Principal Geophysicist Oil & gas
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Name: Ian

Job title: Principal Geophysicist (UK)

What are your qualifications?

A levels: Maths, Further Maths, Geology, Physics
BSc in Geology and Geophysics from Durham University
PhD in Marine Geophysics from Durham University

What exactly does a geophysicist do?

Although my job title is Principal Geophysicist, I would describe myself as a seismic interpreter. My current role is to interpret seismic data to provide a 3D model of complex geological structures over five kilometres beneath the North Sea. I work in a team of geologists, reservoir engineers and drilling engineers to identify where to drill, how much oil or gas is stored in the structure and what data to collect when we get there.

Apart from formal qualifications, what other skills or characteristics do you need?

Energy and enthusiasm is a key in this industry. The ability to think and visualise in 3D is also a key skill, especially when trying to interpret geological structures AND explain them to others. As a geophysicist you interact with many different disciplines to solve complex problems, so most of all you need to be able to work effectively in a team.

What sort of organisation do you work for? Who else employs geophysicists?

I work for an integrated oil and gas major – what does that mean? It means a large company that is involved in many parts of the oil & gas industry (exploration, production, transport and distribution). However, geophysicists are also employed in smaller independent exploration-production companies, seismic acquisition and processing contractors, in academia and in many non-hydrocarbon industries such as construction and hydrogeology.

Do you travel within the UK or overseas very much?

In my current role in the North Sea, most travel is from London to Aberdeen - although I also spend some time in Norway. However, in my previous role I spent three years working as a geophysicist in Trinidad.

Do you work a regular length day/week or are shifts involved?

Most of the work I do is based in the office and is therefore constrained to normal business hours, five days a week.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The most exciting part of job is when a well is drilled. This is the opportunity to test your interpretation, to see how close your view of this complex geological structure over five kilometres beneath the North Sea is to reality. I also enjoy solving complex problems, working in a team and making a difference.

What advice or extra information do you wish you’d had before starting this career?

Work experience is very valuable – if you have an opportunity of a summer job or job placements during your degree, then take it – every little helps.

What position would you like to hold in five years’ time?

I would like to lead a team similar to the one in which I am working at the moment, getting the most out of people to solve complex problems - an opportunity to make a difference!

Background image: Rock Cores. Credit: Joshuahicks, Wikimedia