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Dandina Rao

Dandina Rao

Emmett C. Wells Jr. Distinguished Professor
Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering
LSU College of Engineering

What was your previous position and where?

I was principal petroleum engineer at BDM Petroleum Technologies — the privatized version of the Department of Energy's National Institute for Petroleum and Energy Research — in Bartlesville, Okla., for a year as the head of their Rock-Fluids Interactions group. Before that, I was in Calgary, Canada, at the Petroleum Recovery Institute for more than 11 years in various petroleum engineering research positions.

What brought you to LSU?

Surprisingly, it wasn't the Tiger Football fame! Instead, it was the famous book on reservoir engineering by Benjamin Craft and Murray Hawkins, the two pioneering professors who started LSU's Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering. The offer of a tenure-track teaching and research career at LSU, especially in the well-known department of petroleum engineering and that the state of Louisiana is endowed amply with oil and gas, was too much to pass up over other opportunities, when the Department of Energy decided to close BDM in Bartlesville!

What are your research interests?

First and foremost is enhanced oil recovery, an area that has tremendous practical implications for Louisiana's economy as it addresses an important question: How to get more oil out of the ground from the 12.5 billion barrels buried under our feet in Louisiana? A close second to this is the area of rock-fluids interactions, which essentially deals with understanding the fundamental forces of nature that trap and hold the oil in the ground. Such an understanding is absolutely essential in order to get more oil out of the ground! The third field of my research is somewhat outside my role at LSU, and that is HydroFlame, a "flame-in-water" concept that I invented during my Ph.D. studies at the University of Calgary back in the day. Now, with LSU's permission, I have started a small business, HydroFlame Technologies, LLC, at LSU’s South Campus to conduct further R&D aimed at commercializing this process as a compact downhole steam generator for recovering heavy oils that are buried deep and not accessible through conventional steam generators.

What do you hope to accomplish at LSU?

I have had an enjoyable research career for the past three decades. I believe that I have learned a lot from the labs that I have worked in and the people that I have interacted with over these years. Now it is time to bring this knowledge and experience to make a difference in the oil fields of Louisiana, in the U.S. and around the world. This is what I hope to accomplish at LSU, so that the industry will embrace our ideas, concepts, processes and technologies with the end result of getting more oil out of the ground efficiently, economically and in an environmentally conscious and beneficial manner, and that our efforts make positive contributions to the economy and environment in Louisiana and the country.

What do you enjoy most about LSU?

Tiger mania for sure! Where I came from (Calgary), even professional football was about a 10th of the Tiger phenomena! As an icing on the cake, I even won the faculty lottery for two season tickets last year! When we came to LSU, it wasn’t just our 10-month-old baby that was excited to see a live tiger on campus, but my whole family of five was fascinated. Now, that baby is almost 14, and she enjoyed all the Tiger games in the stadium last year. Also, I most enjoy the long walks with my family around the beautiful lakes and trees that make up year-round spring-like weather (except, of course, July and August).

What are your major accomplishments?

I am glad to say that some of my original goals with which I came to LSU have been accomplished — of course, with a lot of help from some 25 or so wonderful graduate students and with the support and encouragement from my fellow faculty colleagues in and out of my department, and substantial research grants from our Board of Regents.
  • First was to establish a Rock-Fluids Interactions Laboratory to make measurements at actual reservoir conditions of high pressures and elevated temperatures using live reservoir fluids. We have now had this lab operating for nearly 10 years that can make measurements upto 20,000 PSI and 400°F. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first of its kind in the world.
  • Second was to find an alternative method that will get much better oil recoveries than the industry’s current practice of flooding oil reservoirs with water-alternated-with-gas, or WAG. With the help of a DOE grant and several good graduate students, we have developed the “Gas-Assisted Gravity Drainage Process,” or GAGD, for which LSU was just granted a patent on July 10. A small oil company is currently applying this process in a northern Louisiana field and is producing reasonable quantities of oil.
  • Third was the development of a new technique to determine gas-oil miscibility based on interfacial tension measurements in our unique Rock-Fluids Interactions Lab.
  • On the side, HydroFlame has also successfully built and tested three compact steam generators and conducted a Louisiana field test that has produced nearly 1,000 barrels of oil from a well that had not produced any oil since 1985.
  • But above all this, what takes the cake here is the successful professional careers of many of my graduate students. Some of them still keep in touch with me and send me pictures of their beautiful newborn babies! The Tiger torch will be marching on well into the future!


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