Xianhuai Zhu

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Xianhuai Zhu
Xianhuai Zhu 2018 headshot.png
Latest company Forland Geophysical Services, LLC
BSc Geophysics
PhD Geosciences
BSc university China University of Petroleum
PhD university University of Texas at Dallas

SEG 2018 Life Membership Award [1]

Xianhuai Zhu is recognized for his meritorious service to the Society and SEG China. Zhu, a 2012 recipient of SEG's Reginald Fessenden Award, served on the SEG Board of Directors from 2014 to 2017 as a director at large. He also served as a Geophysics associate editor from 1997 to 2002. In addition to those duties, he has served as member or chair of several committees and continues to be a valued volunteer for SEG.

Biography Citation for the 2018 SEG Life Membership Award

By Alfred L. Liaw

Xianhuai Zhu, a native of Yixing, China, and currently the president and CEO of Forland Geophysical Services, is awarded SEG Life Membership for his voluntarily rendered, meritorious service to professional societies and the geophysical community.

He is not only a recognized technical leader in geophysics as an SEG Reginald Fessenden Award recipient, but also a business leader. Xianhuai obtained his bachelor's degree from the China University of Petroleum in 1977 and completed his doctorate degree in geoscience at the University of Texas (UT) at Dallas in 1990. During his studies, he served as president of the UT-Dallas SEG Student Chapter from 1987 to 1989.

Xianhuai worked at Anadarko in Fort Worth for six years. He was then the manager of reservoir imaging at PGS for six years, vice president of seismic imaging at Fusion Petroleum Technology for four years, and team lead of land seismic and acquisition research at ConocoPhillips for 10 years. In 2016, he founded Forland Geophysical Services in Houston, with a mission to develop and apply advanced technologies for land, shallow water, and ocean-bottom node seismic data acquisition, imaging, and interpretation.

Xianhuai started his SEG volunteering engagement in 1981 when he participated in the first joint technical symposium of SEG and the Chinese Geophysical Society in Beijing. He was a member of the SEG Annual Meeting Technical Program Committee from 1993 to 2017, an associate editor of Geophysics from 1997 to 2002, a member of the SEG Research Committee from 1998 to 2018, a member of the Audit Committee from 2014 to 2017, and a director at large for the SEG Board from 2014 to 2017. He eventually chaired the SEG Audit Committee from 2016 to 2017.

Xianhuai has been recognized as a technology champion for near-surface velocity estimation, turning-ray tomography, full-waveform inversion, and reflection tomography. Due to his technical knowledge, he was invited to cochair the Technical Program for the 2014 CPS/SEG Beijing International Geophysical Conference and to serve on the Technical Program Committee of the 2015 SEG Deepwater Exploration Workshop in Shenzhen, China. He was also invited to serve as the technical cochair of the 2016 SPG/SEG International Conference and to chair the first ever 2017 SEG/Sinopec Foothill Exploration Technical Forum in Nanjing, China. The successful forum will be a recurring event, which will be organized by SEG China in the near future.

Xianhuai was elected to serve as the first vice president of the Geophysical Society of Houston from 2016 to 2018 as well as president and chairman of the board for the Chinese American Petroleum Association (CAPA). During his legacy leading CAPA, he was instrumental in the signing of CAPA as an Associated Society of SEG.

I am truly honored to prepare this citation to commemorate Xianhuai's well-deserved SEG Life Membership Award.

SEG Reginald Fessenden Award 2012 [2]

"Xianhuai Zhu, 2012"

Xianhuai Zhu and Jie Zhang are recognized for their outstanding joint contributions to the development of seismic tomographic solutions to the problem of accurate imaging with complex near-surface geology. Their idea and development from the turning ray tomography to full wave front first arrival travel time tomography enabled a more robust imaging approach, with less reliance on the initial model. The vast application areas of this method include many shallow water and land data imaging challenges associated with shallow gas, sand dunes, and structural overthrusts, among others. Xianhuai Zhu founded Forland Geophysical Services in 2016.

Biography Citation for the SEG Reginald Fessenden Award 2012

Contributed by Öz Yilmaz

It is most appropriate for SEG to recognize Xianhuai Zhu with the Reginald Fessenden Award for his pioneering work on turning-ray tomography. Modeling the near-surface in exploration seismology has been a challenge to us all. The works of Xianhuai Zhu and Jie Zhang have indeed made possible the practical applications of turning-ray tomography and nonlinear tomography, respectively, to estimate near-surface models to correct for the deleterious effect of the complex near-surface more accurately than any other method to date. Moreover, modeling the complex subsurface still poses more challenges. The work of Xianhuai and Jie has inspired many researchers to strive to develop methods for accurate modeling of the subsurface.

Xianhuai started his industry career by joining a seismic crew in Jiangsu Oil Field in China when he was only 18 years of age. Since then, he has been continually engaged in seismic data acquisition, processing, and interpretation.

Although his early training was in exploration seismology, as a student at the China University of Petroleum (CUP), he had interest in shallow basin structural styles and deep seismic soundings for mapping the Moho. In 1985, as a visiting scientist at Cornell, he learned about “diving waves” in earthquake seismology and tectonics from Sidney Kaufman, Jack Oliver, and Larry Brown. His short stay at Cornell made a significant impact on Xianhuai’s life.

A year after arriving in Ithaca, Xianhuai transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas where he became George McMechan’s first graduate student from mainland China. Xianhuai completed his first paper with George on RTM imaging for crosshole surveys, then switched his research interest from RTM to tomography so as to provide RTM what it really needs — an accurate velocity-depth model. Soon, Xianhuai and George developed “divingwave” tomography to solve near-surface problems.

At Anadarko, together with David Sixta and Burke Angstman, Xianhuai applied diving-wave or turning-ray tomography to estimate accurate near-surface models for improved statics corrections. The term “tomostatics” was coined by them and appeared for the first time in 1992 in their paper The Leading Edge titled “Tomostatics: turning-ray tomography + static correction.” Xianhuai extended the application of turning-ray tomography beyond the near-surface modeling — to structural imaging and reservoir characterization. He applied the method worldwide in various projects, including the thrust belt of the Rocky Mountains, Canadian Foothills, Saudi-Arabian sand dunes, basalt and carbonate outcrops in Egypt and the Sichuan Basin in China, and Bohai Bay gas clouds. He has published more than 15 papers related to turning-ray tomography, and offered an online short course on turning-ray tomography and tomostatics to MIT students.

Xianhuai has worked for SINOPEC, UPR, PGS and Fusion and has held both technical and management positions. More recently, he has been working on elastic modeling, scattering and full-waveform inversion (FWI). Currently he is a team leader of Geophysical Technology Group at ConocoPhillips where he applies advanced 3D modeling and RTM imaging for acquisition design. In addition to his numerous seismic acquisition and processing activities, he has also worked on interpretation projects. He generated a prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, which was later developed by horizontal drilling, resulting in a commercial gas field.

Xianhuai’s paper, co-authored with Suat Altan and Jianchao Li, titled “Recent advances in multicomponent processing,” was selected as the Best Paper in The Leading Edge in 1999. He is a member of the SEG Research Committee and the Technical Program Committee and is currently the 2012 President of the Chinese American Petroleum Association (CAPA). Xianhuai continues to work on challenging exploration and development projects. His inventive mind is now recognized by the SEG Reginald Fessenden Award.


  1. The Leading Edge Volume 37, Issue 11
  2. The Leading Edge Volume 31, Issue 10

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