Employee Spotlight: Leonardo Patacchini

Meet Leonardo Patacchini, SRT's Regional Director

Leonardo patacchini

Posted in: Employee Spotlight

Leonardo Patacchini, our Regional Director (Europe and Middle East) joined SRT in February 2019 after a decade with TOTAL as a Reservoir Engineer based in France, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland. Leonardo has an Engineering degree in Physics from Ecole Polytechnique (France) and a PhD in Applied Plasma Physics from MIT.

Firstly Leonardo, tell us how a PhD in Applied Plasma Physics leads to a career in Reservoir Simulation?

Well, in principle it doesn't, but reservoir engineering is an interest that may mature late. I know children who want to be astronauts, doctors, teachers, but I don’t think I have ever met a child who wanted to be a reservoir engineer.

My academic interest was in computational physics, that is to say take a problem, formulate mathematical equations that capture the right level of complexity for a given purpose, and find a way to solve these equations numerically. This is the interest I was pursuing as a doctoral student at MIT, where I worked on a code aimed at stimulating the flow of a plasma past an object, such as a probe used to measure the velocity at the edge of a Tokamak.

When the time came to think about my next step, I decided that I wanted to find an industrial role where I would continue with scientific coding; this did not necessarily need to be related to plasma physics. I was approached by Total who was at the time starting to develop an in-house reservoir simulator, and here I am more than 10 years later, still working in reservoir simulation.

How did you come to the decision to move from Total to Stone Ridge Technology?

Let me first say, as a preamble, that Total is an amazing company that I would recommend to any graduate. I was having a great time as a reservoir engineer, with plenty of opportunities for personal growth and career progression.

I nevertheless believe there are specific times in your life where you might make the most of working for a start-up or smaller privately owned company such as SRT:

  1. When you are a graduate
  2. When you are retired or semi-retired
  3. When you have about 10-15 years experience in your field and the confidence you can add value to a company

I knew working for SRT was going to be an invaluable experience with their immensely intelligent team, and was drawn to the decision making opportunities I would have being involved in shaping the future of the company. We have every possible card in our hands for success.Finally, I was very attracted to the concept of collaborative development between Eni and SRT, which is much closer than a simple client and service provider relationship. I am working with some of Eni's brightest engineers and not for Eni, which makes a big difference especially in times of tight deadlines! Some would say that you cannot have your cake and eat it too; in a way I do.

You have been involved in the development of two reservoir simulators, one on CPU (when working at TOTAL) and now on GPU at SRT, tell me about the difference.

In short, life was easier before. Working with GPUs is challenging, but thankfully I have very patient colleagues to catch all my coding goofs.

What is your favorite aspect of working at Stone Ridge Technology?

I really enjoy being involved and seeing the impact of the decisions the company is making. The ideas and suggestions one puts forward can totally change the trajectory of the company which places an importance on one's position within it; this would naturally be diluted in a large corporation. Contrarily, knowing you have made the wrong decision can be a big responsibility too, but we hope not to make any of those!

What are you working on at SRT?

I essentially have three roles at SRT. The first, and the reason I am located in Milan, is to act as a liaison between SRT and Eni on our joint development of ECHELON and ENCORE. We have a team of 14 dedicated to the project, mostly performing software development activities; on my side of the Atlantic, Eni has a team of about 10 dedicated to software development, testing, and model deployment to the business units. With my counterpart in Eni, I help coordinate the teams, participate in the elaboration of the work plan, provide technical specifications and prioritize development activities.

My second role is to perform business development activities in Europe and the Middle-East with my colleagues Jose Pina and Jim Gilman. These activities range from meeting a prospective client and presenting our company and products, to performing demonstrations using their reservoir simulation models.

Finally, I spend a significant part of my time developing ECHELON software. With my physics and reservoir engineering background, I try to focus on the implementation of new models and features within a fixed code architecture, as well as on algorithmic performance improvements. For example, I am, at the time of this interview, working on accelerating simulation of models with relative permeability hysteresis, which is a phenomenon occurring when the flow direction reverses (for example, with water-alternating-gas injection).

What items would I find on your desk?

I now have the perfect 'working from home' desk where you would find:

  • A computer
  • A notepad
  • The ECHELON software yeti coffee mug from our February 2020 User Group Meeting in Baltimore
  • A few other coffee cups (which tend to accumulate until I get scolded)
  • Paper and colored pencils (in case of an invasion by a couple of small monsters)

If I were to ask for career advice as a reservoir engineering graduate what would you offer?

  1. Don't be too ambitious too quickly, be humble.
  2. Spend the beginning of your career working on being technically sharp.
  3. Don't try to move into management too early, once there, there is no way back. Your technical role will never be a waste of your time, the best managers I know are extremely technical and were not in a rush to become managers.

Emily Fox

Emily Fox

Emily Fox is Stone Ridge Technology's Director of Communication.

Subscribe for Updates

Stone Ridge Technology – ECHELON Advantages

Recent Articles

What we are doing to help improve the reservoir simulation industry.