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Stuart Hardy Buchan 1940-2010

SH Buchan
Stuart Buchan, who died in California aged 70, was a petroleum geologist. He was born in Surrey in June 1940, the son of Stevenson Buchan (1907-1996) the Scots field geologist and hydrogeologist who became Deputy Director of the British Geological Survey. Suffering as a child from asthma, voice lessons (to aid breathing) introduced him to the performing arts. Later, while at Cambridge, he became a Laureate of the Royal Academy of Music, and theatre became a lifetime interest.

After completing his geology degree in Cambridge, Stuart joined BP, and commenced a career spent largely overseas - including Libya, USA, Australia, Singapore – as well as Aberdeen. Much of his work involved subsurface studies but Stuart also carried out two major field surveys. In 1966 he took part in a helicopter-supported survey in the central Brooks Range (Alaska), and in 1970 led a three-month survey of coastal NE Kalimantan, Borneo, using an ex-Royal Navy coastal patrol boat as base, with outboard skiffs for penetrating the (then) untouched jungle hinterland. Encounters with poisonous snakes, and careening the ship to change a propeller, were among the incidents that made the expedition memorable; while for BP it achieved an important insight into the Cenozoic stratigraphy of its licence area north of the Mangkalihat Peninsula. Stuart’s particular strength was operations geology. Here his ability to gain maximum geological data from a well, and his person-management skills, came to the fore in training and supervising younger geologists on drilling rigs.

It was while based in Singapore (1970s) that Stuart’s involvement in amateur dramatics led to his meeting Deanne, a young widow of Scots origin, whom he later married. After a period as operations geologist for the North Sea (Aberdeen), Stuart was posted to California. By that time the Prudhoe Bay field (Alaskan North Slope) had been discovered, and he was put in charge of arbitrating BP/SOHIO’s share of its oil reserves. Stuart and Deanne found the USA very much to their liking, and they decided he should transfer from BP’s international staff, continuing to work on the Prudhoe Bay oilfield as a local employee based in Houston, Texas.

On retirement (early 1990s), Stuart left the oil industry and returned with Deanne to California. They settled outside Davis on five acres, where Stuart planted a small vineyard and started making wine. He then began a second career - counselling those who had lost their jobs, using his human-relations skills developed in BP. In addition, Stuart devoted much time to helping people with mental illness and their families, through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Under his leadership, the local chapter expanded significantly, and as President, Stuart brought his business skills to bear on developing the organisation’s programmes and improving its financial security.

Early in 2010 Stuart was diagnosed with colon cancer, but it had already spread. Surgery and chemotherapy came too late, and he died at home in California on 16 October 2010. He is survived by Deanne and step-children Laura and Neville.

Michael F Ridd