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Colin Oakman, 1955-2008

It is with extreme sadness that I write this short piece to let the Geological Society members know about the untimely death of Colin Oakman on 25 May 2008. Luckily for me Colin was a well-known figure in North Sea geology and had an enormous circle of friends and colleagues who have been keen to help me write these words.

Colin’s geological education comprised a BSc from Sheffield, an MSc from Leicester and a PhD from Aberdeen. These are the bare facts of the man but tell you little about who he was. There were two important sides to Colin, the man and the geologist, difficult to separate but it makes my writing a little easier to do so. As to the man, I take the following words from Barry Hepworth who expresses his admiration for Colin in a way that does not need my translation: “generous, warm-hearted, fun to be around, infectious laugh, larger-than-life character, passionate, enthusiastic”. That is the character of Colin in a nutshell and I can only too easily think of the many generous acts that he extended to me and to my family. It is also worth fondly remembering some of his more interesting traits, such as his fear of flying (only partially remedied by G&Ts), and his ability to carbonise enthusiastically almost anything on a barbeque.

As for Colin the geologist, where to begin? Colin was never a man to do things by halves and if he were going to do something he would do it properly. His career really began with his PhD at Aberdeen University where he investigated the Dinantian carbonates of Derbyshire. This led to a job with Robertson Research where he became an invaluable member of their carbonate reservoir group. Moving to Britoil in 1985 he gained invaluable experience with a major operator. Paradoxically it was the oil price crash in 1986 and associated lay-offs that were the making of Colin the geologist. With Duncan MacIntyre he set up the company Reservoir Research which produced the highly successful “Brae Trend” report, followed by a whole series of studies which tried to analyse petrophysically, and put into stratigraphic context, every single Jurassic penetration in the North Sea. As I said, Colin did things properly.

The more recent part of Colin’s career carried on this theme of in-depth study, but this time dedicated to the North Sea Cretaceous. In association with Mark Partington, he wrote the Cretaceous chapter in Ken Glennie’s Petroleum Geology of the North Sea. He also put together an important Cretaceous seminar and presented it to many companies and individuals. His most recent work was with PGS where Colin worked over large areas of the North Sea to reconcile the Lower Cretaceous well penetrations with a regional 3D seismic dataset.

Finally there was Colin the family man; his love for his wife Beverley and delight in his son Jonathan for whom his loss will leave an immense hole. Colin will also be sorely missed by his friends and colleagues in the industry. For a generation of North Sea explorationists, he was a major mover and shaker in the elusive Lower Cretaceous “play” and his seminar volumes will remain valuable reference sources for years to come.

Bob Downie, with thanks to Barry Hepworth and John Martin