June 2019
Columns

Innovative thinkers

Leiming Li: Facilitating a more prosperous industry
Emily Querubin / World Oil

Growing up in Fujian Province, in southeastern China, Leiming Li was always captivated by science. During his high school years, he won a number of prestigious science and physics awards. One of those national awards ultimately led to his acceptance into the physics department at Tsinghua University—often referred to as “China’s MIT,” according to Li.

Li’s father, an electrical engineer, also had a passion for physics. He encouraged his young son to study hard and foster his curiosity. Li says, “Since [I was] young, I have been fascinated with the universe or, more specifically, with the physics that dominates the universe. This is the ‘force’ that led me to my science and research career.”

After receiving a BS degree in physics, Li went on to earn a PhD in materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was there that Li decided to begin a career in the oil and gas industry. “Part of my PhD research dealt with the self-assembling supramolecular systems [that are] closely related to a number of well treatment fluids, such as the viscoelastic surfactant (VES) fluids,” he explained. Li says he owes special thanks to his PhD advisor, Professor Samuel I. Stupp, now at Northwestern University and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, for “guiding him through the wonderful world of scientific research.”

By the time Li finished his postdoctoral research at Northwestern University and, later, Rice University, the U.S. shale boom had taken hold. He was hired as a support engineer at Schlumberger’s North and South America Stimulation Client Support Laboratory, a lab used to provide operational support for a variety of environmentally sound well construction and production fluid technology.

Li later held R&D positions with another oilfield service company and a Middle East operator. During that time, he offered technological support for the companies’ respective pressure pumping and field operations. At the service company, he focused on several production enhancement projects and short-term innovation projects. Likewise, with the operator, Li worked on a number of novel well treatment fluid systems.

Throughout his career, so far, Li has been granted 65 patents for his many ideas, methods and inventions, many of which are related to fracturing in unconventional formations. Despite his many accomplishments, Li says that his experience in well treatment fluids and produced water reuse is among his greatest work. Because fresh water used to formulate oilfield treatment fluids is becoming difficult to obtain, operators and service companies are now more inclined to use produced water in their field operations. “[This method] allows them to save on the disposal and fresh water, while being good for the environment,” Li said. “I see this becoming a trend.”

In addition to several more recent awards, including 2018 World Oil Award finalist for Innovative Thinkers, Li has been recognized for authoring a copious number of SPE papers. He’s written several on the application of a number of fluid stabilizing methods in produced water, to enhance fluid performance and overall job efficiency. The development not only saves operating costs for operators and service companies, but it also has proven to be better environmentally, significantly decreasing the amount of freshwater usage in the field.

Today, Li serves as R&D advisor chemist at Multi-Chem, Halliburton’s specialty chemicals business. He says he is currently working on R&D projects related to novel oilfield chemicals for oil and gas well treatments and he is hoping for more breakthroughs. Li said, “The petroleum industry will be prosperous for many years to come, so I still see a lot of opportunities to serve the industry by coming up with new technologies.”

About the Authors
Emily Querubin
World Oil
Emily Querubin Emily.Querubin@worldoil.com
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