One cannot live on geophysics alone

An interview with Marian Hanna

Coordinated by: Satinder Chopra
Marian Hanna

Marian C. Hanna, P. Geoph., is currently the CSEG Vice President and sits on the CSEG Foundation Board. She has over 27 years of diverse experience in the oil and gas industry. Marian started out as a seismic processing geophysicist with Amoco moving into interpretation with an emphasis on reservoir characterization. Marian’s experience includes many successful, collaborative technical and business contributions ranging from international basins and domestic North American basins covering onshore to deep water settings in all aspects of exploration, development and production including business development/new ventures concluding in over 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent producible reserves worldwide.

Marian is very active in volunteering professionally and for her community in every city she has resided. Here in Calgary, she has previously served on the CSEG RECORDER editorial staff (2008-2010), GeoConvention Technical co-chair 2013 and as the Chief Geophysicists Forum (CGF) Chair (2011 & 2012) and CGF Secretary (2010). She is also part of the CSEG Mentor program and has helped a lot of young aspiring geophysicists and a few more mature ones with networking, feedback and even jobs. Marian has presented to the SPEE (Society of Petroleum Engineer Evaluators) on using geophysics for reserves and resources and the first CSEG Symposium on the same subject. Marian is a member of the CSEG, SEG, serving on the Oil and Gas Reserves Committee and SEG Council, APEGA, AAPG (C.P.G.) and SPE.

Many geophysicists make the mistake of not broadening their understanding of geology, engineering, and economics. A geophysicist may not understand or be able to convince others of the true value of what geophysics has to offer without that broader perspective. But the reality is that if we integrate multi-disciplinary data deep into our work, we will have a thorough approach to our solutions.

So what does this mean to the geophysicist? At university, enroll in courses outside your core curriculum. Consider economics, business, geology, and engineering electives. A psychology course or two wouldn’t hurt either. Enter the AAPG’s Imperial Barrel Award or encourage your department or company to hold a similar workshop incorporating geology, geophysics, engineering, and business. This type of workshop is often best positioned for final-year or postgraduate students or any employee in an oil and gas company. The premise is to have one person of each discipline on a team. Each group is given a fictitious budget and with that money the teams compete for exploration licenses, acquire or process seismic, drill a well, and put the well on production while looking at the rate of return on the investment and any other financial drivers, including booking reserves and resources. This is all done in competition with the other teams and everyone receives real well data, seismic, and production data as they work through the steps. Sounds like real life in the oil and gas industry, doesn’t it?


There may be many times in your career that you can look back and smile at such an assignment. Multi-disciplinary teamwork can bring some of the most frustrating and most exciting experiences. Why exciting? It can be ground-breaking and it is often the kind of effort required to conquer major hurdles in a company’s exploration program. Why frustrating? Because you not only have to generate ideas, but you need to convince your teammates and management of your approach and how it integrates all your data. That is not always easy – your idea may be dismissed readily by those that don’t quite see your vision. Hang in there! Remember that it is always easier to shoot an idea down than come up with something original. If your idea is truly a good one then don’t give up. As the saying goes, a new idea is like a child. It’s easier to conceive than to deliver.

If you can prove your point with scienti!c methods then you are on to something big. And you will know your idea is fantastic when others attach themselves to your work, or copy it. There is an old saying that acting on a good idea is better than just having a good idea. So start working hard on your next great idea!


The title of your article is very inspiring. It is very relevant to those from the previous generation with a narrow training in geophysics, or whatever was learned not being relevant for the job being carried out. Geoscientists today are coming armed with a lot more than just geophysics or geology. Would you like to comment on this aspect as well?

Perhaps I am not fully aware of what universities require in their course curriculum but I would suggest that electives are where some of the engineering, further geology, business or soft skill training is taken and that is the choice of the student. This is not always accomplished even today from my conversations with new and recent students.

The concept of multidisciplinary teams that you mention is not new. Introduced in the early 1990s, gradually more and more emphasis has been placed on carrying out exploration and production with such teams that are expected to be smaller and more efficient. While this concept took some time to get off the ground, it is more than a buzz word now. How do you think such teams have helped the companies that committed to such organizational changes?

For those companies that have accomplished a true sense of a multi-disciplinary team my belief is that the results of reserves added or replaced and revenue generation with effective cost management speak for themselves. We have quite a few Canadian companies that excel in this area.

Talking about new or novel ideas and their implementation within multidisciplinary teams is not easy, as you rightly mention. Do you think such ideas are really coming forward, or they are being shot down before they can properly germinate?

I think it depends on the culture of the company. I’ve been exposed to several corporate cultures and some are better than others which are usually due to management empowerment and promotion of their people. I do believe novel ideas are coming forward such as the CSEG CGF document on using geophysics for reserves and resources to get that message out on value added geophysics. However, recently I had a conversation with a geologist at a reserves audit company who said he only considers geophysics as seismic and it is only used for mapping and nothing further. That close-minded approach is what many geophysicists still face. Perhaps a close minded view will ensure extinction and not the evolution we need.

Presently, quantitative interpretation captures the exploration or production criteria into an integrated model using the available knowledge- and data-driven frameworks, and yielding relative probability of oil and gas occurrence. This scenario is most suited for multidisciplinary teams. Your comments please.

It is so true, and usually it is done with well data driving the integrated model. This is great in a mature basin such as the WCSB where existing data can be used; then the model can and should be updated as further information becomes available. At the risk of promoting integrated work further, I am proposing this type of work should be implemented even in an area with little well data such as a frontier exploration area. It is sometimes done but perhaps it could be done better.

