Interview with Mihail Minescu
- Written by Lavinia Iancu
EUR 5 MILLION FOR THE NEW REGIONAL RESEARCH CENTRE OF PETROLEUM-GAS UNIVERSITY
Petroleum-Gas University (UPG) of Ploiesti recently concluded a comprehensive programme of acquisitions, financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund, whose main objective is to create a centre for experimental research to enable the testing of complex behaviour of the petroleum tubular material components to simple or combined operating pressures, evaluation of operational characteristics, monitoring the exploitation behaviour, quality certification and issuance of constructive and technological solutions for various types of tubular material. In an extended conversation with Vice-rector Mihail Minescu we found out details about setting up, services and main benefits of the new research centre dedicated to Oil & Gas industry.
Professor Minescu, tell us about your background - how did you begin work with the Petroleum-Gas University and what attracted you to this field in particular?
Mihail Minescu: I was attracted by the technical field ever since high school, as I graduated the Industrial High School for Mechanical Engineering in Ploiesti (now Spiru Haret High School). The decision to attend the courses of the Institute of Petroleum and Gas for university studies was driven equally by family tradition (an older brother was already a graduate of the Institute of Petroleum, Gas and Geology in Bucharest, the Faculty of Well Drilling, and later he became a teacher with the Institute, currently being a professor with Petroleum-Gas University, Faculty of Petroleum and Gas Engineering), by the good reputation of the institute and by the excellent references of the teachers at the time, in Ploiesti, at the faculty I had chosen (Faculty of Technological Equipment).
In 1974, I passed the admission exam on the fifth place out of 75 seats open for competition.
The first two years of college showed I had made the right choice. I participated to several scientific circles, I joined a research team along with professors on the issue of solving technical problems for the Section of Drilling bits of May 1 Plant in Ploiesti. I think this activity was a chapter of life that weighed on the choice made by graduation to stay with the institute.
As a result of this collaboration, I chose for diploma project a theme related to the drilling bits manufacturing technology (about their mysteries I had already learned a few things), led by Professor Dumitru Raseev, the then Head of the Department for Petroleum Equipment Manufacturing with the Faculty of Technological Equipment (currently Mechanical and Electrical Engineering). Professor Dumitru Raseev is the one who offered me to stay with the department and, because I was attracted by the activities carried out by the collective I already knew (made up by teachers who taught classes and led seminars and laboratory work during my years as student), I said yes. Out of my class two graduates were selected to work with the institute. This was the moment I opted for an academic career.
When graduating, I was given a double assignment: to the Institute of Oil and Gas and to the May 1 Plant in Ploiesti, where I completed two years internship in production. Upon completion of the internship, I have returned to the institute at the Department of Petroleum Equipment Manufacturing Technology, where I currently work; in the meantime (quite a few years have passed since then) its name and the teams’ structure have been changed several times, now is called the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Currently, which are your areas of work and the tasks within the university’s management? What main objectives do you have?
Mihail Minescu: Within the university’s management team I deal with the university’s international relations and with the socio-economic environment relations. The activities undertaken are conducted in several directions.
First of all, I envisage the training of a large number of students to benefit from the mobility offered by Erasmus+ programme. The transnational partnerships concluded as bilateral agreements enable our students to study one or two semesters in another university in the European Union. Therefore, our constant concern was and is to increase the number of agreements in order to diversify the education offer under the programme. Currently, the Petroleum-Gas University in Ploiesti has concluded institutional contracts with universities in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, France, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine.
In addition, the popularization of Petroleum-Gas University educational offer will contribute to attracting a larger number of students, both from Erasmus+ countries as well as from partner countries, who will study at our university.
If until last year there were only two mobility type placements within the Erasmus+ programme, as of this year their number increased to 13. Within this type of mobility, for a minimum of two months, students have the opportunity to carry out practice in companies in the European Community, with identical or close operations to their specialization. Thus, new connection bridges are being built between the education system and the labour market, which will eventually lead to new skills necessary for graduates upon employment. For this period, the student gets a sum of money for transportation and living of about EUR 500-700/month (depending on the country where the mobility takes place). There are multiple advantages for the students participating in these placements, I am not going to enumerate them now. The companies for practice have been identified by the students or by the professors under the Erasmus+ Office and my careful coordination.
The Erasmus+ programme also includes mobility type placements for teaching and training for professors and the university staff. Under this programme, professors can go to partner universities for a period of about a week, to teach for eight hours, to exchange best practices, documentation, etc. Among the results of these exchanges I would highlight the following: improving teaching techniques, approaching common research themes, improving language capabilities and establishing new cooperation agreements. The management of the university’s administrative apparatus can also participate within the Erasmus+ programme mobility type placements.
