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FRI Staff

At FRI we take pride in our staff.  A team environment is fostered through good communication and a collaborative approach to the planning and execution of projects. All staff members are encouraged to bring new ideas to the table and to look for ways to improve existing methods and practices.  FRI uses continuing education and training to constantly push staff members to expand their knowledge. Please feel free to contact any member of our staff.  We want you to get the most out of your FRI membership.

 

Technical Staff

Mr. Gary L. Yepsen- President

(gary.yepsen@fri.org)

Gary Yepsen has a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Missouri and a MS in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.  Prior to joining FRI, Gary worked for Shell Global Solutions and Engelhard Corporation in their refining catalyst businesses.  He has extensive international experience having lived and managed businesses in Asia for multiple years.  Gary started his career doing refinery process design work for Lummus (now CB&I) and Jacobs Engineering.  He joined FRI in 2013 and leads the FRI's Leadership Team.

Dr. Ken McCarley- Technical Director

 (ken.mccarley@fri.org)

Ken is a registered Professional Engineer in Oklahoma and holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from California State Polytechnic University, as well as a PhD in chemical engineering from Colorado School of Mines.  Ken came to FRI following global R&D experience at ConocoPhillips and Alstom Power, mainly in petroleum refining, carbon capture and gas treating.  Ken has led the development of process models, laboratory investigations and operation of large pilots using several chemical separation technologies; including distillation, extractive distillation, absorption, adsorption and membranes.  Ken joined FRI in 2014 and is part of the leadership team.

 

 

Dr. Tony Cai, Ph.D.- Assistant Technical Director

(cai@fri.org)

Dr. Cai holds BS and MS degrees in Chemical Engineering from Tianjin University and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Oklahoma State University.  He joined FRI in 1996 after teaching and researching in the areas of separations, chemical processes and equipment designs.  He also has experience in the areas of fluid dynamic analysis, instrumentation, structural analysis and hydraulic modeling.  His main contributions to FRI are in the areas of operational planning, data collection and analysis, and new model development.

Dr. Chao Wang, Ph.D.- Associate Research Engineer

(chao.wang@fri.org)

Dr. Wang earned his B.S. & M.S. in Chemical Engineering at Tianjin University, China, and recently completed work on a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas, in Austin, Texas.  He joins FRI as an Associate Research Engineer, beginning June 1, 2015.  During his time at UT-Austin, Chao worked with advisers Dr. Gary Rochelle and Dr. Frank Seibert evaluating the hydraulic and kinetic performance, as well as mass transfer models and economic analysis, for 15 structured packings applied to CO2 and SO2 capture processes.  His pilot plant experience includes packing characterization, evaluation of light hydrocarbon (C1-C8) separation processes and batch distillation. 

Dr. Anand Vennavelli, Ph.D.  - Research Engineer

(vennavelli@fri.org)

Dr. Vennavelli joined FRI in 2011. He holds a BS in chemical engineering from Osmania University, India and MS and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from Oklahoma State University.  His experience includes three summer internships at ConocoPhillips, where he designed, installed, and maintained multivariable controllers (APC) on refinery units. His contributions to FRI are in the areas of model development and process control applications

Mr. Dave Williams- Project & HSE Coordinator

(williams@fri.org)

Mr. Dave Williams joined the FRI staff in 1999 as a Research Technician.  While in that role, he performed the majority of FRI’s instrumentation work.  In 2008, he was appointed to the position of Technician III.  In September of 2009, he was reassigned to the newly created Project & HSE Coordinator position.  His main functions include capital project management and safety programming.

Mark Cavett - Operations Engineer

(mark.cavett@fri.org)

Mark joined FRI in 2016. Mark earned a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Oklahoma State University. He comes to FRI with 4 years of experience, including about 3 years as a process engineer at the Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery and 1 year at Enable Energy. His responsibilities include being the central point of contact for unit operations, data reduction and Process Safety Management (PSM). Mark has already brought several improvements to our PSM processes.

Unit Staff

Fred Smith- Working Foreman

(smith@fri.org)

Mr. Fred Smith joined the FRI staff in 1993.  As the Working Foreman, he supervises the daily activities of the research technicians along with the maintenance, and operation of the distillation unit. His many years of experience and knowledge make him a key player in the planning and operation of the research plan.

