Amoco Research Center

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Amoco Research Center
AMOCO Research Center logo.png
Latest company Amoco (now BP)

It would be difficult to list all of the achievements that can be traced to the Amoco Research Center, a truly outstanding research organization. Among them are the contributions to the Society in the form of participation in its activities and governance (six SEG Presidents, for example). Moreover, the publication record speaks for itself as do the number of awards in all categories, given to its employees by SEG, including the SEG Distinguished Achievement Award in 2010. It no longer exists, but should be honored for its major contributions to the science, business, and profession of exploration geophysics.

Citation for SEG Distinguished Achievement Award 2010

Contributed by Arthur Cheng and Peter Pangman[1]

The Amoco Research Center (“the Lab”), based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had a long history of contributions to the science and the technology of geophysics. First opened in 1934 to support the company’s proprietary seismic crews (seismic acquisition was the leading edge in those days), the research center blossomed into a global center of excellence with the digital revolution in the 1960s. Amoco became widely acknowledged amongst competitors for the strength of its geophysics.

The organization’s stature developed under the leadership of Mike Waller, long-serving VP Research, and research directors Dan Silverman, Sam Martner, Norm Domenico, Jack Cameron, Gordon Greve, Stan Pereira, and Jeff Johnson. They realized the importance of building a research team with strong technical credentials, and then creating an environment where researchers could build on each other's insights and knowledge. Research in progress was not secret (with a few notable exceptions!). Open communication with the geophysicists throughout Amoco’s operating divisions was critical. Progress was regularly shared and promising results quickly tested on real problems.

The Lab's culture of openness required soft walls with the broader profession. Relationships were developed with researchers in academia, service companies, and other oil companies. The outstanding team assembled in Tulsa was encouraged to be active in SEG. Many proprietary developments soon found their way into Geophysics and presentations at the SEG Annual Meeting. A short list would include broomstick charges, digital filtering, predictive deconvolution, the effect of low gas saturations on reflectivity, borehole gravimeter, weak anisotropy, shear-wave splitting, reverse time migration, Born-Kirchhoff depth migration, coherency cube and spectral decomposition. One of these papers (“Weak elastic anisotropy” by Thomsen) holds the all-time record for “most-cited” paper in Geophysics, an almost unbelievable 782 citations.

Perhaps the simplest measure of this organization’s accomplishments is a review of the SEG Honors and Awards garnered by individual Amoco researchers. The Maurice Ewing Award has been awarded to Sven Treitel (1989). The Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal was awarded to Mike Bahorich (1998), Ilya Tsvankin (1996), Davis Ratcliff (1994), Rusty Alford (1990), Norm Domenico (1981), and Moe Widess (1977). The Reginald Fessenden Award was awarded to Leon Thomsen (1993), Bob Broding (1971), and Treitel (1969). Honorary Members include Larry Lines, Bill French, Bahorich, Domenico, Treitel, and Silverman. Behind these outstanding researchers was the work of many, both researchers and management, who created the collaborative environment that made this exceptional record possible.

Another measure is the Lab’s contribution to advancing our profession through the long list of outstanding SEG volunteers. SEG Presidents who were Amoco employees during or before their presidency include Marv Hewitt, French, Greve, Bahorich, Thomsen, Lines, and Klaas Koster. Domenico, Treitel, and Lines performed exceptionally in the role of SEG Editor.

The heritage lives on today in the successor company BP. Following the merger in 1998, researchers who joined the new company became an integral part of the highly valued Seismic Imaging team in the E&P Technology organization. Their impact continued where, with colleagues from BP and Arco, industry-leading technology such as wide-azimuth subsalt seismic imaging, efficient land seismic acquisition methods, and high-resolution velocity modeling were developed, tested and implemented at scale. Carl Regone (2008), John Etgen (2008) and Greg Partyka (2003) were awarded the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal during this period for work fostered by BP that began at Amoco. So too did Thomsen serve his Presidency (2006–07).

There are many things an organization does that impact their business, staff, community, and technical societies. It is not often, however, that sustained excellence in all of these is seen in one organization over so many years. Though the organization no longer exists, this award recognizes the accomplishments of the many Amoco employees who made this happen, and acknowledges the important contributions of oil company labs in the historical development of our science.


  1. Honors & Awards Program and Presidential Session 4 p.m., Sunday • 17 October 2010 Colorado Convention Center • Four Seasons Ballroom • Denver, Colorado USA

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Amoco Research Center
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