Burgan Oil Fire 1991 (after Iraq army blew off the wellhead with explosives)
INTRODUCTION (by Bill Abel)
There are two parts this BIO, one by myself and the other an article penned by Glen Halsell (PHS Class of 66). Glen and I were not friends in high school, but in recent years we have become friends and I am happy to say it has enriched my life. Glen and I are frat brothers (he was a Delt at UT and I at Texas Tech) and the article and why he wrote it is self-explanatory. Thank you Glen for doing this and your endorsement of me as an All American (coming from you, means a great deal to me.).
BILL ABEL’s BIO
On a personal note I can say that I have been privileged to have had a rich life with my family and work (so far!). I have no intention of retiring any time soon as I feel I am still contributing to the industry and work keeps my mind active. Being retired without work to do seems very foreign to me!
After PHS in 1967, I attended Texas Tech where both my mom and dad attended (my Dad graduated in 1950 with a Petroleum Geology degree and my mother nearly finished her nursing degree but put that on suspension after I came along in 1949, she did finish 14 years later and had long career as a nurse in Odessa). My father had two jobs in his life McCullough (wireline) NOWSCO (nitrogen services) all in W. Texas. So, I was and am from West-By- God- Texas and proud of that as well! Therefore, I share with my PHS classmates that pride and determination that comes from being raised in Odessa attending PHS and finally being a son of the Greatest Generation.(note (our generation is not far from those traits that made our parents the greatest generation.)
On my 18th birthday (June 17) my dad took me to a morning tour roughnecking job (started at midnight) on a drilling rig running near Pecos. On the way out to the site, he said “son you are now grown and need to work hard on this job” I asked why I needed to go out on my birthday and why he was he so serious? His answer was “you have to make a hand on this job and not get fired, because as long as you are working or going to school you can stay under my roof, but if you are not working then you cannot”. He went on to say he expected me to send myself to college with my roughnecking earnings as well. In other words, he was saying welcome to the real world. So, I had an extra incentive to “make a hand” on that job and the subsequent summers while attending Tech. I could pay for about 85% of my expense to attend college, my mom was not a strict and I did get help each year with about 6 weeks to go in the Spring semester (Dad talked tough and was tough but helped me finish at Tech).
Bay of Campeche 2007
I studied Civil Engineering and received a BSCE degree in Jan 1971 from Texas Tech University and found a job in Dallas with Texas Power and Light as a civil engineer and while working there attended SMU’s night time MBA program and received my MBA in 1974. I have not used the MBA per se, but it is useful to understand business as I have owned my own business since 1984. After Dallas, I moved to Houston to work as a steel/concrete designer for MW Kellogg in the petrochemical industry. There I got interested in Project Management and was rejected to move that group within Kellogg (because I had less than 10 years with the company). I say an ad in the Houston paper by ARAMCO saying they needed project engineers. I went for an interview and during that they showed a very negative video of living conditions in Saudi with the dust stormswith blowing sand that glazed windshields on cars and blasted the paint off bumpers, no rain for months, having to entertain oneself, etc. (sould familiar?) When asked what I thought of the video of Saudi living condition I replied, “you are asking me to move back to Seminole in W. Texas”. So off to Saudi I went only to find that Project Management there was VERY boring! I was going to quit but a buddy who helped me with my (illegal in Saudi) moonshining “hobby” asked me to consider working as drilling engineer. I “interviewed” for that job after a still run where we drank samples to be sure the product was up to spec (meaning I was a bit tipsy**) and then over some BBQ hotdogs with the Exec VP of Saudi in his back yard I took a job as a drilling engineer with little if any background because the guy said “what have you got to lose? Your quitting Project, so move to Drilling and if you do not like it move on, if you like it stay and help us drill wells, we are short about 100 engineers”. I took that challenge and found that Drilling Engineering was a great job full of challenges and rewards for success and penalties for not. I then moved to drilling operations. During my 5 years in Saudi not only did I learn drilling engineering and operation I learned how to fix out of control wells (fires, blowouts, etc.) and became first name basis with the Red Adair Well Control teams as ARAMCO had need to use them each year I was there.
