Öz Yilmaz

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Öz Yilmaz
Oz Yilmaz headshot.jpg
Membership Honorary Member
BSc Geology with Geophysics Option
MSc Geophysics
PhD Geophysics
BSc university University of Missouri-Rolla
MSc university Stanford University
PhD university Stanford University

Öz Yilmaz received his BS in Geology with Geophysics Option from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1970, MS in Geophysics with research in rock physics and earthquake seismology from Stanford University in 1972, and after five years in the industry, a PhD in Geophysics with research in exploration seismology from Stanford University in 1979. Öz has been working in the seismic industry for 41 years; and since 2000, he has broadened his interests in geophysics to include engineering seismology.

For his ‘contributions to the science of geophysical exploration,' he was honored by the SEG in 1991 with the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award, and for his ‘teachings in geophysics,' he was honored by the EAGE in 1992 with the Conrad Schlumberger Award. For his ‘contributions to the geophysical profession in a global manner,' his biography has been included in Who's Who in the World, 1998 edition. For his ‘outstanding and influential contributions to the oil and gas industry, and fundamental developments in the field of geophysical prospecting,' he was elected a member to the European Academy of Sciences in 2002. For his ‘outstanding professional contributions,' he was honored by his Alma Mater University of Missouri-Rolla with an Honorary Professional Degree in Geology and Geophysics in 2003. For his ‘outstanding professional contributions,' he was honored by the Geophysical Society of Houston in 2009 with Honorary Membership. For his ‘outstanding publications,' he was honored by the SEG in 2011 with Honorary Membership, and in 2022 he was awarded the Maurice Ewing Medal for his deep, broad, and sustained contribution to the science and profession of geophysics.

SEG Maurice Ewing Medal 2022

Öz Yilmaz has been an important and sustained contributor to our profession throughout his career. Yilmaz has advanced the profession through his work in areas such as seismic data acquisition (including large-offset recording), seismic data analysis, image-based near-surface modeling, seismic imaging, velocity estimation, and multiple attenuation. He has developed seismic data analysis workflows for near-surface modeling and time-with-depth domain subsurface modeling and imaging for difficult land data in areas with irregular topography, complex near surface, and complex subsurface. Yilmaz is also a great contributor to the advancement of the profession of applied geophysics through his writing. His first two books, Seismic Data Processing and Seismic Data Analysis, are professional standards that have affected whole generations of exploration geophysicists throughout the world. Yilmaz has devoted the last 20 years to land seismic data acquisition and processing, and near-surface seismology. As a result of conducting research projects and numerous case studies in these fields, he published his third SEG book, Engineering Seismology with Applications to Geotechnical Engineering,[1] and his fourth SEG book, Land Seismic Case Studies for Near-Surface Modeling and Subsurface Imaging.[2]

Biography Citation for the SEG Maurice Ewing Medal

by Fred Hilterman

I have visited countless geophysicists worldwide, and being a curious “elder” in our industry, my eyes tend to roam their offices until they invariably settle on the same object in every office: the two-volume text (2001), Seismic Data Analysis by Öz Yilmaz. In this classic, Öz has carefully cataloged his worldwide practical experience in seismic data acquisition, processing, inversion, and interpretation and combined it with precise and easy-to-follow theoretical discussions. It is easy to search for a specific topic and quickly understand the theory and application without having to spend time on obscure notation, a tremendous asset that is appreciated by both research and exploration geoscientists. It is no wonder that Öz's books are the best sellers in exploration seismology. Based on Seismic Data Processing (1987), Öz developed a very popular video short course. Well, maybe not so short, as the course contained 15 cassettes.

For close to 50 years, Öz has been working in the seismic industry covering all research aspects from seismic acquisition, processing, and interpretation to exploration management. At the turn of the century, Öz expanded his interests beyond exploration seismology to include engineering and earthquake seismology. In 2001, he formed Anatolian Geophysical (Istanbul), which concentrates on engineering seismology projects. With his background in petrophysics, seismic reflection, refraction, and surface waves, Öz integrates seismic and borehole data to characterize the soil column for projects relating to earthquake engineering or construction. In 2002, he assumed the role of chief technology officer at GeoTomo where he developed a workflow-based processing system, GeoThrust. Within the next two decades, Öz perfected the seismic workflow of image-based effective-medium modeling of the near surface (the i-stats) to earn a patent in 2015. Applying this technology on numerous field projects led Öz to a new method (the i-cube) to reduce velocity uncertainty in rough terrains. This new concept earned a patent in 2021.