In June, a group of four master students of the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering in Norman, Oklahoma will come to our university. These students will attend classes in a master module entitled Petroleum Equipment Optimal Operation Engineering along with Romanian students. The course is taught by a graduate of IME College, Catalin Teodoriu, who is currently teaching at the university, after working a long time at the University of Clausthal, Germany. He is also the leader of the American students group. Also, the students will practice in the laboratories of the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, where the studying programme is operational. In reciprocity, we will try to send, in the next academic year, two master students to the American University. We are in an advanced stage of concluding an Institutional Contract under the Erasmus+ programme.
Another dimension of the university education internationalization process is teaching students from other countries. Currently, 310 students from 29 countries are studying at the university. It should be noticed that all these students attend the courses of all university’s faculties, but the largest share attend technical faculties.
The university is accredited to train students in the preparatory year (for learning the Romanian language) and the graduates of these courses study at UPG or at other universities in the country.
In the future special attention will be given to Master study programmes in English. Our university is deficient in this chapter. We are envisaging the setting up of master programmes in English. There is already an accredited master programme in English. It is operational within the Faculty of Petroleum and Gas Engineering. The other two technical faculties each aim to establish and accredit one master program in English in 2016, as nobody is willing to consume a year of life and money to learn the Romanian language and then attend a master programme, however attractive it may be.
Regarding the relationship with the socio-economic environment, our main mission is to help the faculties to conclude new partnerships with companies and public institutions to ensure the practice in production for our students. The current economic environment is continuously changing, meaning that in Prahova County, as well as in other economically developed counties, new companies are set up, especially foreign-owned in the county’s industrial parks and my role is to contact them, to make the university known and to begin collaboration with them. I act on the principle that we should not expect the companies to come to us, but rather we should adopt a proactive attitude.
Considering that, in Prahova County, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry is very dynamic, it seems very appropriate to develop UPG partnerships with this institution. We already have a number of activities conducted together: meetings with companies in various industries, with foreign delegations, the organisation of workshops, job fairs, etc.
Would you name the most important projects/programmes for research and development in which you got involved recently with your team?
Mihail Minescu: The research contracts in which I’ve been involved (over 120 in total) are mainly related to petroleum scaffolding equipment and to oil tubular material. Some of these are listed below.
- The making of heavy drilling rods, globally competitive by hardening the outer surface by applying hard alloy charging (for SC Upetrolam Bucharest);
- Technology and equipment to modernize and increase efficiency in the extraction of hydrocarbons by using perforation with cumulative jet (completed with invention patent);
- Research on refurbishing the steel drilling rods by rendering (patent finalized and implemented several tubular bases in the country);
- Research on modernizing the production of drilling rods in view of streamlining the drilling processes;
- Research on improving safety in operation and the possibility to manufacture tool joints (bell and spigot connection NC38 and NC50) in view of optimizing the performance/price ratio for the drilling rods;
- Research on the introduction of new materials (composites, aluminium alloys) in the manufacture of sucker rods; research on the construction and manufacturing technology of hollow sucker rods with bore;
- Studying the reconditioning technology for worn pistons of bore-hole pumps and achieving a prototype batch;
- Implementing Fitness-for-Service type procedure according to API 579 standard, and assessing the technical condition of a real pipe section;
- Assessing the feature of construction and functional characteristics of fastening and adjusting systems (valve actuator) used by the National Gas Transmission System, in terms of reliability, proactive maintenance and operational safety;
- Research on the development of methodologies and apparatus for characterizing high pressure grease for the drill string;
- Research on the production of drill rods from aluminium alloys, in terms of threaded connections design, assessing the mechanical properties and durability of real rods; research has reached the stage of making four real drill rods of 3½ inches. In conducting this research we worked with the aluminium processing company in Slatina, with the Institute for Research in Hot Sectors in Bucharest, with the Romanian Association of Drilling Contractors, etc. The completing of the research coincided with the changing of the economic environment in Romania (change in ownership of the companies involved in the implementation of the project). It is a shame because we had all technical conditions to manufacture aluminium alloy drill rods in Romania (in this area I have achieved my PhD thesis);
- Research and experimentation on the uptake in manufacturing of the spiral filters with inside welded bars, made of carbon steel or of stainless steel with various applications in the oil industry and others (completed with invention patent);
- Research on the inside hardening technology of the extraction pumps cylinders by CIF quenching, achieving an experimental batch;
- Developing the technological documentation on end parts welding for bore-hole pumps’ pistons with achieving an experimental batch and an inside hardening technology for working barrels by CIF quenching;
- Modernization of copper pipes assembly systems for use at equipments on natural gas (although the pipes and copper fittings assembly process by pressure was approved by authorized bodies, it wasn’t included in the ANRGN norm and cannot yet be applied in Romania, although the process is used in most European countries).