Chad Kindred - Technician III

(ckindred@fri.org)

Mr. Chad Kindred joined FRI in 2004.  Mr. Kindred assists in the planning and set-up of the experimental projects.  He is one of the five core unit operators.  He has completed the FRI instrumentation training. Mr. Kindred is also a certified EMT and first responder.  He served for 12 years as volunteer firefighter.

Allen Bowers - Technician II

(allenb@fri.org)

Mr. Allen Bowers joined FRI in 2009.  He is one of the five core unit operators.  He has completed the FRI installation training program and, in just a few short years, has become the best installer in FRI's recent history.  Mr. Bower’s mechanical aptitude allows him to add valuable input in troubleshooting issues that arise at the unit.

Terry Thurber - Technician II

(safety@fri.org)

Mr. Terry Thurber joined FRI in 2004.  He is one of the five core unit operators and is the Safety Focal Point at the unit.  He sits on the operator training advisory board at Northern Oklahoma College.  His professional, outgoing personality makes him an ideal candidate to lead unit tours and safety programs. 

Joe Rains- Technician II

(Rains@fri.org)

Mr. Joe Rains joined FRI in 2009.  He is one of the five core unit operators.  He has completed the FRI instrumentation training program and recently attended radiation safety training.  He is the Radiation Safety Officer at the unit and handles all the radiation training and paperwork.  Mr. Rains’s positive attitude and out-going personality make him FRI’s resident Mr. Sunshine. 

Kenneth Grimes- Technician I

(KGrimes@fri.org)

Mr. Kenny Grimes joined FRI in 2010.  Mr. Grimes is primarily responsible for sampling during tests and is learning board operations.  He also assists with the water treatment duties at the unit.  Mr. Grimes is dependable and willing to help out wherever needed.

Joshua Garnett - Technician Trainee

(jgarnett@fri.org)

Mr. Josh Garnett joined FRI in 2014.  Josh came with ten years of experience in the welding and construction industry.  He worked several years for MISCO, both as a pipe fitter and a welder.  In his most recent position, he was a company certified welder for an oilfield supply service company out of Cushing Oklahoma.  Josh’s experience in welding, including a state welding certificate, reading process flow diagrams and pipe fitting make him a valuable addition to the FRI team.  Josh loves spending time with his family and friends, fishing and playing music on his guitar. 

Chris McWilliams - Technician Trainee

(chris.mcwilliams@fri.org)

Mr. Chris McWilliams joined FRI in 2015.  He brings with him 3 years of experience working on oil rigs.  Chris also is an experienced mechanic and has earned certificates for Airframe and Powerplant maintenance from the Spartan School of Aeronautics.  His knowledge of pump maintenance, safe work practices and hazard indentification makes him a valuable addition to the FRI team.  In his spare time he enjoys fishing, hunting and spending time with his family.

Administrative Staff

Jeanifer Randall- Corporate Administration Director

(randall@fri.org)

Mrs. Jeanifer Randall joined FRI in 2000.  She is the Corporate Secretary and leads the administrative functions for FRI.  This includes accounting, human resources, employee benefits, management of the financial reserves, corporate governance, and all administrative support.  Mrs. Randall is a member of the Leadership Team and always brings well balanced views to their discussions.  Her positive relationships with all of the staff make her invaluable in ensuring that all view points on issues are understood.

Joella Redden- Technical Associate

(joella@fri.org)

Mrs. Joella Redden joined FRI in 2008.  She handles the accounts payable, accounts receivable and other accounting functions.  Mrs. Redden manages the FRI database and assists with general DRP installation and activation questions.  She is responsible for the report and database section of the website.  Her eagerness to take on new duties and learn new things is important as the administration group’s duties evolve.

Leah Brown - Meeting Planner

(brown@fri.org)

Mrs. Leah Brown joined FRI in 2004.  Mrs. Brown handles all the aspects of planning the FRI meetings and is the on-site coordinator at the meetings.  She assists with the accounting functions and is an Officer of the Corporation, Assistant Secretary.  She is responsible for the content of the meeting section of the FRI website.  Mrs. Brown brings a wealth of experience to the administration group.  Her input and willingness to assist others is a valuable component of the administration group.

Kinnera Vennavelli - Technical Associate

(kinnera@fri.org)

Mrs. Kinnera Vennavelli joined FRI in 2016. She has a BS in Chemical Engineering from JNTU, India. She handles the Technical Meeting preparations, website management and evaluating the updates and improvements to the FRI Database. Mrs. Vennavelli is also the safety coordinator from the administration group. Her unique skill set is a valuable addition to the admin team.