Ulterra’s Summer Intern, a Professor from LSU

Discovery Call

“I am really passionate about all aspects of the drilling industry,” Dr. Babak Akbari said, “and Ulterra is the place to maximize that.”


Dr. Babak Akbari is an Assistant Professor at LSU with quite the impressive résumé. This summer, Ulterra welcomed Babak on board and gave him a problem to solve – drill bit failure in the 12.5” intermediate hole sections in the Delaware Basin.

During his internship, Babak made several visits to Ulterra’s MidCon and West Texas districts, as well as customer offices in Houston and Austin to spend time with multiple sales engineers and field representatives.

“Every single one of these trips added another piece of information to the problem that I was trying to solve,” Babak said.

Babak also noted that working alongside Ulterra’s engineers and field salesmen gave him a unique perspective on the inner workings of the business, as well as external communication between Ulterra and their business partners.

“I was impressed by how sharp and communicative the Application Engineers are.” Babak said, “That is why operators trust Ulterra to respond to their fast-paced demands.”

Reflecting back on the problem at hand, Babak concludes that there are multiple methods to go about mitigating this issue. There is no single remedy to any problem, but a range of possibilities that can be considered. In an effort to find a solution to this problem, Babak considered bit performance indexing for a more informed selection of drill bits in consideration of the specific application. This solution sparked other projects, including computer vision and neural networks for cutter damage tracking, modified bit profile design based on damage data, and modified cutter design based on its placement on the bit profile.

Aside from trying to solve this problem, Babak traveled to Utah with Application and Design Engineers on their annual trip to US Synthetic to tour their facility and to discuss current and potential developments in PDC cutter technology. He also had the opportunity to spend time at Ulterra’s Fort Worth manufacturing facility, as well as their facility in Leduc, AB. Babak had an office overlooking downtown Fort Worth, TX, but spent the majority of his time seeing the oil and gas industry first-hand. No two days were alike—or slow, for Professor Akbari.

More about Babak’s Education and Research

Babak has earned a BSC in Petroleum Engineering from the Sharif University of Technology, a Master’s in Oil and Gas Engineering from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and a Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Tulsa. During his academic studies, Babak worked for the Drilling Technology Laboratory studying the optimization of a downhole vibration tool specifically designed to drill through hard rocks offshore Newfoundland, Canada. Subsequently, he started working for Tulsa University Drilling Research Project Consortium completing a comprehensive set of tests with a high-pressure cell on PDC cutters and also developed semi-empirical numerical and analytical models.

As an Assistant Professor at LSU, Babak’s research group has been actively working on advanced rheological measurement especially for emulsified drilling fluids, proof of concept of magnetorheological drilling and completion fluids, two-phase flow in non-Newtonian fluids, and new managed pressure drilling (MPD) concepts. He has also taught courses on well control, drilling engineering, wells plugging and abandonment, and hydraulic fracturing over the past few years.

Creating Real Value

Babak served as a valuable asset to Ulterra over the past few months, and to close out his internship, he shared his experience with Ulterra’s Engineering Team. This presentation was a great learning experience for their team and helped get the ball rolling on new design considerations for the 12.5” intermediate hole sections in the Delaware Basin. The success of his internship has not only been valuable to Ulterra, but also for future interns looking to apply their research to help solve real industry problems.

Babak strongly advises other professors to seek such work during summer break.

“For a professor interning at Ulterra, first of all, excellent choice! Second, be prepared to use all your skills in a fast paced environment and see real-life value brought by your work.” Babak said.

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