Biography Citation for the J. Clarence Karcher Award
Contributed by David H. Johnston
John is one of those few people who can appear to guarantee success in a project. This is one reason I worked hard to convince him to leave Calgary for a few years to accept an assignment in Exxon's time-lapse seismic research group. And it is one of the reasons why I think he is a deserving recipient of the Society's Karcher Award.
John's academic background set the stage for what is becoming a remarkable career. He completed his Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Alberta in 1991 after a B.S. in applied physics from the University of Waterloo in 1987. He was the recipient of 12 scholarships and awards including a CSEG scholarship, an AOSTRA scholarship, and NSERC Undergraduate Industrial and University Awards. As a participant in the Honors Co-Op Program as an undergraduate, John worked for Environment Canada, Esso Resources Canada, and Husky Research Corporation in areas ranging from weather data processing, oil spill remediation, directional drilling, and gas flow measurement.
Jobs were hard to find in Calgary in 1992 even for those with impressive academic credentials. John was offered a post-doc position at Imperial Oil Resources Ltd. with funding from an NSERC Industrial Research Fellowship. But, his abilities were quickly recognized, and the temporary job became permanent. As a research scientist for Imperial from 1992 to 1996, John was responsible for geophysics research and seismic acquisition for monitoring the enhanced oil recovery activities at the Cold Lake Cyclic Steam Injection Project. Working from a fundamental background in petrophysics and wave propagation, he developed seismic attribute discriminant analysis techniques which map areas of the reservoir that have not been heated by the steam injection program. He also developed microseismic monitoring methods that have been instrumental in predicting casing failures in wells. John also found time to develop and promote the use of seismic attributes to create 3-D porosity models for some of Imperial's carbonate reefs.
These models resulted in several successful horizontal wells.
One of John's greatest accomplishments has been to have a measurable impact on how reservoir engineers at Imperial view their reservoir. Over the past 20 years, virtually all reservoir engineers working on the Cold Lake Field have developed their own personal images of the reservoir. Until John's work, none of those images was ever truly put to the test. The challenge he faced is shown by the following reaction by an experienced reservoir engineer to John's work: "John, I have always found that outstanding technical work has agreed well with my own personal conceptual models, and I certainly consider your work to be technically outstanding. However, the dilemma I have is that your work does not fit my conceptual model of the Cold Lake reservoir ... so I believe your work needs considerable refinement."
While John's images of the reservoir bear a strong resemblance to images in a Rorschach test, allowing reservoir engineers to interpret anything they want, a 46-well infill drilling program in 1996 validated his approach. There are now more than 12 3-D seismic monitoring surveys (that encompass six geographic locations) at Cold Lake. The fact that John has succeeded in taking the technology to a point where it is used extensively in both pilot and commercial operations at Imperial's Cold Lake Field is truly a monumental accomplishment leading to a Significant Innovation Award from Imperial in 1996.
John's enthusiasm and creativity has carried over to his current assignment at Exxon Production Research Company where he is helping to extend seismic monitoring technology to a variety of production scenarios worldwide. He is always willing to try one more idea, even when others have given up, sometimes yielding a breakthrough in our understanding of a problem. And as he likes to point out, this all comes with a weak Canadian dollar, making John 30% cheaper than U.S. geophysicists!
John's accomplishments extend outside the Imperial/Exxon community. He has published seven journal articles related to Cold Lake seismic monitoring and has made 18 technical presentations at various professional society conferences including the SEG, CSEG, and AGU. In 1996 John was given the Best Paper and Best Theme Paper in Reservoir Geophysics by the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysics, and he has been an invited speaker on a number of occasions. He has been active in the SEG Development and Production Committee, serving on the organizing committee for the 1993, 1994, and 1996 summer forums and chairing the 1997 summer forum. This year he begins a term as the committee's chairman.
Most recently, John's optimism and enthusiasm has been refocused toward his newborn daughter, Rachel. We may have to settle for a little less of John's time as he masters the challenging skills of fatherhood. But I suspect that he will succeed with the same kind of assurance which characterizes his ability as a geophysicist.