Frederick Barr Jr.
Frederick J. Barr is a geophysicist noted for his advances in ocean bottom cable technology. H received SEG's Virgil Kauffman Award in 1995.
Biography Citation for the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal 1995
Contributed by Craig J. Beasley
The Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal signifies a combination of technical excellence and outstanding innovation. Fred Barr's work, along with that of Joe Sanders, in ocean-bottom cable (OBC) and Duel Sensor technology, optimizes the values and achievements recognized by this award. While some scientific innovation takes place in a vacuum, the development of OBC and Dual Sensor (Duel Sensor is a registered service mark of Western Geophysical) is one of the best examples of R&D working closely with business units to answer industry demand and, I trust, will serve to put Fred's work in context.
The history of bottom cable operations is long and eventful. Many of the shallow water and transition zone areas in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere are inaccessible to marine streamer operations. With the shallow water proximity to land crew operations, it is natural to try to extend land operations into shallow water.
According to geophysical lore, the first contractor operation that ventured beyond very shallow swamps and bays occurred in 1945 when GSI fielded what they called a bay cable, a waterproofed land-type cable with geophones that were later replaced with hydrophones. Operationally efficient, these systems suffered one limitation: since the receivers lie on the bottom, the recorded data are subject to reverberations in the water layer that induce a "ghost notch" in the spectrum. As water depth increases, the ghost notch begins to affect the usable frequency spectrum; and as a result, until about 1988, OBC operations were usually limited to water depths of 15 meters or less.
Enter now the rising demand for 3-D seismic. It was then realized that OBC operations were ideal for collecting 3-D seismic data in highly congested areas. Since large oil fields tend to be highly congested, OBC had a bright future if only the ghost notch problem could be solved.
Fred's fundamental work in analyzing the elastic wave equation revealed a startling fact: geophones also suffer a ghost notch, but it is complementary to that of the hydrophone. This suggested an elegant solution to the problem - use both hydrophones and geophones and properly combine their outputs. The Dual Sensor method was born, and rapid commercialization followed. The method has been used in surveys in the Middle East, the Americas, West Africa and Asia, with the most use to date in the Gulf of Mexico. It seems fair to say that this technology has allowed safe and efficient operations in some of the most congested offshore regions in the world, and for a variety of reasons it has been credited with producing data superior to that of conventional streamer surveys.
Fred's success in this endeavor was not achieved by accident. He began working in the seismic industry while still an undergraduate at Texas A&M as a summer hire on a Shell bay cable crew shooting along the Texas coast. As Fred puts it, he came to "deeply appreciate the concept of a formal education." He went on to earn a BS, then an MS, then a PhD (1970), all in electrical engineering.
Encouraged by the "easy life" of the seismic contracting business, he joined Petty Geophysical, working closely with Harry Mayne. Fred continued with that company as it became Geosource and held a variety of positions, including director of research and development, general manager of the electronic systems division, vice-president and general manager of the geophysical systems operations, and corporate director of technology. Through the acquisition of Geosource by Halliburton and the subsequent purchase of HGS by Western Geophysical, Fred arrived at his current position of manager of data acquisition research for Western.
There are few among us who can lay claim to achievements of this magnitude. It is an honor and a privilege to work with Fred, whom I consider truly a scholar and a gentleman. Finally, I wish to thank both Fred and Joe for their contributions to the seismic industry and congratulate them again on receiving the recognition they so justly deserve.