In the final days of the spring 2017 semester, petroleum engineering seniors stood in front of their peers and advisers to present the findings of their semester-long research projects. For one team, mentor Ken McQueen (BS ’82) flew in to Tulsa to watch the students present on data he provided from a set of southeastern New Mexico wells drilled before World War II. A member of the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering’s Industry Advisory Board, McQueen continues to invest in his alma mater and the future of young petroleum engineering graduates.
“The economic evaluation of this project is exactly what petroleum engineers do in their daily work,” he said.
The seniors digitized 250,000 feet of logs for their analysis and met weekly with McQueen via Skype to discuss progress and strategies. They asked questions, solved problems and determined the remaining potential of the New Mexico water injection sites. Students also learned how to use the industry’s commercial software and directly apply skills required in the real world.
“Southeastern New Mexico’s Delaware Basin has become the hot spot for today’s oil and gas industry, and I expect to see many TU grads working in this area,” McQueen said.
The petroleum engineer first learned about the industry while watching his father work as a roustabout on the ranch in Davis, Oklahoma, where he was raised. He visited his first drilling rig at age 5 and later worked three summers in the oil fields of southern Oklahoma. McQueen’s father suggested he pursue a petroleum engineering degree, but his high school science teacher advised against it, convincing McQueen the world was on the verge of oil depletion.
“That was 45 years ago,” he said. “He’d be surprised to see what world oil production is today!”
McQueen eventually relocated to Tulsa with his wife and worked in an oil field chemistry laboratory where a peer encouraged him to enroll at TU. As a nontraditional student, he completed 63 hours of credit in three semesters and one summer. During that time, McQueen’s first son was born, and he learned the value of teamwork.
“My best memory from TU was the group of students who came together as a study group,” he said. “We were all on the same track and spent many hours together working on homework and studying for tests. I still keep in contact with many of the group.”
Following his degree, McQueen built an impressive career at WPX Energy in Tulsa, working in the Four Corners area of New Mexico and Colorado for 14 years. After retiring as WPX vice president in 2016, he was appointed cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. McQueen’s office at EMNRD oversees five divisions and 415 employees of New Mexico state government: oil and gas conservation, mining and minerals, forestry, state parks, and energy conservation and management.
Throughout his career, McQueen has relied on his involvement at TU to effectively recruit skilled professionals. He served as an adjunct petroleum engineering professor at TU from 2002 to 2013 and enjoys conveying real-world knowledge to students.
“Passing on our knowledge to younger generations is critical in training and equipping future engineers,” McQueen said.
As a proud alumnus, he has passed on the TU tradition to his family. McQueen’s wife, Dru, is an alumna of the TU College of Law, and his two sons are graduates of TU’s College of Engineering and Natural Sciences (mechanical engineering and petroleum engineering). McQueen and Dru also have a daughter who graduated from Oklahoma State University and is a practicing veterinarian in Tulsa.