Alex G. Oblad, a leader in research and development of chemical fuels and a noted petroleum chemist, died Tuesday, Sept. 19 at home in Salt Lake City of causes related to age. He was 90 years old.
A distinguished professor of fuels engineering at the University of Utah, he retired from the U. at age 85. He was the holder of an estimated 70 patents. In addition, he received distinguished alumni awards and honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Utah and Purdue University.
He was well-known for his pioneering work in catalytic cracking, in which crude oil is converted into refined fuels. While he was vice president of research at the M.W. Kellogg Co., New York City, his work helped to dramatically reduce the cost of agricultural fertilizers.
In 1964, he suggested that the University of Utah establish a research park and proposed its location. Today, Research Park provides a site for innovative companies to develop technology.
Born in Salt Lake City Nov. 26, 1909, he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry from the University of Utah. He then attended Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., earning his doctorate in chemistry in 1937.
During his distinguished career of nearly 70 years, Dr. Oblad worked in the research laboratories of Standard Oil Co. of Indiana, Mobile Oil Co., the Houdry Process Corp. and Kellogg, where he was responsible for the company's worldwide research and development efforts.
In 1975, when he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, he was cited for "leadership in the development of important commercial hydrocarbon and petrochemical processes."
After he retired from industry in 1970, he began a new career, teaching in the fields of chemistry and fuels engineering at the University of Utah. He later served as head of the Fuels Engineering Department and acting dean of the College of Mines. Dr. Oblad taught his last class in 1995 at age 85.