How was the new Regional Centre for the Determination of the Characteristics and Monitoring of the Technical State of Oil Tubular Goods set up within the university?
Mihail Minescu: The Regional Centre for the Determination of the Characteristics and Monitoring of the Technical State of OCTG (Oil Country Tubular Goods) - CRDPMTP - has been fully developed from the European Regional Development Fund. In the period 2010-2012, a project has been carried out in the Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti, in the framework of the Sectoral Operational Programme - Increase of Economic Competitiveness (POSCCE), with a total value of EUR 5 million. The project has been implemented by a team of teachers from the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering al Faculty, led by the regretted Professor Vlad Ulmanu and which included Professors Gheorghe Zecheru and Marius Petrescu, respectively Associated Professors Mihaela Caltaru and Marius Badicioiu. The team had to solve complex problems linked to the design and execution of the various components of the project, but also administrative and financial problems specific to the development of such projects, that can be understood only after working within such a project. Nevertheless, the work of these colleagues has been crowned by success and today the university is proud for the results of their work. The idea of achieving the project is the result of a long-lasting research activity performed by the didactical staff from the faculty in collaboration with the companies from the field of OCTG. Furthermore, there has been some scientific research cooperation in this field, in collaborations with specialists from the Technical University of Clausthal, Germany, where didactical staff members from Ploiesti have taught and worked in the framework of some research projects. Within this collaboration, our colleagues have worked on equipment components that presently are found also in the laboratories from our university. The cooperation with this university has been established by Professor Vlad Ulmanu. Many years before, he taught at Clausthal as visiting professor and, on this occasion, solid ties between the specialists from both universities have been constituted. CRDPMTP has as main objective the complex testing of all OCTG components, on full-scale specimens, when subjected to simple or combined operational loads, assessment of their usage features, their monitoring, quality certification and the possibility to validate constructive and technological solutions. The project has been thought in such way that the majority of the laboratories within the Mechanical Engineering Department would be modernized, creating the possibility to cover all the stages of a research work that is finalized with the assimilation of a new product. Thus, the laboratories for testing materials from the point of view of the chemical composition, structure and mechanical properties have been modernized and, at the same time, the manufacturing laboratories have been developed and provided with machine tools and CNCs, and also with complex apparatus for precision control.
In the followings, I will briefly present the structure of the equipment of our Centre, which is operative in the five laboratories described below:
- the laboratory for complex mechanical testing I, equipped a make-up/break out testing machine for the threaded connections of OCTG for drilling-extraction (having a maximum torsion moment of 68 kNm), with an installation for complex testing of OCTGs under combined loads (which allows for the simultaneous or successive loading of the specimens under traction, with the maximum axial load of 4000 kN, compression, bending, and internal/external pressure, up to 2250 bar), intended for full-scale testing of petroleum tubular for drilling-extraction and of the welded or threaded connections between the OCTG components, and with a stand intended for external pressure (collapse) testing (applied independently or combined with traction and/or compression loads applied using the installation for complex testing) of OCTG, provided with three pressure chambers;
- the command and data acquisition laboratory, provided with specialised equipment and dedicated software, by means of which the operation of all the components of the laboratory for complex mechanical testing I are supervised, and which ensures the acquisition, storage, management, processing and interpretation of all data obtained during OCTG testing;
- the laboratory for complex mechanical testing II, provided with equipment for the determination of the mechanical properties of the materials used to manufacture the OCTG components: a static and dynamic universal testing machine with the capacity of 300 kN, with a Charpy pendulum impact testing machine, with the maximum impact energy of 450 J, provided with ultra-cryostat for specimens cooling, with rotary bending fatigue testing machines of 20 Nm and 60 Nm, and with an installation for mechanical testing of polyethylene pipes, that can perform static tests under constant internal pressure and temperature, on full scale HDPE pipe specimens;
- the mechanical processing laboratory, equipped with machine tools and CNCs (CNC vertical machining centre, three CNC horizontal lathes, among which one for pipe ends manufacturing, water jet cutting machine), and also with apparatus for the precision control of the machined parts (among which a microscope for threads, for the control of the profile of the OCTG threads), makes possible the manufacture of OCTG prototypes for drilling-extraction, with different alternatives of threaded heads, and ensures the manufacture/cutting of specimens for the mechanical tests and the quality qualification of the products manufactured in the laboratory;
- the scientific research laboratory for the intelligent control of petroleum tubular (pipes and fittings) intended for transmission or distribution pipelines for natural gas, petroleum and liquid petroleum products, as well as for technological pipelines from petroleum refineries and petrochemical plants, provided with equipment for the control of the OCTG structural integrity, as well as of the chemical composition and structure of the materials used for their manufacturing: portable electromagnetic/magnetostrictive guided waves generator, with a portable system for defects detection, Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), laboratory spectrometer, micro-hardness tester, infrared thermal imaging camera, digital ferrite-meter and equipment for sampling and preparing metallographic samples.
