The Cleon Dunham Endowment Scholarship

Cleon Dunham

(January 1, 1941 – February 6, 2023)

completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University in 1964, earning a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering. His professional journey led him to a remarkable 36-year tenure at Shell Oil Company. In his later years at Shell, he took on the role of coordinating oilfield automation and artificial lift for the company’s global production operations based in The Netherlands. Notably, Shell played a pioneering role in advancing artificial lift automation, a technology Cleon passionately championed. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Shell spearheaded the development of automation technologies for various applications, including rod pumps, ESPs, and gas lift mechanisms. Cleon played a pivotal role in the evolution of these technologies and tirelessly advocated for their widespread adoption.

Originally, the automation journey involved mobile units traveling from one pumping unit to another, collecting dynamometer cards. This process eventually transformed into real-time surveillance systems that transmitted well data directly to engineers’ desktops. In his paper titled “Bridging the Information Gap Between Operations and Engineering” (SPE 3967), written in 1973, Cleon documented the early advancements and highlighted the lasting significance of automation technology in production and operations.


Cleon’s recognition stems from his groundbreaking work in designing and implementing automation systems. His expertise covered a range of applications, from gas lift and sucker rod pumps to ESPs, as well as innovative techniques like water, CO2, and steam injection for enhanced oil recovery. In the nascent era of oilfield automation, Cleon reminisces that the absence of service providers for necessary hardware and software prompted them to create the solutions themselves. These systems centered on monitoring, control, and optimization of artificial lift processes, encompassing both on-site hardware and desktop software for communication and performance analysis.

Upon retiring, Cleon established Oilfield Automation Consulting in 2000, where he held the position of President. Additionally, he co-founded the Artificial Lift Research and Development Council (ALRDC) in 2001, alongside Jim Lea, Tony Podio, and Bill Lane – all distinguished recipients of the SPE Legends of Artificial Lift Award. ALRDC’s mission revolves around fostering global collaboration and knowledge-sharing among artificial lift stakeholders, from users to suppliers, researchers, and consultants. The organization’s achievements span organizing conferences, raising funds for Petroleum Engineering scholarships, promoting consortia, and providing a platform for innovative artificial lift technologies.

Actively engaged in industry standards development, Cleon contributed to API’s 19G Task Group, which shapes standards and recommended practices for gas lift technology. His role extended to the International Standards Organization (ISO), where he served as Task Group Secretary for various gas lift standards under ISO 17078. He boasts four patents and has delivered training courses on artificial lift across diverse locations, from Argentina and Bolivia to Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Middle East. Cleon’s involvement extended to mentoring programs, committee memberships, and participation in SPE events.

Known for his candid advice, Cleon imparts valuable wisdom to aspiring engineers. He emphasizes staying attuned to industry developments through conferences, technical papers, and networking. Cleon discourages rushing into management right after college, advocating for the cultivation of robust technical skills that can lead to a fulfilling and lasting career journey.

All proceeds from the 2023 ALRDC Rod Pump Workshop will go directly to the Cleon Dunham Endowment Scholarship at Texas Tech University. 

If you would like to contribute to the Cleon Dunham Endowment Scholarship by check please send to:

Ronda Brewer

Texas Tech University

Box 43111

Lubbock TX  79409-3111


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