Don Allen graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1981 and completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Rice University in 1986. He joined Shell in 1987 and began work in offshore structures research with a focus on VIV suppression, which led to the discovery of the short fairing and tall helical strake. Don also led a joint industry program with MIT that resulted in the program SHEAR7 which has become the industry model for analyzing VIV of deepwater tubulars. Don managed the VIV suppression small business team within Shell and oversaw the successful manufacturing and installation of suppression devices for dozens of projects. In 2010, Don retired from Shell and founded VIV Solutions. Don holds 47 US patents and has also received several awards for his contributions to the offshore industry.
1. What is your role at VIV Solutions?
I am the president of the company and also act as its chief engineer. I specialize in VIV analysis and enjoy applying my knowledge of VIV research to new patentable technologies.
2. How did you become interested in VIV research?
My PhD thesis focused on creating the first Navier-Stokes solver for vortex-induced vibration. I originally wanted to focus on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) but my professor suggested I tackle a new challenge that the engineering department was eager to solve. After completing my dissertation, I went to work for Shell and became the resident expert on all things related to VIV.
3. What credentials do you have that make you an ideal fit for the company?
My position as a VIV researcher evolved into a small business role when Shell began building helical strakes and fairings for its deepwater assets in the Gulf of Mexico. I managed a group of talented engineers and together we established a benchmark for VIV suppression equipment across the industry. In 2010 I elected to retire and formed VIV Solutions. Many of the same experienced vendors, contractors, and personnel continue support our organization to this day.
4. What is the most exciting thing you are working on right now?
I am always looking for better ways to design and build suppression products. Right now, I am investigating new fairing technologies that offer lower drag than traditional fairings. I am also performing detailed studies on various anti-fouling coatings to combat the effects of marine growth.
5. What has been your favorite project thus far?
My favorite project was the very first one we delivered in 2010. We took a scope that normally required 26 weeks to deliver and compressed the schedule down to 8 weeks. The client was very pleased and ended up purchasing additional equipment from us in lieu of a competitor’s product. It was an exciting endeavor.
6. What are the values that drive you?
The foundation of any good business starts with honesty and integrity. Every decision I make serves to foster these principles within the VIV Solutions organization. I also value competence since customers rely on our expertise to ensure the success of a project. Lastly, I believe that innovation is a key driver to keep us at the forefront of VIV suppression technologies.
7. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I sincerely enjoy problem-solving. This oftentimes leads to inventing new helical strake and fairing products. I work with a great team and we have complementary personalities, which is also a very rewarding aspect of my job.
8. What makes VIV Solutions stand out from the competition?
Our VIV knowledge is second to none. We understand the ramifications of changing a device’s design and can accurately predict how even the slightest modification will affect its performance.
9. What kind of VIV developments would you like to see for the offshore industry in the future?
The offshore industry maintains a culture of utilizing legacy technologies. I encourage early adoption of new VIV tools and products that can offer cutting-edge improvements for deepwater projects.
10. What is an interesting fact about you?
Nature and portrait photography is a hobby of mine and my work has been published in various magazines. When traveling for business, I try to spend a few extra days photographing the local landscape. I particularly enjoy exploring the Texas Hill Country during wildflower season and visiting various BBQ joints along the way.