Davendra K. Agarwal

December 1, 1936January 6, 2019

Davendra ‘Dave’ Kumar Agarwal, 82, passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones on 6 January 2019 at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. He fought a brief but ferocious battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was born on 1 December 1936 in Moradabad, India to Amir Singh Agarwal and Chandravati Singhal Agarwal. Dave grew up in India. He attended the Indian Institute of Technology Karaghpur (IIT KGP), which was the first IIT to be established. He graduated top in his class and received a Bachelor of Science in Geology and Geophysics on 1 June 1956. He then traveled to London, England where he studied at The University of London’s Imperial College of Science and Technology where on 6 August 1959 he received a Master of Science in Geophysics. He was presented his diploma at graduation by the Queen Mother. While in London he met the beautiful, incomparable Roshanak Zarrabi and fell in love. His first job was for Geophysical Service Inc. (GSI) and his first assignment was in Iran. After meeting Roshan’s family in Iran and gaining their approval, they married on 22 March 1961 in Tehran, Iran. They were happily married for almost 58 years. Dave and Roshan lived in Iran, Lebanon and England before being transferred to Houston, Texas in August 1978, where they have lived ever since. Wherever they lived they made life-long friends. They traveled extensively throughout the world and shared their love of road trips, and wanderlust with their children. After working for GSI for over 15 years, Dave worked for Cities Service for many years. He later worked for Newmont before co-founding a consulting company called Interactive Interpretation and Training (IIT) with Les Denham. They successfully ran their company for 24 years. Dave was an active member of several Geologic and Geophysical Societies including the Geophysical Society of Houston (GSH), where he served 2 years as President and continued to volunteer thereafter. He also served with the Southeast Asian Chamber of Commerce. Dave enjoyed being with his family, traveling, going on cruises, playing bridge, reading, following the stock market, politics, good food (particularly Iranian and Indian home cooking), the Houston Texans, visiting friends, and volunteering at the GSH and other organizations. He was recognized for his contributions to the many organizations he served. Dave is survived by his beloved wife Roshan Agarwal, his children Rita Agarwal MD (Jon Burch MD) Palo Alto, CA, Ravin Agarwal MBA (Dina) Chicago, IL, and Bijan Agarwal MBA, PhD (Negin Samizadeh) Jakarta, Indonesia; his grandchildren Alexander Burch, Arvand Agarwal, Nadia Agarwal, Christopher Burch, David Burch, Rayan Agarwal, and Niko Agarwal; his nieces Mojgan Withers (John Withers JD), Sherri Hekmat, Bita Aminian, and nephews Byron Zarrabi, Shahin Hekmat, Rajat Agarwal, Navneet Agarwal, Sanjeev Agarwal and many other friends and relatives. Dave was loved and respected by all who knew him. He was a kind, caring, brilliant, thoughtful, insightful man, a pioneer in oil exploration, a quiet man with the heart of an adventurer who was considered a second father or grandfather by many. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Dave was preceded in death by his parents, sister, brothers and beloved mother-in-law Mrs. Monirsadat Zarrabi. A Memorial and Celebration of Life will be held at Forest Park Westheimer Funeral Home, 12800 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX at 10am on 19 January 2019. A reception will follow. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation at If the link does not work, please go the tribute pages under the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Website and search Davendra Agarwal. Condolences and memories may be left on Davendra (Dave ) Agarwal online guest book at Please share memories and photos freely.


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Davendra K. Agarwal

have a memory or condolence to add?

rita agarwal

January 13, 2019

Roshan and Dave

Rita Agarwal1

January 13, 2019

you loved your grandchildren

Rita Agarwal1

January 13, 2019

Rita Agarwal

January 10, 2019

You were the best father, the best man, the smartest and most wonderful grandfather. I will never forget you chasing Alexander and the twins around your house calling "I'm going to get you".




D.K. Agarwal

This is to share my several decades of experience as a student, professional geophysicist, manager and a co-founder & CEO of a successful consulting company which I named after my Alma mater, IIT (Interactive Interpretation & Training - II&T). During these wonderful and adventurous years, I met/worked with many well-known geophysicists, explored various petroliferous basins around the world, and made some major discoveries, using very basic, analog, single-fold reflection and refraction seismic and velocity data on analog paper records or film displays, while living in tents with field crews. Thus, the focus of this article is on the historical events/techniques/procedures used in the nineteen fifties, sixties, and early seventies, before 3D seismic data acquisition and processing became an acceptable norm and a must use technique.