The processing of marine data normally follows a well-defined codified workflow, requiring explicit knowledge from the processor. The processing of rough terrain seismic data, however, demands implicit knowledge, which includes personal wisdom, experience, insight, and intuition. The patented workflow of i-stats and i-cube are the results of Öz's dedication over 15 years to image data from previously classified “no record” areas. Thanks to Öz's dedication, these 15 years were shared with us in his third massive book, Engineering Seismology with Applications to Geotechnical Engineering, which was captured in his SEG 2015 Distinguished Instructor Short Course. His fourth book, Land Seismic Case Studies: Near-Surface Modeling and Subsurface Imaging was published by SEG in 2021.

Öz not only shared his technology with us, he actively worked with SEG and the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE) as a member of executive committees, as a distinguished lecturer and instructor, as an associate editor, and as an organizer of international conferences. Oh yes, also as an adjunct professor.

As an enthusiastic history buff, Öz has expanded his engineering activities to include ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys for archaeological investigation of ancient buildings. One can visualize Öz “pontificating” his GPR findings with tidbits of ancient history to dramatize the discovery. Often, I am embarrassed when Öz mentions a historical fact about different societies. His knowledge of major governances from today back to Polybius (third century BC) is so thorough that when Turkey campaigned for a new constitution, Öz presented a draft document to Turkey's president of the parliament. I read his draft and was overwhelmed by his understanding of a coherent governance.

Öz's past accomplishments have been recognized worldwide with SEG's Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal and Honorary Membership; Geophysical Society of Houston Honorary Membership; EAGE's Conrad Schlumberger Award; University of Missouri's Honorary Professional Degree; Elected Member of the European Academy of Sciences; and Elected Member of the National Academy of Engineering.

SEG recognizes a Renaissance man, Öz Yilmaz, with its highest award, the Maurice Ewing Medal.

2015 SEG Distinguished Instructor Short Course

Engineering Seismology with Applications to Geotechnical Engineering

The near-surface is the subject of all three branches of seismology --- earthquake seismology, exploration seismology, and engineering seismology. The difference is not just a matter of scale, but also the nature of seismic wave propagation.

The narrow scope of engineering seismology includes its applications to geotechnical site investigations, and seismic microzonation to determine soil amplification and liquefaction susceptibility within a municipal area to estimate the earthquake risk. The broad scope of engineering seismology also includes its application to groundwater exploration, coal and mineral exploration, geothermal exploration, and investigations of historical buildings and archaeological sites. This course is devoted to application of the seismic method to delineate the near-surface geology primarily for geotechnical remediation of the soil column for civil engineering structures. Nevertheless, the course also includes case studies for the broader scope of engineering seismology.

The following topics will be addressed in this course:

  • Seismic waves: body waves, surface waves, the dispersion spectrum, and Rayleigh-wave dispersion
  • Seismic modeling of the soil column: P-wave velocity estimation, shallow seismic imaging, S-wave velocity estimation, borehole velocity measurements, and correlation of seismic velocities with geotechnical borehole data
  • Site characterization: five case studies
  • Landslide investigations: hydroelectric dam project site, refinery project site, and residential housing project site
  • Active fault investigations: nuclear power plant project, refinery project, and subsea road tunnel project
  • Seismic microzonation: refraction seismic survey and reflection seismic survey
  • Geophysical investigations of historic buildings: the Great Church of St. Sophia, the Mosque of Sultan Mehmet, the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, and the Bridge of Emperor Justinianus
  • Exploration of earth resources: groundwater exploration, coal exploration, mineral exploration, and geothermal exploration

Additional Resource

The accompanying textbook is available for purchase.[3]

Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership 2011

Contributed by Jon Claerbout

Öz Yilmaz received his BS in geology and geophysics from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1970 and MS in geophysics in rock physics and earthquake seismology from Stanford University with Amos Nur in 1972. Amos writes, “Long before the emergence of shale gas, as a student at Stanford he derived the equations that modeled for the first time the nonlinear effects of effective pressure (confining minus pore) on hydraulic permeability. He showed in micro-cracked rocks that pore-pressure distribution deviates significantly from standard diffusion and becomes more like a pressure front.”