For the multidisciplinary team members who come up with new ideas, you very appropriately mention that ‘you need to convince your team members and management of your approach and how it integrates all your data’. Besides having confidence in one’s ideas, what do you think are some other ways that could be adopted, so as to learn the art of convincing others?

Therein lies the soft skills and emotional intelligence maturity of all those involved. When we understand what kind of information we need and in what format, in order to accept an idea and to work collaboratively, then we become an asset to the team instead of a barrier. Making others aware of our needs for project work while considering the needs from the team can really have a huge impact. For instance, some people or cultures like numbers that show validity, others want to see things in print since we all absorb more than ~60+% of information from reading, others need to be drawn into the formulation of an idea or theory on a one-on-one basis in order to contribute and problem-solve and some folks don’t want to know all the details, just the highlights. In this industry, as many others, we are not just scientists but we are sales folks too. We sell opportunities to invest for an economic reward and this is a business first and foremost.

Sometimes when a good idea gets shot down, the originator of the idea gets frustrated. If we carefully examine why such a thing could have happened, we may find that either the other team members are not ready to receive the proposed idea, or there is some politics going on in the team, or some such thing. As we realize that the originator of the new idea should not cave in to such attitude, what do you think could be done, so that the team members really listen and appreciate good ideas?

I would say, be aware of your team, management needs and make your needs known. This can be personal, scientific, business, or other needs to produce an outstanding investment opportunity. For instance, do you know what challenges the other team members are facing and what questions need to be answered or addressed in the project area? If not, go ask them, really listen, reiterate what you heard to make sure you understood, then offer an opportunity to brainstorm with them about how to address those challenges with the use of geophysical data in the integrated workflow. Once you become an asset to the team then you will continue to be brought into the discussion for your impactful ideas. Here is an example. I was in an offshore, deep water Brazil team that was drilling a well following a huge blowout tragedy by another company. There were several challenges that the drillers had to face to prevent another tragedy. I sat down with them to learn what their concerns were which included shallow hazards, casing configurations and potential overpressure to name a few. We discussed some potential solutions we could offer and were met with some skepticism. I went back to my office and did some work on identifying shallow hazards with some post stack processing incorporating the known near surface geology and seafloor current activity; some pore pressure velocity work and some detailed depositional work on the formations at or near casing points. The geologist and I incorporated all other data that I was not aware of and updated those interpretations. We correctly predicted a shallow hazard in the near surface within centimeters including offering a solution prior to drilling and the casing points were adjusted to incorporate the pore pressure and formation information. The drillers were thrilled! We saved a bunch of money, prevented the well from potential problems and drilled a discovery! From that point forward, they would bring us other issues to see if we could help. We had become an asset to the team and geophysics wasn’t just an expense. After the discovery, the geologist and I worked on all reserve and resource potential of the discovery offering the estimations prior to be being asked. The reservoir engineers and reserve audit company indicated it was the easiest booking they had ever worked on and they enjoyed the collaborative effort.

You have mentioned a couple of sayings in your article. I would like to mention one too: ‘The key to success is in having the patience of a saint’. Do you think this would help the originator of new ideas in that he keeps suggesting it to his team members again and again till they accept it?

Yes and no. If we just keep beating the same drum about an idea, then frustration sets in. However, if we ask for feedback and incorporate that feedback then we are continuing to evolve that idea. And let’s face it, sometimes ideas are ahead of their time and just need more time to become accepted. This industry is not always noted for being open minded.

Sometimes we come across individuals, to whom people listen and who can really ‘sell’ their ideas. Such people usually have a strategy in place every time they have to get people onboard. What would some of these strategies be?

Truly understanding what are the questions that need to be answered for a project and how can geophysics help the integrated approach would be a good place to start. And having the confidence to boldly go where science needs, to achieve those answers. Some people are really good at selling an idea and it might be advantageous to learn from them directly if all are open to that sharing.

We all go through some lighter moments in our lives, which when recalled later makes us smile. Would you like to share with us a couple of such lighter moments of your professional life?

These are the moments that often keep us going in the roller coaster ride of oil and gas. I have many events that I am proud of and will gladly share a couple.

The first one was early in my career when I was presenting my work at an internal technical conference within Amoco on seismic processing for steep dip imaging with potential limitations. This was before PSTM was available as it is now. I was so green in industry at that time and was very nervous. It was crowded in the little corner where I had board space and I tripped while stepping into the corner to present, therefore hitting my face on the poster and putting my blush onto the seismic section that was part of the poster. Curiously, it was an area I wanted to highlight anyway. I made a joke about it, got some laughs and kept going in spite of the ungraceful trip. Sometimes we need to laugh at ourselves. Fortunately, the presentation received great reviews internally and I still chuckle thinking about that faux pas (or was it?).

The second one was later in my career, when I was doing some exploration work offset of a deep water field after gaining production experience for some time. I was often accused of having low resource estimation numbers by the exploration team but after surviving an SEC audit and doing production work, my reply was that the collaborative estimations were often very, very accurate, i.e. equal to what was produced in some fields. Anyway, I had impressed our partners, Exxon, with some AVO work and facies classifications work on a prospect during this time. They were impressed enough to pull me aside and suggest that my work integrated into the geologic model was even better than what they did – a complement I still value since my team sometimes thought my head was in the clouds. I had moved on to another E&P company during the drilling of the prospect but I did get a call at the end of the well informing me that my work on the AVO, predicted facies and well resource estimations was dead on. I was doing a happy dance after that call when one of the executives walked by. The good news was he started happy dancing with me, without any music. It still makes me smile when we can celebrate equally and together.

At the end of the day, what matters the most to me is that I’ve made a difference in whatever I’ve done, helped other people and inspired even more to improve, including myself. All of us should continue to improve and learn. That is where the CSEG can also help in many ways.


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