When I came to IIT Kharagpur in 1953, I recall in his welcome address, Dr. J.C. Ghosh, the director, encouraged all incoming students to join the relatively new and not very well-known department of Geology and Geophysics. In a personal interview with Dr. Ghosh, I inquired about a typical career path for Geophysicists and was surprised to learn about the possibilities of an adventurous life, discoveries of hydrocarbons, meeting extraordinary people, experiencing different cultures in many countries of the world, achieving self-fulfillment etc. This set me on an ambitious path to become a Geoscientist. I spent three memorable years at IIT (Fig.1), under the tutelage of some distinguished instructors like Professors T.C. Bagchi, P.K. Bhattacharya, Amalendu Roy, S. N. Sirkar, among others. After obtaining my B.Sc. (Hons.) Degree in Geology and Geophysics, I was selected by CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research) for the 1957 Assam Oil Company scholarship for post graduate studies at the famous Imperial College in London, U.K.

Soon after arrival in London, in the shadows of the Imperial College, I met Mrs. D. Speedy, the wife of the much-hated British District Magistrate of Midnapore, James Peddie. Peddie was shot and killed by revolutionaries on April 7th, 1931 while visiting Midnapore Collegiate School. He had been in charge of the old district jail where the IIT Kharagpur campus was located. Mrs. Speedy (she had changed her family name probably to avoid recognition by Indian revolutionaries) and I bonded because of our respective fond memories of Hijli (Kharagpur). She could not believe that the jail had been converted to a most advanced Engineering College. She bore no malice towards Indians.

I broke with the tradition of choosing Potential Methods as the subject of my M.Sc. dissertation (Imperial College specialized in Potential Methods), instead choosing “Synthetic Seismogram (SS)”. The mid-fifties was the era of SS; there was considerable talk and research on it but not much was published, so I decided to produce my own SS. Prof. Bruckshaw, the Department Head, initially discouraged me because of lack of facilities. However, he did put me in touch with the famous Nigel Allister Anstey, who at that time was an Instrument Engineer with SSL (Seismograph Service Limited), based in Holwood, Kent. Nigel helped with the production of seismic pulses/signal etc., but I had to generate the stickogram (series of spikes indicating the sign and magnitude of the reflectivity at successive interfaces). My tools were: a hand operated calculator, paper and pencil, and long-hours of work, determination, and patience. It took several weeks to produce a set of traces (a synthetic seismic record). External Examiners (Cambridge and other universities) were surprised, and recommended that I continue the research on SS with more modern facilities.

In my time at Imperial College I met some people who went on to become luminaries in the world of geophysics. Reg Neale, my contemporary at IC, was working for his Ph.D. there. Reg later in 1981 co-founded Geophysical Development Corporation (now Geokinetics), along with Fred Hilterman (Mobil Oil, University of Houston), and John Sherwood (IC graduate, Chevron, Digicon, and inventor of many data processing techniques including DMO), and Rolando Lara (Chevron, Digicon).

Following graduation, I applied for a job in India, but received a letter from PM Nehru's office offering an unspecified position in the “officer’s Pool”. Instead, I accepted a job with Geophysical Service Inc. (GSI), a subsidiary of Texas Instruments, as a “Computer Trainee” - yes, we were the computers in those days! I started at GSI’s London office (Roman House) located close to the London Wall built by the Romans.

While at IC, I had met Roshan, the love of my life, at an International Student gathering in Greenwich, London, within a stone’s throw of the Zero Meridian marker. Roshan is from Tehran, Iran. She was then in the final phases of her studies and was preparing to leave for home. At that time, I was third in line for an overseas transfer with GSI, but by sheer chance, I was transferred to Iran. We were even able to take the same flight to Tehran, arriving there just before Iran celebrated the birth of Crown Prince Reza on Oct. 31, 1960. I was convinced that marrying Roshan was “meant to be”, intended by God, given the incredibly coincidental sequence of events that had brought the two of us together in Tehran. We were married in March, 1961 in Tehran, while I was on leave from a field crew in the Zagros Mountains region of South Iran (Fig. 2).

A brief synopsis of the Zagros mountain area, the most interesting basin I have worked in, is important, in order to understand the challenges we faced with our available tools. The Zagros is a geologist's paradise, being a fold and thrust belt formed by collision of two tectonic plates: the Eurasian Plate, and the Arabian Plate. This collision primarily occurred during the Miocene, and folded the entire geologic section that had been deposited from the Carboniferous to the Miocene in the geosyncline between the two Plates. Total sedimentary thickness of the post Pre-Cambrian sedimentary section is estimated to be some 15,000 meters.

