Heloise Lynn

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Heloise Lynn
Heloise B. Lynn 2015 headshot.jpg
PhD university Stanford

Heloise B. Lynn is the 2015 recipient of the the Reginald Fessenden Award.

SEG Reginald Fessenden Award 2015

Heloise Lynn is presented the Reginald Fessenden Award for her 35-year career of translating the anisotropic behavior of seismic waves into practical applications that allow stress fields, fracture systems, and geomechanical properties to be characterized in targeted rock systems. She has described her research findings in many oral presentations and in 47 published papers that collectively create an invaluable knowledge base for scientists, researchers, students, teachers, and exploration geophysicists.

Biography Citation for the SEG Reginald Fessenden Award 2015

by Leon Thomsen

Heloise Lynn graduated from Stanford University in 1980 with a Ph. D. thesis in conventional exploration seismics. But on joining Amoco’s domestic Exploration and Production office in Houston, Texas, she was given a new type of data set to process, one that had defeated more experienced geophysicists. It had been recorded in the folded Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, two crossing 2D lines of “shear data.” This was in the early, naïve days of shear-wave exploration, and everybody thought that such surveys should have a horizontal crossline source, creating “SH” reflection data. This had been executed on both lines so that at the tie-point, the two lines had near-orthogonal polarization.

Heloise produced, on each line separately, a well-defined subsurface image, clear down to 20,000 ft. This in itself was a triumph, since the Conoco Shear-Wave Group Shoot had demonstrated, only a few years previously, that most such data was uninterpretable. In fact, the Amoco Research Acquisition Party 45 had been outfitted with horizontal vibrators, specifically to investigate this negative result.

But Heloise was not satisfied with her apparent technical success, since the two images, at the tie point, did not tie each other. A gradual mis-tie developed with traveltime, growing to 60 ms at 4 s. Working together with Amoco’s Tulsa Research Center, she concluded that this was the first observation ever (in exploration data) of “shear-wave splitting” at near-vertical incidence. And she was able to explain why her success was consistent with the Conoco Group Shoot’s failures. This led directly to six years of intensive, secret Amoco development of shear-wave understanding and know-how before other companies began to catch on.

When we finally went public, at the now-famous “Amoco Anisotrophy Technical Session” of the 1986 SEG convention, Heloise’s contribution was essential to helping the industry understand this fundamental feature of shear-wave propagation in realistic anisotropic formations. But Heloise had moved on, leaving Amoco to found Lynn Inc. (with husband Walt Lynn).

Lynn Inc., has prospered for more than 30 years as a “boutique firm,” specializing in the design and processing and interpretation of multi-azimuth and/or multi-component seismic data sets. An early project was a wide-azimuth (land) 3D P-wave survey, which Heloise processed to reveal the now well-known ellipse of azimuthal variation of moveout velocity. This was one of the first observations of its kind; the effect has now been seen in many contexts, especially with today’s high-quality wide-azimuth marine surveys. Unless the effect is accounted for, most wide-azimuth surveys will result in nonoptimal images.

(As an aside, Heloise was the first, to my knowledge, to propose multiboat marine surveys for wide-azimuth acquisition. The year was about 1995, i.e., long before BP’s first such surveys. Her suggestion was made to me in a casual conversation; I dismissed it out of hand as economically unfeasible. That was a mistake; decisions like this should be based on costs versus benefits, not on costs alone. Heloise understood this principle, in this context, before anybody else did.)

Recently, Heloise has published data demonstrating the azimuthal variation of velocities (and the associated P-wave azimuthal amplitude effects) in a carbonate oil-resource data set and has correlated those seismic signatures with various calibration data sets at the detailed reservoir scale. Analysis like this is a valuable step toward learning how to actually explore for the sweet spots of production of the shale resource too. As the industry learns how to explore in the shale resource, instead of blindly drilling on a grid and fracking everywhere, we will begin to realize the promise of that resource in an economically viable way. Creative minds like Heloise show the way.

"Heloise B. Lynn, 2008"

Biography 2008

Experience: 33 years working seismic reflection field data for oil and gas exploration (1975-2008); 28 years working multicomponent and/or multi-azimuth field data (1980-2008) and applying knowledge of seismic anisotropy to process and interpret seismic field data.

Biography 2004

Heloise Lynn started working in reflection seismic in the oil/gas industry in 1975, processing seismic data at Texaco, in Houston, Texas. In 1978, she completed her MS in Exploration Geophysics, Stanford University, and in December, 1979, she completed her PhD in Geophysics, also at Stanford University, in (post-stack) depth migration and interpretation issues within migration algorithms. From 1980-1984, she worked for Amoco, in Houston. In collaboration with Leon Thomsen and Rusty Alford, she worked on shear wave splitting, and anisotropy in SS reflection data. From 1984-present, she has been consulting on anisotropy, multicomponent, and multi-azimuth techniques.

From 1981 onwards, she has been working on recognition and use of S-wave splitting in reflection SS data (mid-1980s), using multi-azimuth and multicomponent data to characterize naturally fractured gas reservoirs (mid-1990s). In the mid-1990s, the U.S. Department of Energy funded three projects, wherein she served as principal geophysicist, to document how to use reflection seismic to characterize naturally fractured gas reservoirs. Her current interests include the co-rendering of high dimensional seismic datasets for interpretation (mid-2000s). "Where you sit governs what you see," and 2 subsequent articles, by H.B. Lynn and Ping Chen and Chenyi Hu, in The Recorder, Canadian SEG, July 2003, discuss the visualization of high-dimensional datasets.

Honorable Mention (Geophysics) 1990

H. B. Lynn and L. A. Thomsen received 1990 Honorable Mention (Geophysics) for their paper Reflection shear-wave data collected near the principal Axes of Azimuthal anisotropy.[1]


  1. Lynn, H. B. and L. A. Thomsen (1990) Reflection shear-wave data collected near the principal Axes of Azimuthal anisotropy, GEOPHYSICS 55(2):147.

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