A History of Operations Research Optimization in the Petroleum Industry

DiCarlo, Jennifer (Colorado School of Mines) | Eustes, Alfred (Colorado School of Mines) | Steeger, Gregory (United States Air Force Academy)


In the petroleum industry, references to a new science called Operations Research appeared in the literature in the late 1950s; however, over the last 60 years, use of Operations Research optimization techniques in the petroleum industry has been sporadic, resulting in vast untapped optimization opportunities. Some subsets of the petroleum industry have successfully used Operations Research optimization techniques for specific applications; however, when these techniques were not used by the industry, the stated reasons involved difficulty dealing with non-linearities and stochastic elements, insufficient computational power to solve realistic models, and the necessity for specialized knowledge of Operations Research optimization software and solvers. In this paper we provide a history of the use of Operations Research optimization methods in the petroleum industry by presenting a comprehensive review of papers that use these techniques. We focus on linear, nonlinear, integer, and mixed-integer optimization methods and the evolution of these models in the petroleum industry over time.