R. J. (Bob) Brown, possibly the pre-eminent offshore pipeline engineer of the last 40 years, died in late January just weeks short of his 90th birthday.
Brown had a distinguished oil industry career of nearly 70 years— landing his first job in 1950—but made his mark in the offshore sector after founding RJ Brown & Associates in 1969.
He was involved in the design and fabrication of one of the earliest offshore semisubmersible lay barges (Viking Piper, later Castoro 7) used in the North Sea and other environmentally hazardous waters. The barges were the first to employ double-jointing of pipeline strings. He was responsible for the design and installation of towed bundled pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), and he designed a number of early pipeline ploughs.
In his latter days, Brown was involved in deepwater pipeline installation, mostly in the GoM. In addition, he was a pioneer in early Arctic pipeline design.
Brown was also responsible for bringing into the sector an entire generation of offshore pipeline engineers who went to form their own companies, including Andrew Palmer & Associates and INTEC, the former now part of Penspen and the latter, now INTECSEA, a division of Worley Parsons.
Like a number of other engineer-entrepreneurs who emerged from the GoM in the 1970s, Brown sold and later bought back his company several times. In the early 1980s, it was called Kvaerner RJ Brown, while its current incarnation (since 2000) is RJ Brown Deepwater, part of the TechnipFMC conglomerate.
Brown held a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Ohio University and a master of science in civil engineering from Stanford.
If Brown was not talking about or working on pipelines, he was flying his single engine plane until his age prevented him from doing so.
Brown was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Houston’s Offshore Energy Center in 2008.
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