After five years at Turkish Petroleum Company, Öz earned his PhD geophysics with me at Stanford in 1979 with work on dip moveout in exploration seismology. I’ve never had a student finish so fast!

Öz has been working in the seismic industry for 38 years including 12 years at Western Geophysical (Houston and London), 4 years at Schlumberger (London), 3 years at Paradigm Geophysical (London), and finally, he founded Anatolian Geophysical (Istanbul) in 2001, providing services in seismic data analysis and project management. He has participated with numerous organizations in Turkey. Öz became Chief Technology Officer to GeoTomo in Houston in 2002 to develop workflow products for processing, inversion, and interpretation of land seismic data.

In the last decade, Öz has taken his oil-industry experience in seismic data analysis to the diverse fields of earthquake seismology and geotechnical site investigations. Öz launched a pioneering project in Turkey that included evaluating seismic results and borehole measurements at about 200 sites.

Fred Hilterman writes, “‘As an enthusiastic history buff, Öz has expanded his engineering activities to include GPR surveys for archeological investigation of ancient buildings. One can visualize Öz “pontificating” his GPR findings with tidbits of ancient history to dramatize the discovery.” Fred continues, “From his first edition of Seismic Data Processing in 1988, his work has withstood the scrutiny of our professionals and it continues to be SEG’s second biggest seller after Sheriff ’s dictionary. It is an outstanding example of SEG’s objective to promote the science of geophysics and as such, it is definitely a distinguished contribution that in itself warrants exceptional recognition. An informal publication that filled a big need for me and for academia generally, was Öz’s preparation (with D. Cumro) and distribution of raw data of a collection of 40 seismic shot profiles from around the world. Academics often reach out to the “real world” and Öz provided exactly what they needed. My what a diverse world we have! These 40 shot records are sprinkled throughout my books and the many papers and theses done at Stanford and elsewhere.

Steve Doherty writes, “Öz has put on an uncountable number of schools and presentations in both public forums and in local society meetings and in government and private organizations all over the globe.”

Ken Larner writes, “What an accomplishment it was for him to have created (his books) without skipping a beat in his many obligations while in the research group at Western Geophysical. He was successful (no small feat) in gaining approval from Western to include all those marvelous examples in his book. Öz is a teacher, entrepreneur, researcher. He never stops.”

John Etgen writes, “There’s a long list of things he’s been influential on from a technical perspective, his books, his wide-ranging knowledge of processing in general to his latest efforts around difficult land data and the near surface. I think what people know him best for are his presentations... always entertaining, always engaging. He was the first one to teach me the difference between ‘eating’ and ‘dining.’ He never ‘dines’ without visiting the kitchen!”

Yilmaz Elected to National Academy of Engineering

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced on 9 February 2022 that 111 new members and 22 international members have been elected, including two geophysicists, Leon Thomsen as a new member, and Öz Yilmaz as an international member. Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer or applied scientist.

Yilmaz’s induction is “for leadership in developing innovative methods for processing seismic reflection data and educating a generation of geophysicists.” Via a number of technical publications and four SEG-published massive and comprehensive texts, Yilmaz has provided the foundation for geophysicists around the world to learn, utilize, and optimize seismic reflection data acquisition and processing. These methods are widely used for oil and gas exploration and near-surface engineering. Yilmaz’s first book, Seismic Data Processing, was published in 1987. This work was greatly expanded in a two-volume set, Seismic Data Analysis, published in 2001. Yilmaz published Engineering Seismology with Applications to Geotechnical Engineering in 2015 and Land Seismic Case Studies for Near-Surface Modeling and Subsurface Imaging in 2021. His publications, along with the numerous courses and lectures he has given around the world (he was an SEG Distinguished Lecturer in 1996 and an SEG Distinguished Instructor in 2015) have had a remarkable impact on a generation of geophysicists around the world. By way of lectures, courses, presentations at professional meetings, publications, and books, Yilmaz has made an enormous impact on the careers of many professionals by disseminating his knowledge and experience in exploration seismology and engineering seismology.

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