**actually more like VERY drunk as we took quality control of the moonshine very serious and took many samples during the process!
My Pakistan Body Guards
Just prior to going to Saudi to work, my sister Cindy Abel was teaching special Ed with Ms Kim Melton (PHS class of 66) and she arranged a date. It did not go well, one date only. I went home without even a handshake much less a goodnight kiss. Took the hint and did not try again for a few years.
While working in Saudi you had 6 weeks off each year. After 4 years in Saudi, I came to Odessa on a vacation to see my mom and dad and sisters. Cindy again arranged a date with Kim. This time there was a second date, and another… After going back to work, I missed Kim and decided I could not live away from her and asked her to marry! Kim arrived in Saudi in 1980 and was there about a year where I returned to the USA to build rigs for Texas business in 1981.
That business failed in the downturn of 1984 so I was “forced” to go into business for myself as there were no jobs due to a recession. Glen does a pretty good job of that phase of my life and the story by him is next.
JoEllen Dale and me living the high life (don't Tell Billy Dale about this picture)
In 1982 Jordan Abel was born and 1984 Matthew Abel. They thru the fine parenting of Kim (I was away sometime months at a time due to the nature of the well control business) have grown to be fantastic people. They cannot be more different but unique and wonderful in their own way.
Jordan is an Infectious Disease Dr. working for the VA in San Antonio. He does something wonderful in that he works at the VA part-time to be able to donate time to GLOBAL HEALTH REACH a group he joined that provides health care in Guatemala, N Vietnam and Kenya (so far). He earns nothing to do this and pays his own way to go on these missions. WOW is all I can say.
Matthew did not take to college (he started slow and tapered off!) and as a buddy Delt said time for him to pledge Delts! Ha!) and then worked odd jobs and attended community college (part-time). I took him with me to Indonesia where I had an 8-month project (with a car, driver, apartment, etc.) where he could stay with me (and give Kim a break from having a 20-year-old living at home). Something unexplained happened there in Indoland (as I call Indonesia). We went to Bali for a long weekend and upon conclusion of that trip Matthew announced he did not want to go back to Jakarta but wanted to stay in Bali. He had found a “job” as the PR man and worker in a bar. His job was to walk around and invite people to the bar, he was good at it seems. The bar paid him $100 per week. So, I said OK can you live on $100 per week? He figured that out! During this time, he was approached by a person who said why are you doing this it’s a waste of your life. After a discussion of his interests Matt was introduced to a painter who took him as a student. After Two years of this Matt has become an oil-on-canvas impressionist painter (www.matthewabelart.com) and lives and works in Bali Indonesia. The lesson learned by Kim and I was we “forgot” to ask Matt what he wanted to do in live and attempted to guide him thru college, jobs, etc. and failed find that thing that he had a passion for. Art is his passion. Being a Dr is Jordan’s. I am so proud!!!
I am on the left In Kuwait
Thru my work I have seen a great deal of the world (working on jobs in 36 countries).
Knee surgery of both knees in Thailand
See Glens’ work below about ABEL Engineering work below.
The All American Delts
By Glen Halsell
My name is Glen Halsell and I attended the University of Texas in the 1966 recruiting class on a football scholarship. I am presently practicing law in my hometown of Odessa, Texas. I spend most of my leisure time on a 20 acre tract of land in the Davis Mountains in view of McDonald Observatory. My grandfather, H.H. Halsell, and his daughter, Grace Halsell, were both writers before me.
By in large this is the story of two American Delts that by chance I had the privilege to know personally. Their names are Malcome Kutner and Bill Abel. Both Delts had somewhat modest origins but Malcome Kutner truly hit the limelight early on with his all-American College and Pro Football careers; and, then continued on in the oil business in an exciting manner. Bill Abel, on the other hand, fought his way up through the ranks fighting well control problems worldwide and now is at the pinnacle of his career.
