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Mauro Beltrandi 1921-2009

Dr Mauro Beltrandi died peacefully in London on 1 December 2009 aged 88.

Born on 21 October 1921 in Tortona, Italy, he was conscripted into the Italian army, imprisoned by the Germans in 1943 and sent to PoW camps in Poland and East Germany. On returning to Italy at the end of 1945 he studied geology at the University of Florence. He graduated in 1948 and soon after joined AGIP as a petroleum geologist.

Mauro was hired by the Gulf Oil Corporation in the early 1950s to work with Professor Hollis Hedberg, then Gulf’s head of exploration, and was to spend an entire career applying scientific thinking to the development of new oil reserves for the Company. He ran Gulf’s exploration programme in south-central Italy, where in Abruzzo the Cigno oil field was discovered, and was involved in other discoveries in Ragusa, Sicily.

In 1957, the year he married his wife Maria, he was transferred to Tripoli, Libya . As a result of his exploratory work, Gulf drilled the first discovery in the Murzuk Basin. He spent the next couple of years trying to convince Gulf’s management of the opportunities that Libya presented. However Gulf decided to move out of Libya - just before the greatest discoveries were made. Frustrated by this he left Gulf in 1960 and went to Rome to work as a consultant and an independent geologist. Between 1962 and ‘65 he worked as an exploration geologist in east Africa based in Somalia.

Mauro’s forte was the exploration of entire petroleum basins – he had a true talent in quickly assembling, digesting and presenting large amounts of data in a clear and efficient manner. This was in marked contrast to the piecemeal exploration that was the common US practice at the time. In 1965 Gulf Oil lured him back, and from their office in Rome he supervised European explorations.

In 1969 he was transferred to Gulf’s geological research division (GR&DC, Pittsburgh USA), where he taught US exploration personnel to develop a broader exploration perspective. He returned to Europe in 1971 and as Gulf’s Vice-President in London was deeply involved in new ventures in the "Eastern Hemisphere", including mainland Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He successfully grew this business and recruited a new generation of geologists and geophysicists. In 1981 he spent his last year with Gulf Oil in Houston, involved in worldwide exploration new ventures. Throughout the 1980s and 90s he worked as an independent petroleum exploration consultant based in London.

With his infectious enthusiasm for life, physically active and young at heart, he remained in contact with many of colleagues and friends and wrote two books; the first based on his experiences in a German PoW camp during World War II. The second dealt with his fieldwork in locating the first oil discovery in Libya, and is yet to be published.

At his funeral in Kensington, Roger Bignell, one of his ex-colleagues from Gulf Oil, told the congregation: “Despite rising to the position of Vice President, he never lost his love of and his interest in geology. He was a true explorationist…. In the corporate world, as in life, he was always a great supporter of the little man, the underdog and the young, he saw through egos and stood up to bullies. With his integrity, generosity and spirit he was what we would all call a true gentleman.”

Maria, two sons (Luigi and Fred) and two grandchildren (Thomas and Julia) survive him.

Fred Beltrandi, with grateful acknowledgments to his father’s many colleagues who helped in compiling this obituary.