Geoffrey Dorn

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Geoffrey Dorn
Geoff Dorn 2015 headshot.jpg
Latest company TerraSpark Geosciences LLC
Membership SEG
PhD Exploration Geophysics
PhD university University of California–Berkeley

SEG Cecil Green Enterprise Award 2015

We recognize Geoff Dorn for his entrepreneurial spirit and success. In 2006, Geoff moved from academia to private industry by founding TerraSpark Geosciences, LP, to research and prototype new seismic interpretation and 3D visualization methods. Giving up a paying job and at times going without salary or other income, he performed the work initially in his basement. Almost all the start-up capital came out of Geoff’s savings. In 2010, with venture-capital investment, he founded TerraSpark Geosciences, LLC, to commercialize the research. In both cases, he performed all the duties of a founder, developed a strategic plan, risked his own money to fund the enterprise, and managed the company. The methods and software that Geoff created have been leading-edge contributions to the interpretation of seismic data worldwide. In 2014, TerraSpark was acquired by CGG.

Biography Citation for the SEG Cecil Green Enterprise Award 2015

by Joe Dominguez

After earning his Ph.D. in exploration geophysics in 1980 from the University of California–Berkeley, Geoff Dorn joined ARCO Oil and Gas Company and worked in the geophysical research group. During the next 20 years of increasing prominence at ARCO, Geoff received numerous recognitions for his achievements in seismic interpretation and visualization research, most notably the ARCO Corporate Outstanding Technical Achievement Award. Geoff did not confine his efforts to the research lab but also sought out ARCO interpreters who could demonstrate for him the most difficult interpretation challenges from around the world. These collaborative efforts were recognized for his contributions to reserves, revenue, and operations impacts and formed the beginnings of his research into new interpretation techniques, which would eventually become the Insight Earth software.

While contributing to ARCO’s success, Geoff was also contributing to the SEG community. Geoff became active in SEG in the 1980s by presenting his research at annual meetings. During the 1990s, he organized and co-chaired several SEG Research Workshops and served on the SEG Interpretation Committee, Research Committee, and Annual Meeting Technical Program Committee. In 2002, Geoff was selected as an SEG Distinguished Lecturer. He has continued to contribute to SEG standing committees and Annual Meeting Technical Program Committees, and to publish in The Leading Edge and other industry journals.

In 2000, BP bought ARCO, and subsequently the ARCO Research Center was closed. During that transition, Geoff brokered a deal between BP and the University of Colorado, creating the BP Center for Visualization at the Boulder campus, where Geoff served as executive director. During that time, he also served as a Research Professor in geological sciences and computer sciences. He hired geoscientists and attracted graduate students to work at the center. Geoff also formed an industry-funded research consortium, the GIVC, which is still active to this day, to support the continued development of leading-edge seismic-interpretation technology.

In 2006, Geoff Dorn raised capital and contributed personal finances to form TerraSpark Geosciences, LLP, to purchase the BP Center from the university and begin the move toward producing commercial software. He operated initially out of the basement of his home, but it was only a few years before it was time to open a sales office. Throughout these business transitions, the petroleum-company members of the GIVC remained and continued to support the research and commercialization of the interpretation software. In 2008 the TerraSpark partnership decided to develop commercial interpretation software and sell it to clients in the industry. TerraSpark secured its first commercial customer in early 2009.

Geoff sought and secured additional capital funding, again with additional personal investment, and formed TerraSpark Geosciences, LLC. In this new company, Geoff served as president, CEO and chairman of the board and opened a sales office in Houston, Texas. This company continued the employment of scientists he had hired for his research company and hired new geoscientists and sales-account managers to staff the new office. TerraSpark grew to include the formation of a consulting-services business unit in 2011. During that time, several additional patents were granted for Geoff’s unique approaches to seismic interpretation, adding to the intellectual property and patents awarded during his ARCO research years.

In January 2014, CGG purchased TerraSpark Geosciences, LLC. The software, the intellectual property, and the employees have all found a new home in a long-standing, well-respected geophysical services company with a global reach. Insight Earth is now used worldwide by companies in oil and gas exploration, production, geophysical services, and seismic processing. To see one’s vision through from initial research to becoming a commercially viable product requires not only enormous technical knowledge but also leadership, patience, persistence, business acumen, and a willingness to accept personal risk. It is rare to find all of these characteristics in one person.

Geoff Dorn’s vision and efforts have not just advanced the art of seismic interpretation but have fundamentally changed the way 3D seismic interpretation is done in our industry.