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Chris Cornford 1948-2017

dfgjChris Cornford, petroleum geochemist, Director and founder in 1983 of Integrated Geochemical Interpretation (IGI) Ltd.

Chris Cornford born 24 October 1948, died peacefully at home with his family on 4 November 2017.  He studied Geology & Chemistry at Keele University (1967-71), a combination that defined his career. An MSc in Organic Geochemistry & Coal Petrography and PhD on 'Optical properties of coal and coke' at Newcastle University were followed in 1975 by a period at the Oil and Organic Geochemistry Institute in Jülich, Germany.


In 1978 Chris joined the British National Oil Corporation (Britoil from 1982) as Organic Geochemist and Petrographer, later becoming Senior Geochemist and Acting Head Stratigrapher in Glasgow. Here he developed microscopy and GC-MS facilities and techniques for prospect evaluation in petroleum exploration. Asked to take a management role he didn’t want, and seeing an opportunity, Chris left Britoil in 1983 to set up an independent petroleum geochemical consultancy with his wife Sally. Initially in Scotland, the company moved to Bideford in North Devon in 1984, where it has remained and grown ever since.

Much of Chris’ early work at IGI focused on UK oil exploration, publishing several groundbreaking papers and book chapters on the petroleum geochemistry of North Sea oils and source rocks, an area for which he became very widely recognized. Firmly believing that there are “geochemical truths in large data sets”, he appointed a software developer and produced specialist geochemical software to integrate and contrast data from petroleum systems around the world. The resulting work provided insights into underlying geochemical processes; much of it was innovative, but being part of proprietary studies most remains known to relatively few in the field.


One of Chris’ lasting contributions to the community has been his training courses which have educated, influenced and entertained very many people in the petroleum industry and academia. He gave numerous lectures to universities and societies, and loved leading field trips in Southwest England.

Through these courses and field trips, along with conferences and visiting clients around the world, Chris made an enormous number of contacts. He was a natural at networking long before the term was commonly used in this sense, being genuinely interested in people, no matter their background or position.

To petroleum geochemists and the oil industry in general, Chris was highly respected across generations and disciplines as a deeply knowledgeable and innovative scientist. A founding committee member of the Petroleum Group of the Geological Society, he was a mentor to many, not only influencing their work but often also touching their lives more generally.  He will be fondly remembered as a positive, caring and generous person, constantly in good humour. 


Indeed, his relentless positivity and good humour were evident during his battle with prostate cancer, which he fought with dignity throughout.  True to his character, he remained engaged and interested in both family and work activities right to the end. He is survived by his wife Sally, daughter Hannah, son Dan and six grandchildren.

By Paul Farrimond