Zonge International

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Zonge International

SEG Distinguished Achievement Award 2022

Zonge International is the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Achievement Award, given from time to time to a company, institution, or other organization for a specific technical contribution or contributions that have substantially advanced the science of exploration geophysics. Zonge’s contributions have substantially advanced the science of exploration geophysics, particularly electrical and electromagnetic (EM) geophysics across near-surface, mining, geothermal, and oil and gas markets. Zonge was originally founded as the Zonge Engineering and Research Organization (ZERO) in 1972 by Kenneth L. Zonge (recipient of SEG’s 1995 Cecil Green Enterprise Award), who developed the complex resistivity method and demonstrated its uses for mineral exploration. The company became the first to build a microprocessor-based EM receiver system in the 1970s. The company performs hundreds of projects each year involving seismic, magnetics, gravity, and other geophysical methods, in addition to the broad variety of EM methods it helped establish. Its innovations in EM acquisition and processing systems over the years extend to every aspect of EM geophysics practiced today. Zonge’s entrepreneurial spirit lives on today as much as it did when founded 50 years ago.

Biography Citation for the Distinguished Achievement Award

by David Alumbaugh

Over the 50 years of its existence, Zonge International, and its previous incarnation as Zonge Engineering and Research Organization, has been recognized as a leading innovator among smaller geophysical instrumentation and service companies. Primarily known as a manufacturer of ground electrical and electromagnetic (EM) geophysical exploration equipment, Zonge also provides data acquisition services of not only EM data, but seismic, magnetics, gravity, and other geophysical data types. Over the course of five decades, the different versions of the company have had a huge impact on mineral exploration as electrical and EM methods serve as some of the most often employed mining exploration techniques. That said, Zonge’s unique combination of instrumentation manufacturing and sales and data acquisition services has also impacted the near-surface, groundwater, geothermal, and oil and gas markets. The impact is manifested by a vertically integrated structure that the company has maintained over the years, starting with research and development as its base, then proceeding upward into instrument design, manufacture, instrument sales, and field services, and finally at the top, interpretation services. Personally, as a long-time collaborator with Zonge, I postulate that their research strategy forms the base of the company as they are always evolving their products, looking into new technologies and areas to grow, and trying new concepts in the field to improve resolution and/or open up new markets for EM and electrical geophysics.

Zonge Engineering and Research Organization, or ZERO, was founded in 1972 by Ken Zonge who had completed his PhD studies at the University of Arizona researching induced polarization (IP), a variant of the DC resistivity method that is especially useful for mineral exploration. Hence the company’s longtime headquarters was founded in Tucson, Arizona. Struggling to identify effective field instrumentation that provided the data quality necessary for exploration, the company’s initial focus was to manufacture equipment for making IP measurements and deploying the instrumentation for the mining industry. The measurement portfolio soon diversified to include time-domain electromagnetic (TEM), magnetotelluric, and controlled-source audio magnetotelluric measurements. The research and development that Zonge applied to meet the needs of the mineral exploration industry as well as at the time new IP and EM applications in oil exploration led to the first microprocessor-based, multimethod acquisition system known as the GDP-12 in the late1970s, later followed by the GDP-16 and GDP-32. Ken’s commitment to the development of early digital field instrumentation resulted in Ken receiving SEG’s Cecil Green Enterprise Award in 1995.

Starting in the 1990s, the acquisition services diversified further into groundwater exploration and management, followed later by applications in near-surface environmental geophysics with the incorporation of large-scale multiplexing within the GDP system for multielectrode DC/IP acquisition as applied to hazardous waste detection and remediation. Zonge continued to diversify its product line with the advent of the NanoTEM near-surface TEM imaging system and, later, the Dynamic NanoTEM that was mounted on an easily deployable nonmetallic cart for unexploded ordnance detection and classification. Each of these ventures into new service areas was proceeded by appropriate research and development efforts that led to the required advances in their instrumentation offering.

In 2004, the employees of Zonge began the process of purchasing the company from the Zonge family, and this process was completed with Ken’s retirement in 2011. After completion of the buyout, the company name was officially changed to Zonge International (ZI). Currently ZI remains an entirely employee-owned company consisting of a small group of geophysicists with more than 100 years of collective experience, an engineering team with more than 60 years of collective experience in the development of geophysical instruments specifically designed for EM exploration, and offices in Tucson, Arizona; Reno, Nevada; and Soldotna, Alaska. ZI continues to offer instrument sales and data acquisition services worldwide, with most data acquisition surveys performed in North America (field crews in the United States and Mexico), although the company also supports occasional large international projects, and the majority of instrument and software sales in Asia and Africa.

In summary, Zonge has enriched exploration geophysics worldwide with a range of innovative instrumentation that allows the acquisition of exceptional quality EM data with higher sensitivity to subsurface targets and structures of interest, as well as providing multiphysics data acquisition services to the mining, oil and gas, groundwater, and near-surface engineering and environmental industries. The two key elements in Zonge’s success are (1) the ability to have a foot in both the instrumentation manufacturing and data acquisition services sectors of the geophysics industry, and (2) a strong research and development component that focuses on developing new instruments with increased signal-to-noise ratio capabilities that are easier to use than past generations, as well as associated software for the processing and imaging of the data. It is particularly fitting that SEG this year honors Zonge International with its Distinguished Achievement Award, and I would like to congratulate the company on its achievements.