Peter W. Flanagan

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Peter W. Flanagan
Peter W. Flanagan headshot.png
Latest company Parallel Geoscience Corporation
BSc geology
BSc university Boise State University

SEG's Cecil H. Green Enterprise Award 2018

Parallel Geoscience Corporation (PGC) develops and supplies PC seismic processing software. The main product, “Seismic Processing Workshop” (SPW) is a full-featured parallelized seismic processing solution used for a variety of applications in the exploration geophysics industry. The company was founded by Peter Flanagan and John Fett in 1988. Peter contributed financially and had the original idea for the product and company. Shortly thereafter, Dan and Robin Herold joined the company. The first years of building PGC were challenging -- cash was scarce and the principals often went without salaries and had to be creative in making ends meet. The principles had three sources of financial support in these early years: (1) the savings they had accumulated, (2) a modest salary Robin received working in retail positions in Austin, and (3) a small subsistence contribution provided by John. Over those years, they refined the software and methodically built up the customer base. Eventually, the company became and continues to be successful. Peter moved on to start another company in 1993. When John passed away in 2009, Dan and Robin assumed the primary financial risk in the venture. Dan and Robin have built the company into what it is today and SPW continues to provide value to many users in our industry around the world.

Citation for the 2018 SEG Cecil H. Green Enterprise Award

By James K. Applegate

It was 1976 when a 17-year-old farm boy from Sweet, Idaho, arrived at Boise State University (BSU). Dan Herold had already amassed almost 50 university credit hours. The geology and geophysics department included an active geothermal research program but no graduate program. Very quickly, Dan’s unique skills with computers were an integral part of this research. We quickly learned that all we had to do was explain the computing problem to Dan, and shortly thereafter there was a solution.

It was at BSU that Dan met his wife and partner, Robin, a geology student. Both were active, contributing members of the department. Dan graduated with majors in geophysics, geology, and physics and accepted a job with Amoco in Denver. Robin joined him, completing her undergraduate geology degree at the University of Colorado at Denver. At Amoco, Dan met Peter Flanagan. Peter, a University of Arizona geophysics graduate, connected with Dan over their common interests in computing and software. Dan, while working full time, completed course work for a master’s degree in geophysics at Colorado School of Mines. When the Amoco Denver office wound down, Peter transferred to Houston, and Dan joined Sierra Geophysics in Seattle to develop seismic modeling and interpretation software.

Peter had met John Fett through his summer jobs in mining. John later acquired LaCoste-Romberg and moved to Austin. Peter approached John about developing a seismic processing system for PCs. Peter left Amoco, moved to Austin, and formed Parallel Geoscience Corporation (PGC) with John. Peter worked part time in the gravity and magnetometer rental business with the balance committed to writing software. Shortly, Peter told John they needed another person to move forward, and he knew the perfect person. Peter called Dan in early 1989, and Dan joined PGC as an equal partner with John and Peter. Later in 1989, Seismic Processing Workshop (SPW), running on a Mac using the coprocessor developed for the cruise missile guidance system, was released.

As with most startups, things were not rosy from the start. Dan and Peter worked with a minor stipend from John Fett, while Robin took various jobs to provide support. After five years, Peter became enamored with other software ideas and moved on, selling out to John and Dan.

Dan and Robin became the driving forces in the growth of PGC, while John maintained a back-office presence. Peter had designed the Mac flowchart seismic processing application, and Dan continued development and evolution into the current PC-based processing system. Originally written for the Mac environment, SPW has been totally rewritten three times and ported to Windows and Linux. PGC has worked with Sandia, Los Alamos, IFP, and multiple universities around the world. There are more than 1000 SPW installations in 70 countries, mainly because of Dan’s willingness to go wherever the business may be and work with all types of clients in oil and gas, mining, engineering, and research. Dan worked with EAGE in developing two books on seismic processing for use in teaching; supported Antarctica research with U.S., British, and Korean groups; and received the U.S. National Service Medal for his work in Antarctica. PGC also supplies software to IRIS member universities.

Dan and Robin work and live in central Oregon. Dan travels the world consulting, developing and selling software, and mentoring students in multiple countries. Robin can usually be found in Oregon keeping things going on the home and office front while growing commercial quantities of blueberries. The success of PGC is a tribute to Dan, Robin, Peter, and John’s early efforts that were brought to fruition by the ongoing teamwork of Dan and Robin.

References