of us in some ways.  But the outlook for the future of the oil and gas industry and energy in general is bright and healthy. I see a robust oil and gas industry in the future.  We should focus on describing the value of our profession to society, such as providing energy for light, heating, air conditioning, driving, running machines, airplanes, et cetera. It’s important to continue exploring, drilling, producing, refining and transporting oil, gas and derivative products for a variety of usage, while taking care of the environment and focusing on safety and social responsibility. If we stop these activities, the whole world will come to its knees.  What we do is an integral part of our society, and today’s young engineers and scientists are going to play an even more important role than my generation played.
• I would encourage young professionals and college students to continue to stay active, take leadership roles and continue to develop themselves as this is a very important industry, and it is going to be here for many more years.    

SPE is the largest not-for-profit professional association whose members are engaged in energy resources development and production. It serves more than 168,000 members in 144 countries worldwide. SPE is a key resource for technical knowledge related to the oil and gas exploration and production industry and provides services through its publications, events, training courses and online resources at

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