Biography Citation for SEG Special Commendation
SEG's Special Commendation Award is bestowed upon deserving individuals for meritorious services to the public, the scientific community, and for recognized community leadership. Özer Altan has achieved, and surpassed, each of these qualifications during his four decades of professional and public life.
Özer Altan received his BS degree in geology and geophysics from the University of Istanbul, his native city, in 1955. After serving as junior geophysicist and Party chief for the Mining Research and Exploration Institute of Turkey, enrolled at the Colorado School of Mines. On receiving his master's degree in geophysics, Özer returned to Turkey in 1961 to serve as chief seismologist and party chief for the newly formed Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO). After compulsory military service, in 1966 he returned to TPAO as chief geophysicist and manager of geophysical operations, a position which he held until 1974. During this time, he started on future plans for TPAO, its relations with the foreign oil companies, and coordinating all exploration activities and modernizing overall geophysical operations. He introduced the first digital seismic crew in Turkey. In 1978, he was appointed vice president in charge of all technical operations, which responsibility was later expanded to cover all of the exploration activities of TPAO.
In 1980, Özer left TPAO and joined Seismograph Services Company as the foreign coordinator until he was asked by then-Prime Minister Turgut Özal to return to Turkey and serve as general manager and chairman of the board of directors of TPAO. During his tenure, from 1984 to 1992, Özer reconstructed TPAO into a modern operating company and founded TPIC, a subsidiary of TPAO for international activities, through which it has expanded its exploration involvement to Australia, Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan, and the Turkish republics of the CIS.
According to Nafi Toksöz, professor of geophysics at the MIT's Earth Resources Laboratory, Özer "has distinguished himself as an outstanding and far-sighted manager during a time when numerous economic, political, and social changes were taking place in Turkey." With great managerial skill, he was able to lead his company through these difficult times, expand TPAO's exploration and drilling programs, discover a number of fields, triple its production, and venture into international partnerships inside and outside Turkey.
While improving TPAO as an exploration and production company, he has been keenly aware of its social responsibilities. He was instrumental in opening a branch of the Ankara College at Batman to improve the education in oil producing provinces. All through his career, he worked hard to improve the technical quality of the units he supervised, expanded research and development programs, initiated and supported educational and training programs for the exploration staff, and strived to provide a better working environment for all of his staff. His enthusiasm created an atmosphere in which young geophysicists like Özdogan Yilmaz, Edip Baysal, Mustafa Murathan, and many others flourished. I remember a number of meetings in the 1970s, which lasted into the early morning hours, at which we discussed the general plans to bring the exploration activities up to modern standards. He relentlessly pursued to keep up with technology despite very limited financial resources available to him. His accomplishments were also recognized by his alma mater when, in 1993, the Colorado School of Mines awarded him the prestigious Distinguished Achievement Medal.
Özer is a member of the Chamber of Geophysical Engineers and Association of Turkish Petroleum Geologists. He has published a number of articles on oil exploration in developing countries, risk analysis, energy, and energy related subjects. He is currently serving as a Petroleum Consultant, Government Affairs, for Mobil Oil Corporation in Ankara, Turkey.
We honor Özer Altan today for his unending and unselfish dedication to the betterment of his society, for his foresight and undaunted execution of his plans, and for his leadership in the formation of a modern exploration environment in Turkey.