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Remembering the man who started it all

PWS members share their memories of Colin Tyrie and what his efforts in produced water treatment have meant to them.

Colin Tyrie, who founded the Produced Water Society (PWS) in 1990, passed away on August 10 at the age of 84. He had worked tirelessly to develop PWS into an organization that promotes best practices in produced water management and provides professional support for those working in the sector.

Part of this development was the establishment of an annual event in Houston, where water treatment experts could share their research and discuss the technical challenges that they routinely faced. Once a close-knit group of professionals, PWS has grown to include nearly 2,000 members and three annual events – the PWS Annual Seminar, PWS Permian Basin conference and PWS Middle East conference. The Society also provides university scholarships through the Colin Tyrie Scholarship, in honor of his long career advocating for the value of proper water treatment.

Many of PWS’ long-standing members met Colin through his work with the Society and several have shared their memories of him with WiO:

Lisa Henthorne, Water Standard

“Colin was a true gift to the produced water community. We all benefited from his tireless energy, dedication, and good humor. We all suffered at the end of his occasional crankiness. His wealth of experience guided his BS-detector and he was never afraid to use it, which always made you feel good when he complimented you because you knew it was sincere. Thank you, Colin, for all you gave this industry, and for the foundation of PWS that you built.” 

Steve Coffee, Exterran

“Colin was one of the first people I met when I re-entered the US market in 2006. I immediately felt that he was someone I wanted to spend time with and that ‘his’ PWS group felt like family. He was a great mentor to me and a believer in educating the community through his work with PWS. Colin was helpful (and a pain sometimes). It was a joy to work with him for 14 years. I will fondly remember times spent together rushing to the airport in Kuala Lumpur, lamenting over lost luggage in Muscat, field testing in Louisiana with Dan Caudle and the time we had a debate over Peggy Lane’s oil-wetted solids during a bus ride back to our hotel after wine tasting (and conducting a workshop) in St. John’s. So many great memories; you will be not forgotten.”

Morris Hoagland, Jade Dragon

“I first met Colin in 2012 and in 2013 he invited me to join the PWS Board. I was honored by the invitation. I have found it to be a good fit for me and I am indebted to Colin for making the connection. Through PWS, I had much more contact with Colin and learned about the fine character of the man. He was generous and kind. He always had time for mentoring younger associates, if he felt they were promising and genuinely interested in learning. He could be very friendly and seemed to have a happy glint to his eye when he saw old friends coming into the annual conference each year. He created ‘fellowship’ and networking opportunities by arranging monthly luncheons for oilfield water professionals.

I also saw a ‘sharper’ side to his personality. Colin did not suffer fools. He was a strong technical engineer who was always looking for the best practice for solving water issues. When ‘salesman’ types would try to peddle the black box solution, Colin would ‘field dress’ them. He would make it abundantly clear that no fast-talking salesman was going to find Colin to be an easy mark. If he felt a presenter at the annual conference was making a weak argument, he would challenge them in front of the whole audience. Companies sponsoring presenters to the annual conference learned to only put their most competent people on Colin’s stage. Over the last couple of years, I have visited Colin several times at his home. He has given me at least a dozen boxes of files for the PWS to put into the technical archives. As I went through some of these materials, I could see how Colin was evaluating technologies from outside the oilfield and bringing them to our industry. He was one of the best at helping our industry take a more modern and holistic approach to water management. I will miss Colin.”

Peggy Lane, BP

“Colin was a mentor, a teacher and a friend. We first met through work in 2005, and over the years I got to know him via PWS. His work established an event and organization that helped me and many others learn about and network in the field of produced water treatment and management. He was a force of nature at the annual conference and famous for his ‘no-baloney’ attitude. His occasionally gruff demeanor led me to dub him the ‘Cranky Old Brit’, which he took goodheartedly, and over time it became a term of endearment in our friendship. He was one of a kind and will be deeply missed.”

Tom Pankratz, Water Desalination Report

“Attendees will remember Colin standing outside the conference room door after coffee breaks, admonishing them with a clap of his hands and a hearty, ‘All right children, time to get back in the room.’ And woe to those participants who dared to leave early!”

Duane Germenis, Veolia Water Technologies

“Reaching back to the early 1990s, a fond memory was in fact the evening dinners, as Colin made you feel like it was a family dinner. We always looked forward to those events after a full day of technical papers and no commercial drivers.”

Brent Halldorson, RedOx Systems

“I’ll never forget meeting Colin when I attended my first PWS meeting around 2005. Colin was very intimidating! He bellowed at attendees, mostly engineers, to sit down, shut up and pay attention. It soon became apparent that his bark was far worse than his bite.

He had a glint in his eye and a quirky sense of humor that I came to appreciate. When I started talking with him, I was blown away at the depth of his knowledge and experience. He did not make me feel ignorant as a young engineer, but he gave me some great feedback on a paper that I presented at PWS. After that first meeting I routinely asked his opinion and he was always happy to help me out.

Colin’s passion and drive formed the bedrock foundation of PWS. The main reason I joined the Board was due to the great things I learned over many years at PWS from industry giants like Colin who were so generous in sharing their knowledge and experience.”

Chip Westaby, Turner Designs Hydrocarbon Instruments

“The start, growth and success of PWS is a great testimony of Colin’s knowledge, connections and drive to serve the water treatment community. For most of his time organizing PWS, Colin did all the planning, paper review, scheduling, registration, etc. As the Society grew, a few of us helped as we could, but the vast majority of the success was exclusively from his efforts. Colin liked to keep the planning easy, so we often went back to the same restaurants and used the same menus. I knew before arriving that on the first night of the conference I would enjoy a Redfish Pontchatrain. It was delicious.

One of my first experiences with his drive to produce a quality conference was going to dinner with 20 -25 attendees at Valdo’s. After everyone was seated, Colin asked ever other person to stand, and move two seats to the left. This helped to get to know new people that maybe you hadn’t met before. The networking aspect was important to Colin.

I enjoyed learning about the industrial, the new technologies that Colin brought to the conference and meeting active people in the industry.”

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