February 2006 ISSUE


Faith, Seismic and Certification



If you are aware of any practice or title violations and you are able to supply evidence (i.e. a business card, website etc.) we encourage you to contact Allison Cammaert, Administrative Assistant – Compliance, at acammaert@apegga.org.


With the increased economic activity in Alberta, the Compliance Department is noticing a distinct increase in incidents of misrepresentation of professional qualifications by individuals to employers and clients. This presents a major economic and physical safety concern.

If you need to confirm whether individuals are registered or corporations hold a permit to practice, this can be done easily and quickly. Just call APEGGA or check the APEGGA website.

In order to avoid a reoccurrence of these situations, they should be reported to APEGGA’s Compliance Department for followup.

How important is this? The following is an example of potentially dangerous activities relating to the practice of geophysics in Alberta. The details were recently submitted to the Compliance Department by a professional geophysicist.

Just before Christmas, members of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists received an invitation from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists to join as associate members and to receive, for a small additional fee, “certification in petroleum geophysics.” Besides paying the fee, one just had to check some boxes on a self-questionnaire that summarized a set of relevant skills.

Both organizations — known as SEG and AAPG — are U.S. professional organizations with international membership. They serve their members well by providing publications and meetings that promote the exchange of ideas within their disciplines. In countries and regions where there is no formal professional licensing, the “active member” designation in either of these organizations is respected as an assurance that the member is qualified in his profession. Education, experience and ethical requirements are similar to those of APEGGA.

Given that SEG and APEGGA both have high standards for the certification of geophysicists, why would the AAPG offer certification in geophysics? A resumé that lists such a certification might lull a naive recruiter into the error of concluding that some candidate was truly a qualified geophysicist. Charlatans may now have a type of “mail order degree” that opens a door into the profession of geophysics.

There are some poorly trained and unskilled “geophysicists” in the oilpatch. The most worrisome are the individuals trained in a related discipline who claim that they can “do” geophysics.

This is like someone with a few phrases of high school French claiming to be fluently bilingual. He’ll be unmasked in his first conversation with genuine francophones. An unskilled seismic interpreter may be able to bluff his own management — but not other geophysicists. Should we trust the work of individuals with limited training and experience who practice without supervision?

Geologists and geophysicists use different tools when they work together to develop plays. The critical distinction is that the geophysicist is trained as a physicist. In the oil business, geophysicists typically rely on the geologist to set up the play framework. The geophysicist then marries the rocks to their acoustic expression so that the seismic method can help accomplish business goals.

Any seismic trace certainly contains information about the reservoir geology and the geological structure, but it also contains information that is dependent on the acquisition design and the processing flow. A physicist should recognize, isolate and discard these non-geological elements; others, who are unable to define such a distinction, may either articulate a conclusion that seismic doesn’t work, or construct an invalid interpretation.

These others are not trained to perform the seismic work and they should not be attempt-ing it. A dry hole can result from the inability to distinguish geol-ogy from an acoustic artifact.

Historically, geophysicists have always been in short supply. It has been necessary to allow technical support staff or members of related disciplines to perform the correlation of seismic reflection events. If such an interpretation is pre-screened and reviewed by a competent geophysicist, no harm is done.
Individuals with experience limited to colouring paper sections or running a workstation under

upervision are not geophysicists. Yet some of them are marketing themselves as such. Some of them may now have AAPG “certification” listed on their resumés.

Why should you care? What harm is done if a junior company is known to have a crummy interpreter? Isn’t it great when we know that our competitor is at a disadvantage?

If we treat this interpreter with courtesy, maybe we can take advantage of the situation to negotiate a really good land deal.

Not so fast. The issue obviously has relevance for the public if the company is listed on a stock exchange. It is also an issue for the geophysical community if our overall technical credibility is eroded. Faith in the method becomes a real issue.

Seismic can be made to add value to most plays, most times. The geophysicist must be well trained, skilled, confident and able to communicate his or her conclusions. Any seismic map is the culmination of analysis of each element of the imaging system: field design, processing flow, extraction of geological mappable parameters and, not least of all, a coherent presentation that clearly communicates the opportunities and the risks.

When you review a play with a seismic component, it is always wise to ask who did the work and the nature of his or her credentials. If you are hiring a person to interpret your seismic, you would want to choose a competent, trained and experienced geophysicist, not a geologist, electrician or shoemaker who claims to be able to “do” geophysics.

If those individuals are as skilled as they might claim, they are welcome to apply to APEGGA and be assessed as exam candidates. Until then, they should not be practicing independently.

A growing company that has just reached a size where it is appropriate to have a full-time geophysicist on staff should take care to choose one who is fully qualified. If the company intends to engage in the practice of geophysics in Alberta, a permit is required and this sole geophysicist must therefore be a genuine professional geophysicist.

Activity Report

Editor’s Note: The following statistics track 2005 Compliance Department activity. The department’s job is to enforce the right-to-practice and right-to-title provisions of the EGGP Act Part 1. The Compliance Department’s focus, therefore, is on individuals and companies that are not members — those which may be, inadvertently or otherwise, holding themselves out as members or practicing the professions illegally.

Active files as of Jan. 1, 2005



Files opened during period



Files Resolved for Individuals






   Ceased using restricted title



   Personal registration



   Verified not practicing






   Files Resolved for Companies






   Permits issued or reinstated



   Ceased using restricted title/violating



   Verified not practicing






Active Files at Dec. 31, 2005




*Note: Other files were resolved for various reasons, such as confirmation that an individual or company is already registered with APEGGA, verification that an individual contacted is not living or working in Alberta, clarification that a company is actually a trade name of a member etc.