To these laboratories, a mobile lab is added, which allows the execution of in-field tests, on in-service OCTG, for the determination of the chemical composition, of the mechanical strength and toughness properties, of the wall thickness, of the thickness of corrosion protection layers, of the geometrical features of imperfections or defects of the type metal loss, denting or crack identified on OCTG, of the causes of an OCTG inadequate behaviour, and of the magnitude of the technical risk attached to the OCTG use. This laboratory is equipped, among others, with: data acquisition system for electro-resistive tensometry tests, portable hardness tester, mobile spectrometer, rheometer, portable digital ultrasonic apparatus, portable digital roughmeter, portable gas detector, kit of gauges for threads measurement.
What kind of services does the centre provide and which are the main beneficiaries?
Mihail Minescu: The Regional centre for determining the performance and for monitoring the technical condition of the oil tubular material enables complex research activities, among which the most important are:
- research on the technical performance of the piping used in extraction processes;
- improving functional characteristics of threaded joints used in the oil industry;
- research on the assessment of the technical condition of pipelines for fluids;
- estimation of the bearing reserve for oil tubular material;
- control and monitoring of the intelligent control equipment for oil piping;
- technological risk assessment (for the tubular material) based on mechanical characteristics experimentally determined;
- research on the development of new execution technologies for the components of oil tubular material;
- correlation of information obtained following certain complex mechanical tests;
- research on the reliability of tubular material coupling.
The main potential beneficiaries of the services provided by CRDPMTP are:
- the manufacturers and suppliers of tubular material in Romania and abroad interested in certifying their own tubular material and in technical assistance in implementing constructive solutions and manufacturing technologies for tubular material;
- drilling, extraction and transport companies in Romania and abroad that use tubular material in the technological processes of their field, by providing them a comprehensive database on the tubular material operational characteristics and services on its expertise;
- students in university, master and PhD programmes, who perform lab work or works to complete their studies (degree projects, dissertations or PhD theses);
- engineers who want to acquire new professional skills or to conduct experiments in the field of oil tubular material.
The Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti enjoys wide international recognition, but in the current agitated context on the oil market the specialists in the industry face a difficult situation. How do you manage to keep the interest of young people in this field?
Mihail Minescu: Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti had and has a national and international good reputation acquired in time through the performance of its graduates.
When referring to the ‘domestic market’, the university has the advantage, seen as a whole (with its three integrated technical colleges), of being unique in the country. There are some other specializations related to the field of oil and gas at Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu and at the Ovidius University of Constanta.
The higher earnings potential in the energy field in general and in the oil and gas in particular, is another reason for the attractiveness of our university.
It is to be noticed that in recent years the interest of high school graduates in all engineering specialties has increased. Also, in recent years the number of candidates for examination at the Faculty of Petroleum and Gas Engineering was four, five or even six times higher than the number of seats.
Similarly, the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering has had in the last three years two parallel series working on mechanical specializations. Within the same faculty we have specializations in trends and they will continue (automation, computers, electronics and electro-mechanics). This has led to increasing the quality of students and of graduates. On the other hand, the two newest faculties, i.e. Letters and Science and Economic Sciences, have strengthened their position on the market and have become equally attractive.
Nevertheless, this situation does not give necessarily a sense of security regarding future applicants to our university, given the decreasing number of high school graduates from year to year, both in Prahova and in neighbouring counties (which are the main pools of candidates), the competition from universities around, and especially of those in Bucharest, and not least the extent of Romanian high school graduates recruiting by the western universities (only this year the University of Coventry - UK, has allocated a budget of EUR 500,000 in this regard).
Thus, there are two directions in which we must act in this regard, in my opinion, namely: maintaining and increasing the quality of university education; using appropriate methods to promote the university according to the current moment, by which we should convey the idea that, for decades, the oil and gas industry with all its components will have an important place in the national and world economy.
What ideas and major projects are on your agenda for 2016? How about the near future?
Mihail Minescu: I have several ideas and plans to carry out my assumed mission. Regarding the administrative tasks, the ideas and plans are related to the promotion of the university by all means, for it regains its place and importance it deserves, with benefits for graduates and for the society. I will not mention them now, I prefer to have the inventory after their completing. Regarding teaching and research, I will continue to do what I have done hitherto, namely to add value both personally and to the benefit of the department I belong to, to the faculty I belong to in terms of administration and, not least, to the university. In the very near future, I want to be able to obtain the authorization to coordinate the PhD activities, as I meet all the criteria in the field of Mechanical Engineering.