George Smith

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George Smith
Latest company Soekor (now PetroSA)
MSc university University of Cambridge
PhD university University of Cambridge

George C. Smith is a senior lecturer in geophysics at the University of Cape Town. Before that he was exploration manager of Soekor (now PetroSA), the national oil company of South Africa. He started his career with the Seismograph Service group, with whom he worked in Somalia, Nigeria and Iran. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Cambridge. He received the Reginald Fessenden Award from SEG in 2002, and the Rudolf Krahmann Memorial Medal from the South African Geophysical Association (SAGA) in 2005, for his work on AVO. He was for eight years the Africa Regional Coordinator on the SEG Global Affairs Committee. He founded and was first chair of the Western Cape branch of SAGA, chair of SAGA Biennial Conferences in 1999 and 2011 and technical chair of the SAGA Biennial Conference in 2005. He is a member of SEG, EAGE, AAPG, SAGA, and the Geological Society of South Africa, where he serves on the Western Cape Geoheritage Committee. In his spare time, he is a South African National Parks Honorary Ranger, chair of their National Training Committee, and member of their National Executive Committee.

2013 SEG Honorary Lecturer, Middle East and Africa

AVO in exploration and development

Amplitude variation with offset, commonly called AVO, as an exploration and development tool has been around in the hydrocarbons business for about 30 years. In the early part of this period, the emphasis was perhaps more on the exploration phase, but as the science of reservoir characterization developed, attention moved more and more to the development and production phases.

During this period, starting in 1982 with Ostrander examining CMP gathers, we have seen approaches such as P- and S-wave reflectivity stacking, the fluid factor, intercept and gradient, crossplotting, partial stacks, NI and PR (normal incidence and Poisson's ratio), AVO classes, lambda-mu-rho, elastic impedance, AVO impedance, prestack inversion, geostatistics, attribute inversion, neural networks and many more used to derive information from the offset domain.

At the SEG Annual Meeting in 2012, there was only one oral session called "AVO", but AVO concepts were inherent in sessions on anisotropy, rock physics, reservoir characterization, seismic inversion, time lapse, interpretation, shale reservoirs and attributes. This shows the extent to which AVO concepts have become an integral part of the modern seismic world, permeating acquisition, processing, inversion and interpretation.

Have the applications of AVO in exploration, where data are relatively sparse, kept up with the increasingly sophisticated techniques used in the statistically more finely sampled development scenarios? This presentation will look at many published and unpublished examples to assess where we stand with AVO today.

SEG Reginald Fessenden Award

George Cameron Smith and Maurice Gidlow are being honored with the Reginald Fessenden Award for their theoretical development and practical implementation of the seismic fluid factor for rock property estimation and detection of hydrocarbon zones. This AVO procedure has withstood more than 15 years of scrutiny and still remains a critical seismic attribute employed routinely by geophysicists.

Biography Citation for the Reginald Fessenden Award

Contributed by Brian Russell

George Cameron Smith is corecipient of the 2002 Reginald Fessenden Award, for his pioneering work in the AVO method. To understand what led George to this innovative work (especially for those who have read either the theory section or the appendix in the Smith-Gidlow paper) you must understand that his first love was mathematics. Two of George’s four advanced level courses at high school were maths and further maths. And, just out of high school, he represented England in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Yugoslavia in 1967. George then went on to Cambridge University and broadened his studies by obtaining a BA (Hons) and MA in natural sciences, consisting of a combination of geology, physics, and mathematics—a perfect mix for a future geophysicist. After university, George joined Seismograph Service Ltd. (SSL), and worked on a variety of acquisition, processing, and interpretation tasks in various parts of the world from 1971 to 1975.

In 1975, George joined Soekor (now PetroSA), the South African national oil company, as a seismic interpreter. In the course of his 24-year career with Soekor, George saw his job title change many times, reflecting his many talents from geology to seismic research to business development. Indeed, at various times while at Soekor, George was research manager, exploration manager, and commercial manager. The 1980s were a particularly creative and exciting time, as George and Maurice formulated, patented, and published the “geostack” and “fluid factor” methods. This technology became an integral part of Soekor’s exploration program and they had much success applying it. (And some failures—there is no such thing as a magic wand in our business!!)

While with Soekor, George was also responsible for the team that interpreted and drilled the Mossgas gas fields, as well as being exploration manager while the majority of the oil fields in the Bredasdorp Basin were discovered and appraised. Somehow, he also found the time to author, or coauthor, 14 technical papers. As well as expanding on the fluid factor and geostack concepts, George also coauthored an AAPG paper with Ivor Gerrard on the geology of the South-Western African continental margin. In between he attended just about all the classical music events taking place in Cape Town.

George has always believed strongly in education and training. In order to foster the recruitment of South Africans and Africans into the burgeoning African E&P industry, he initiated and promoted the formation of the “South African Petroleum Studies Programme” jointly run by the Universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, and the Western Cape. When his dream became a reality, George left industry to join the University of Cape Town to both teach in and lead this program.

Those of us who know George personally realize what a great treat is in store for the next generation of South African geophysicists, who will now be exposed to George’s infectious enthusiasm, creativity, and love of teaching. He is a truly deserving corecipient of the 2002 Reginald Fessenden Award.


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