Biography Citation for the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award
Contributed by Samuel H. Gray
Recipients of the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal have typically contributed breakthroughs in the form of new ideas or tools that have allowed explorationists to find hydrocarbons more easily. This year's recipient, Davis Ratcliff, has contributed a breakthrough of a different, but no less important kind: Davis has pioneered the use of many different technologies, some of them developed by previous Kauffman Award winners, in order to image seismically near complicated salt bodies. Davis was a very early user of steep-dip imaging technologies (dip moveout and steep-dip migration) to image previously invisible overhung flanks of salt domes and, more recently, he has pushed the development of three-dimensional prestack depth migration to see beneath salt sheets. In these efforts, Davis was able to see the possibilities of newly developed imaging techniques and pull them immediately into the hunt for salt-related hydrocarbons. This has not been a simple task: It has required a working knowledge of both the latest developments in imaging technology and the geologic possibilities of oil and gas deposits around salt bodies, an encyclopedic knowledge of general seismic processing techniques, and the ability to communicate with researchers, data processors, interpreters, geologists, and engineers. In listing these skills which, incidentally, very few in our industry possess, I have not mentioned perhaps the most important, which is the tremendous enthusiasm Davis has brought to all the projects I've seen him involved with.
After receiving a degree in mathematics from the University of New Orleans in 1983, Davis joined Amoco's New Orleans office as a processing geophysicist. Shortly after that, he introduced himself to me as one who had been applying imaging technology developed at Amoco Research to produce some remarkable images of steeply dipping salt flanks. It seems that Davis wanted to meet one of the technology developers (me) in order to inform him of the successful application of the technology. I'm sure that such an event is not unique in human history, but it was unique in mine, at least until then. Anxious as I was to hear good news, and not bad, about Amoco's imaging technology, I decided to work as closely as possible with Davis from that day forward. I didn't suspect that, at the same time, Davis was recognizing and cultivating other salt-related technologies and organizing them into a large but cohesive team of much greater value than the sum of its parts. This team ultimately gave Amoco some of the industry's finest capabilities to process and interpret salt-related seismic data. A great deal of ink has been spilled over the very real need for interdisciplinary teams in exploration and production, but Davis has been a walking example of the equally real need for the key individual willing and able to make it all come together. In addition to directing the technical efforts of his teams, Davis has been generous in sharing credit with all the members involved in successful projects.
Unfortunately for Amoco, Davis has moved on, and is doing (and pushing others to do) what he did in his 10 years at Amoco, namely working to push back the barriers confronting our seismic imaging techniques. With his intuition for what can be accomplished with seismic data, his wonderful ability to communicate (both in presentations and publications) the results of applying new technology to difficult problems, and his enthusiasm for the best challenge, Davis has made, and will continue to make, his mark on the ways we acquire and process seismic data.
Finally, as important as Davis' career as an oil-finder has been to him (and his employers), I know that his wife, Connie, and his family come first. Isn't it curious and wonderful that so many successful workers in our industry, or any field of endeavor, are first successful spouses and parents!
- Whaley, J., 2017, Oil in the Heart of South America, https://www.geoexpro.com/articles/2017/10/oil-in-the-heart-of-south-america], accessed November 15, 2021.
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- Alfredo, Carlos, and Clebsch Kuhn. “The Geological Evolution of the Paraguayan Chaco.” TTU DSpace Home. Texas Tech University, August 1, 1991. https://ttu-ir.tdl.org/handle/2346/9214?show=full.