Delta Tau Delta Fraternity was a big deal in my social life at U.T. It was all about athletics, comradeship and partying. My Grandfather, Jesse Norman, was a Texas Delt before me and that meant I had a better chance of getting selected into the 1967 freshman pledge class of approximately 50 guys.
I did get into the fraternity and believe me it was a great source of social interaction. There were parties every weekend and blind dates were often arranged with various sororities where their pledge class would be matched with our pledge class and a lot of friends partying together!
A number of years ago I was practicing law in Odessa. I was struggling with the need to move my practice into another branch of law as the Bankruptcy Cases had fallen away to nothing. The law had recently changed and the qualifications for Chapter 7 liquidation made it much more difficult; plus, the fact that the West Texas economy was booming again, which eliminated the need for Bankruptcy.
One day I received in the mail one of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity bulletins with its usual request for financial support as well as certain personal information about fraternity members.
One of the pages in the bulletin contains a list of “All American Delts” as I recall there were at least three teams as well as a list of honorable mentions. The listees had all obtained a high degree of success in one field or another during their lives.
I quickly noticed that the first team contained the names of two members that were well known to me. Those two names were Malcome Kutner, U.T. class of 1941 and Bill Abel, Texas Tech, class of 1971. I was very sure that Malcome Kutner was the same Malcome Kutner that I had known through Bobby Layne, the great Texas quarterback; but, I could not believe that the Bill Abel on the roster was the same Bill Abel that played football on my high school team at Odessa Permian and because of massive knee injuries spent most of his time in the locker room whirl pool bath.
Malcome Kutner story was omitted if you are interested Glen will be happy provide his chronicle of this great American hero.
Bill Abel’s story is quite different than Malcome’s. Bill’s notoriety and success pertain to his skills in the oil industry. As I stated earlier in this story, I could not imagine that Bill was a 1st team Delt; however, my investigation of his years past high school years revealed that he was one and the same and most deserving of the first team honors.
Upon reading Bill’s name on the Delt List, I had very fond memories of his personal life other than the fact he had married into a popular Odessa family by the name of Melton. His wife’s name was Kim and she was in my class and very popular in Junior High and High School. She had several brothers and sisters that I had known back in those early days and they were interesting and charming.
I learned that Bill had attended Texas Tech and graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering and thereafter earned an MBA from SMU. His first job was with Texas Power and Light but soon moved to Aramco, Saudi Arabia. The great Saudi Oil Company who today produces in excess of ten million barrels of oil per day, about half of the world’s crude demand.
After working a year in Saudi Arabia as a civil engineer, Bill was bored with the work. He was ready for change and had decided that he must seek greener pastures.
Through a series of miraculous events within the Aramco Company he found himself working as a Petroleum Engineer in their drilling department and his specialty became pressure and wild well control; i.e. containing blowouts created by tremendous subterranean pressure and errors by the crew and/or equipment failures.
At this time, Aramco averaged about one blow out per year and soon after his switch over to Petroleum Engineer there was a disastrous fire toxic gas (hydrogen Sulfide) blowout that left 16 dead people on the drilling platform and he worked on the kill project including retrieving the dead in body bags while working under mask in the gas.
At that time Red Adair was the “go to” team for wild well control and Bill worked with them as his in-house Saudi support team from the company (ARAMCO).
Now Bill Abel’s father was a righteous Texas Engineer who believed in teaching his son a good work ethic. Accordingly, Bill’s early years at home found him busy working on cars from the junk yard, with household and yard maintenance and improvement.
A regular maxim, often repeated was “the job is not done until the clean up is complete and all tools cleaned and put away”. These ideas served him well on the Aramco blow out jobs and after five years he was the leader of Aramco’s “in-house” blow out team and he was ready to go out on his own as an independent consultant.
In 1980 Bill quit working for Aramco and worked in Oklahoma for an independent exploration company but in 1984 opened Abel Engineering headquartered in Houston. Shortly thereafter he was hired to put out Kuwait fires and he took two teams and controlled 41 wells in only 71 days (the most efficient among all firefighting teams), below are pictures from the Kuwait Oil Fires Project and others ABEL worked on thru the years: