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A Geophysicist with a Giving Heart


Introduction: Every once in a while you encounter a person that has an impact on you. I have been lucky to have worked with a geophysicist that not only impacted me personally but was instrumental in my career. Mike Forrest is a man with limitless energy, great geophysicist schooled at Shell Oil and volunteer to the national Society of Exploration Geophysicist in many capacities from fund raiser (SEG Foundation and Geophysicist without Borders) to Evolve mentorship. He shows us that science is exciting and giving back is rewarding plus satisfying. Let us get to know Mike.


Rene': What was instrumental in getting you interested in the subject of Geophysics?


Mike: I liked science classes in high school, so I enrolled in the geophysics curriculum at St Louis University without knowledge of the application of geophysics.


Rene': Can you share with us the transition from the University to being a geophysicist at Shell? Was the transition easy or a challenge?


Mike: I had a summer job with Shell on a seismic crew in Texas after my college sophomore and junior years working in the field on the instrument and survey crews. So, my transition to full time job with Shell on a seismic crew in S. Louisiana (mid-50’s) was easy. I calculated weathering corrections, made seismic sections (called "point plots"), and did some interpretation.


Rene': Lets chat about your career after graduation. Everyone has a take-away learning through life, and I find it inspiring to walk along others that have journeyed through much, gathering knowledge along the way. What lessons became a part of your workflow from working at Shell?


Mike: A very important learning experience at Shell was my transfer to the Marine Exploration division in 1959. I learned Gulf of Mexico (GOM) geology, seismic interpretation details, especially salt domes, using a one-mile 2D seismic grid, and offshore lease sales. This 3-year experience was key to my exploration studies and successes in later years.


Rene': What is the most memorable project that you have worked on and its results? Any lessons learned that can be shared with our readers?


Mike: The “Bright Spot” work in the late 60’s and early 70’s is the highlight. Shell’s first major “Bright Spot” discovery was Eugene Island 331, about 200 MMBOE which is part of the Eugene Island 330 giant oil/gas field (800 MMBOE). During 1971 to 1975, Shell had many “Bright Spot” discoveries on the GOM shelf with at least total 1.5 BBOE reserves. I also was fortunate to be a member of Shell’s exploration team when we expanded GOM exploration into 5000 feet water (1985) which led to the Auger and Mars giant discoveries.


Bright Spots and Deep Water are both exciting advances in their time.


Rene’: Tell us the evolution of the story how “Bright Spots” came from an overlooked seismic anomaly to something that explorationists are still looking for today?


Mike: The “Bright Spot” concept started with my observations of changes in seismic amplitudes on the crests of structures in the GOM Pleistocene trend. The key was reviewing several oil and gas fields in the shallower water Pliocene trend with structure maps, seismic data, well logs and hydrocarbon water levels to relate seismic amplitude anomalies to oil and gas pays. Figure 1 is a seismic line similar to what would have seen seismically in the GOM as crestal bright spots.


Seismic line showing amplitude build up
Figure 1: Seismic line showing amplitude build up on the crest of structures.

Rene’: What lessons became a part of your workflow from working at Mid-size companies and consulting.


Mike: After 37 years with Shell, I worked with Maxus Energy in Dallas for five years followed by several consulting assignments. These experiences were educational, but different than Shell as the technical staff had previously worked with other companies with different exploration philosophies. The best result is that I have many new friends.


Rene’: What lessons became a part of your workflow from working with the DHI (Direct Hydrocarbon Indicator) Consortium?


Mike: Pete Rose, Roger Holeywell, and I founded the Rose &Associates DHI Risk Analysis Consortium in 2001 and I was Chair till 2018. Henry Pettingill, Rocky Roden and Roger now lead the way with learnings from studies of 375 prospects around the world. Over 30 companies (US, Europe and SE Asia) are active members to learn from detail review of criteria for risking DHI prospects to apply to their company portfolio.


Rene’: What lessons became a part of your workflow from working volunteerism for the SEG on the Foundation and Evolve programs?


Mike: I was a SEG Foundation board member for 12 years, including four years as Chair and still active in an Emeritus role. I actively support the program Geophysicist without Borders, figure 2.


Mike Forrest
Figure 2: Mike personally funding Geophysicist without Borders program.

I enjoy working with students in the SEG EVOLVE Energy Exploration program to help them learn the exploration workflow and the technical basics – and I also learn! SEG EVOLVE has had 450 students from 40+ countries during the last six years.


Rene': What part of your career has been the most rewarding?


Mike: Every part of my career has been very rewarding. I enjoy geophysics-geology integration in interpretation and the business of oil and gas exploration. My recent experiences as a mentor with the SEG EVOLVE multidisciplinary student program have been very satisfying, figure 3.


Mike addressing 2023 Evolve students
Figure 3: Mike addressing the 2023 Evolve students in person.

Rene': Every career has the one success story that we all love to tell and yet we shy away from sharing a failure. It is through failure that we learn lessons. Our industry calls these learning opportunities 'post-mortems'. Is there a good post-mortem story to share?


Mike: We all like to hear oil and gas discoveries and success stories, but the best learning can come from failures. For example, we have had soft shales, gas in non-permeable silts, and low saturation gas failures on DHI prospects – we are still learning how to use technology and geophysics-geology integration to improve the risk assessment.


Rene': In your career, what do you think are the 3 top advances in geophysics?


Mike: As an old timer, stacking and the digital revolution were huge advancements in the 1960’s. Seismic migration advancements over many years are important. Detail velocity analysis, especially FWI, are very significant today.


Rene': I know that your career has taken you on many travels; which country did you most enjoy visiting and why?


Mike: The DHI Consortium provided an opportunity to tour Europe during the past 15 years – 35 trips including geologic field sessions in southern France and South Africa. Patsy and I love to travel; we added cruises on some of the trips; travel in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado; and greatly enjoyed Estes Park during June, 2023.


Rene': What future developing technology in geophysics do you think looks promising?


Mike: Ocean Bottom Node seismic acquisition. We need to improve geophysics-geology integration. Companies are learning the impact of AI and Machine Learning.


Rene': What advice would you share with the young professional today?


Mike: Continuous and multidisciplinary learning are very important. Young Professionals need to be prepared for different kinds of jobs.


Summary: Mike thanks for sharing your sage advice and the enjoyment that you get from science from high school, through your career, continuing on as you mentor the young professionals - and not stopping as you pass the milestone of 65 years+ in geophysics. You are a vessel of knowledge and enthusiasm. Anyone that has the pleasure of crossing your path will surely share the same sentiments. You are a role model and hope that you inspire others to follow in your steps to pursue new technology, volunteer and give back to the incoming geophysicist to the Energy Industry.

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