Operations Research, A New Discipline of Interest to the Petroleum Engineer
- Fraser H. Allen (Pan American Petroleum Corp.) | Kevin R. Jones (U. of Kansas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 1961
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 11 - 15
- 1961. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 4.3.4 Scale, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.6 Drilling Operations
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A new field of applied science known in this country as "operations research" is making rapid gains as a means of determining the optimum course of action in complex situations. In Great Britain this type of activity is referred to as "operational research". The term "operations analysis" and the abbreviations "OpSearch" and "OR" are in relatively common usage both in this country and abroad. The Germans employ the name "Wirtschaftsforschung" (economic, or management, research) and the Russians, who are now becoming much more active in this type of work, seem to use various terms, one of the more common ones being "operations investigation".
Within this new discipline are a number of techniques especially designed to handle problems involving risk and uncertainty. Probably no industry is so vitally concerned with risk as is the petroleum industry and no professional man is forced continually to deal with such uncertain basic physical data as is the petroleum engineer. The growing interest in operations research in the SPE membership is not surprising.
The Mathematical Model
The first step in formulating the solution to a problem through operations research is to state the problem precisely in mathematical language. It is then necessary to set up what is termed a "mathematical model" of the situation. The development of a mathematical model need not be difficult. In fact almost any engineering calculation, such as a simple pore-volume estimate of reserves, is essentially the same type of thing except that most individuals approach these calculations as a stepwise series of arithmetical calculations. They stop frequently with partial or intermediate answers, weigh the feasibility of the sub-answers, and then proceed. The more sophisticated mathematical-model approach simply demands that the whole series of these steps be set up ahead of time in the form of equations and statements of inequality. The various factors included in these mathematical statements of equality and inequality, as well as the answers themselves, can be restricted within pre-defined limits. This avoids the necessity of pondering the logic of the sub-answers before proceeding.
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