Mehdi Aharchaou

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Mehdi Aharchaou
Aharchaou, Mehdi.jpg
Latest company Exxonmobil Upstream Research

SEG J. Clarence Karcher Award 2022

Mehdi Aharchaou is a geophysicist with ExxonMobil who has made innovative contributions to some of the most challenging problems facing the seismic exploration community. He has been integral to advancements in machine learning applications, broadband preprocessing of towed streamer data, prestack Q compensation using sparse tau-p operators, and adaptive deghosting, to name just a few. His deep intellectual curiosity is routinely noted by his collaborators. He has had breakthrough contributions in the extremely challenging area of artificial intelligence-based acquisition where he targeted bandwidth extension through knowledge transfer between ocean-bottom nodes and towed streamers using machine learning-based strategies. Aharchaou’s advancements in integrated broadband preprocessing has industry-wide impact with implications for full-waveform inversion using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Biography Citation for the J. Clarence Karcher Award

by Alex Martinez

Within a decade of joining the energy industry, Mehdi Aharchaou has made strong technical contributions to multiple exploration geophysics areas. Mehdi’s academic background includes three master’s degrees – two in electrical engineering (with a focus on statistical signal processing) from École Normale Supérieure, Toulouse, and Georgia Institute of Technology and one in geophysics from Rice University. This provides him with a solid foundation in signal processing and coding, which are proving to be key enablers for his strong technical contributions to the field of geophysics. Mehdi has a deep intellectual curiosity and an aptitude and willingness to learn new skills to address technical challenges. He also has a broad range of technical interests and an ability to “connect the dots” between disparate observations and glean meaningful and actionable insights from them.

Mehdi readily shares his technical insights and results, both within ExxonMobil and with others in the industry. He is a prolific writer, publishing peer-reviewed papers in Geophysics, The Leading Edge, and First Break, and has numerous U.S. patents. He also is a frequent presenter at the annual SEG and European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers conferences and has been a guest on the SEG Seismic Soundoff podcast. In addition to presenting technical results, he has increasingly taken on leadership roles in organizing and chairing professional society postconvention technical workshops and meetings.

Mehdi started his career in ExxonMobil in the Upstream Research Company, using his signal processing skills to aid in the development of broadband seismic processing, a technology area that evolved rapidly over the last decade and changed how marine streamer seismic data are processed and analyzed. He contributed in the areas of noise reduction, wavelet processing (deghosting, debubble, zero-phasing), trace interpolation, and multiple attenuation.

As broadband processing technology stabilized and moved from research to commercial application, Mehdi shifted his research to how artificial intelligence and machine learning can help address more general geophysical problems. Like others exploring within this technical area, he cast a wide net and looked at many potential applications. Mehdi published pioneering papers on applications of deep learning to noise attenuation and bandwidth extension in seismic data. This allowed him to significantly broaden his network beyond processing specialists and collaborate with others who are more on the interpretation and applications side of geophysics. In doing so, he continued to grow the breadth of his geophysical knowledge. These fruitful collaborations have led to improvements in 4D seismic analysis and seismic inversion.

In the last year, Mehdi moved from the research team to a production processing team, taking his knowledge and expertise directly to the technical challenges of the business. In this short time, he has already made a positive impact on the ability of practitioners to perform subsurface characterization and thus make better decisions regarding field production plans.

Outside of work, Mehdi enjoys spending time with his wife and two boys, Adam and Samy, and is passionate about discovering different parts of the United States with them. Mehdi is a visual arts aficionado and has been drawing and oil painting from real life for many years, especially doing several plein air paintings during the last years. He aspires to one day have his own exhibition. Besides reading about science and geophysics, he enjoys reading nonfiction books and French literature. Mehdi is also a big soccer fan. He regularly plays soccer games as a midfielder and has been a devoted Real Madrid fan since childhood.