Michael Economides, an internationally known authority on petroleum engineering and adjunct professor at the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering, died Dec. 1 on an international flight to South America.
Economides’ research focused on techniques to increase production, from reservoir stimulation theory and advanced reservoir exploitation strategies to offshore technology development. But he also took geopolitical considerations into account, realizing that technical considerations alone could not determine the success of hydrocarbon development.
“He is a globally recognized expert in hydraulic fracturing, in production techniques, generally,” said Tom Holley, director of the petroleum engineering program at UH, where Economides taught a masters-level class.
Economides served as a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from 1999 to 2005, later working as an adjunct faculty member, usually teaching one masters class a semester and advising graduate students while devoting much of his time to advising companies globally, as well as to writing and research.
He was known for his outspoken views. “Very outspoken, but well-reasoned,” Holley said.
Dean Joseph Tedesco said news of Economides’ sudden death came as a blow to the Cullen College community.
“We are mourning not only the loss of an invaluable source of knowledge and leadership for our petroleum engineering program, but of a dearly respected professor, friend and outspoken ally of the Cullen College and the University of Houston,” he said. “He is deeply missed, and our hearts go out to his family and his loved ones.”
Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at UH, said Economides’ work had a significant impact on production stimulation.
“He got into the whole space of horizontal drilling. How do you effectively stimulate horizontal drilling? He was a strong proponent of hydraulic fracturing,” Krishnamoorti said. “He put a lot of science behind it. He would go into the field, and things would start to happen.”
But Economides wasn’t just interested in the technical aspects of extracting hydrocarbons. He didn’t shy away from controversial positions.
“He made you think,” Krishnamoorti said. “His emotions were on his sleeve. His students absolutely loved him.”
Michael Harold, chairman of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said faculty and students alike will miss Economides.
"He was always insightful about complex issues involving energy," Harold said. "He was a true scholar and businessman who had an amazing ability to bridge the research and commercialization divide. And he brought considerable visibility to the University of Houston in his many exploits."
Economides was also a prolific writer, with hundreds of journal articles to his credit, and was the author or co-author of 15 books, including the well-known “The Color of Oil.” He was the founder and editor-in-chief of Energy Tribune, an online publication, and offered commentary on global energy politics for FuelFix, the energy website at the Houston Chronicle.
Economides was managing partner of a petroleum engineering consulting firm, and was well known as a leading energy analyst and consultant.
He was born in Cyprus and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Kansas. He received a doctorate in petroleum engineering at Stanford University.
Interment is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 20 at Memorial Oaks Cemetery, 13001 Katy Freeway in Houston, with Bill Ehlig presiding. A memorial service will follow at 10:30 a.m. at the Junior League of Houston, 1811 Briar Oaks Lane, with Ronald E. Oligney as eulogist.
A memorial service in Economides' native Cyprus is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 8 at SEK Headquarters in Strovolos, Cyprus.