Simon Echegu is a doctorate student in Geology at the University of Houston where his research is focused on the role of microbes in the degradation of crude oil in petroleum reservoirs, which produces low value heavy oil. Heavy oil is difficult to produce by conventional methods because it contains heavy metals that destroy catalysts during refining, and it is very viscous which makes it difficult to transport in pipelines to the marketplace. The bulk of the remaining petroleum reserves are heavy oil, while the amount of light crude continues to decrease.
Simon’s study is aimed at identifying geological environments with ingredients favorable for biodegradation and formation of heavy oil with the goal of developing predictive models that will direct exploration to areas of heavy oil versus light crude. This pre-drill prediction will form an important aspect of production planning and also in advance refining and transportation development.
Simon received a Bachelor’s degree in Science with a major in Geology in Uganda and then a Master’s degree in Science focusing on Petroleum Geochemistry in the United Kingdom. Prior to his selection for an International Fulbright Science & Technology Award, Simon worked for nine years with the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department at Uganda’s Ministry of Energy.
After completing his Ph.D. program, Simon intends to return to Uganda to boost the current oil exploration efforts in the country and the region at large. He also intends to use his doctorate qualification to not only encourage research in Uganda and the region but to use it as a platform to engage the international scientific community in implementing and participate in ongoing research efforts there.