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The Aberconway Medal

""Established in 1992 by a donation from English China Clays Ltd, this Medal will be awarded normally to persons with no more than 25 years full time equivalent experience and to recognise distinction in the practice of geology with special reference to work in industry. Awards of the medal are made biennially.

The Aberconway Medal is not being awarded in 2017. 

The 2015 Aberconway Medal was awarded to Stuart Archer


The Society’s Aberconway Medal, awarded for contributions to applied geology, goes this year to Dr Stuart Archer of Dana Petroleum.

Stuart Archer’s work straddles the often challenging interface between industry and academe. Following a BSc at the University of Glasgow and a Master’s degree at the University of Aberdeen, he entered the oil business, working for ConocoPhillips for 12 years, covering a wide range of positions in exploration and production geology. Here he made a fundamental contribution to exploration efforts on the Atlantic Margin and also in the reservoir characterisation of fields in the Central North Sea, as well as broader studies of the Deepwater Palaeogene reservoir system in the Gulf of Mexico.

This work led to some seminal publications - notably on the geodynamic evolution and petroleum potential of the Rockall Trough, and in the Central North Sea on the Britannia Field, and the recent Jasmine discovery. He also completed a PhD in Aberdeen – an innovative study that developed methods in ‘geomorphic sequence stratigraphy’, as applied to river systems in the Basin and Range Province of the USA. Then, in 2009 Stuart quit industry for his alma mater, becoming Director of the University of Aberdeen’s ‘exploHUB’ – a unique, immersive exploration training centre, reinvigorating regional hydrocarbon exploration and catering for staff from major international oil companies, national oil companies and oil service companies. ExploHUB’s success led to the development of a new MSc in Hydrocarbon Exploration and this is a tribute to Stuart’s enthusiasm, his clear commitment to teaching and sheer hard work.

Stuart has also served on the Petroleum Group Committee, as a committee member and then Secretary, taking responsibility for its public outreach activities, always willing to explain the importance of petroleum geoscience in delivering much-needed energy to the world.

The energy and passion that he has brought, coupled with his deep industry experience and willingness to collaborate across industrial / academic boundaries have made him a natural leader in world of petroleum geoscience. Stuart Archer, you are a worthy recipient of the Aberconway Medal and it is my great pleasure to award it to you now.


Good Afternoon President, learned Colleagues and Guests. It is a very great pleasure to be here in London at the Geological Society to be able to accept the Aberconway Medal.

Firstly, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Society for the strategic leadership role it performs in service of our geological community. Thanks also go to the many industrial and academic colleagues who I have collaborated with over the years. Nothing that I have ever accomplished has been achieved in isolation and I am very fortunate to have worked in teams alongside some very talented geoscientists and engineers, who have been, equally importantly in my view, great people to be around.

I was introduced to geology in the late ‘80s by my high school geography teacher. Morton Fraser was a 6 foot tall, charismatic, old Highlander who wore a kilt to his work every day of his life. While never a professional geologist himself, he taught both physical geography and geology with great skill and flair. Thinking back, as these occasions allow you to do, it was the way Mr Fraser elegantly fused science and art that got me started – I was on the hook.

The encouragement I drew from this teacher and then later university lecturers was always a really important catalyst for me.

Once trained to postgraduate level at Aberdeen University, it was Phil Gardner and Phil Close at ConocoPhillips that convinced me it was time to get a real job. And so I joined an oil company (with some trepidation I might add) but was made to feel instantly welcome in the global geoscience meritocracy that is the oil and gas industry.

More recently it has been a great privilege to have supervised 12 PhD students and mentored 30 MSc students while I taught at Aberdeen University. Teaching in the class room (and in that invaluable outdoor classroom that we call the field), has been a source of great fulfilment for me.

In my current position in Dana Petroleum I’m greatly enjoying merging my previous industrial and academic experience to maximise the value of our asset base for KNOC, Dana’s Korean owner. I’d like to close by looking to the future with positivity and a genuine belief that team work and collaboration will prevail where geoscience problem solving has role in applied geology. I believe that a stronger sense ‘of team’ between oil companies and more importantly between industry and the new oil and gas authority is needed in the North Sea today, arguably more than at any other time in its long history. 2015 is the 50th anniversary of first gas and the 40th anniversary of first oil from the North Sea, and the complexities that come with operating in a basin that in my view now needs to be classed as ultra-mature means we simply have to work together as TEAM NORTH SEA to get this right…………..the basin may be tired, but it’s not yet ready to be re-tired!

Ladies and Gentlemen, the great honour and privilege that I feel in accepting this award today will stay with me and my family as an afterglow of positivity for a very long time.

Thank you very much indeed