The Khuzistan region north-west of Bushehr comprises the main oil province in onshore Iran. This is dominated by elongate, NW-SE trending anticlines created by thrusting during closure of the Gulf geosyncline. Decollements associated with evaporitic layers means that the structure seen at the surface is not always coincidental with the structure at hydrocarbon bearing levels at depth. The major reservoirs in the Khuzistan region are the Asmari (Oligo-Miocene) limestone, and limestones of the Late Cretaceous Bangestan group (Fig. 2). A characteristic of the Asmari group is that despite its generally poor matrix porosity, it has high fracture porosity and incredibly high permeability caused by folding. The ultimate seal to the Asmari is the Gachsaran evaporate. The presence of enormous quantities of oil and associated gas precludes any doubts about the presence of source rocks, believed to be Late Cretaceous in age.

We stayed in field camps that we would pick up and move from time to time. These camps were large, with 12-15 expatriates and up to 200 support staff. We had helicopter support for transportation to and from remote “fly camps” in inaccessible areas. We worked hard, about 10 hours per day, every day for three weeks during the day, played horse shoe, volleyball, or bridge in the evenings, slept in tents, learned to live with desert scorpions, lizards, flies, mosquitoes etc. We had a week off after three weeks.

GSI had a policy of requiring field training for new “computers” like me by spending one week with each phase of the field operations: shooting, jug-hustling, recording, surveying, and mechanics “garage”. We used very simple and relatively crude analog technology – essentially recording single-fold field data on photographic paper/film, and later on Techno tapes & FM Disks. Refraction data were recorded in mountainous areas on paper records only, while reflection data were recorded in valleys and relatively flat plains (Fig. 2) on films and tapes. Tapes were “processed” by applying static corrections and dynamic corrections using a pre-designed velocity cam which was cut to correspond to the NMO function, then washing and labeling, and finally splicing the processed film/records to make a continuous section. These sections were then printed and used to interpret data, update progress maps etc. and were sent to the client’s Chief Geophysicist in Tehran.

Up until about the late nineteen fifties, drilling in Iran was mostly based on surface structures, with many dry holes. Refraction and reflection seismic surveys indicated asymmetrical, sausage-shaped reservoir structures, with structural axis shifted as much as 5-7 km with respect to surface structures and thrust faults. This knowledge allowed us to make major discoveries. We were doing refraction work in inaccessible, high mountainous areas of the Zagros range. To ensure a good S/N ratio paper record, we used 2000-5000 pounds per shot of dynamite as the source. It blew up the sides of the mountains and there were no second chances; this helicopter and donkey/mule/truck supported operation was very expensive.

We prepared regional velocity maps based on seismic data (first breaks), up-hole shots, etc. which were calibrated by well velocity surveys. One of the most memorable (and scary) check-shot surveys I had the privilege to lead was located about 250 kilometers from our campsite. We had to cross a mountainous area where we suddenly found ourselves caught in an intense thunder, rain, and lightning storm, with a pickup truck full of dynamite, valuable equipment, and people! Huge bolts of lightning were striking all around us, and we had nowhere to hide. We eventually found a small hill with a drivable track around it that provided a reasonable barrier to protect us in case of an explosion. Luckily, the storm passed after an hour or so, without exploding the dynamite, and we were able to resume our drive to the destination.

During the late fifties/early sixties, there were fundamental limitations in the application of analog techniques: the noise, accuracy, and dynamic range of the data acquisition process, use of dynamite only for source, single-fold, limited geophone strings with only up to 24 channels etc. Regardless, we were developing ideas to improve on Signal-to-Noise ratio - limited shot-hole patterns, shot depths/tamping, geophone arrays, multiple simultaneous shots along the entire recording spread, thus forming a cylindrical wave-front feeding into recording channels, etc. Concurrently, Harry Mayne and others in the USA were working on multi-fold CDP data and digital recording and processing systems. We were not aware of it in Iran as our only means of communication was radio conversation with client and field crew personnel only. Besides, most of the new developments were secretly guarded.

Much later, in the early 60’s, we began recording CDP shots using analog systems. One of the “computers” manually manipulated circuits and wires which summed together the CDP data; the summing equipment was quite a monstrosity. It worked, but the process was very difficult, complicated, and tedious. It was at around this time that I began to get especially interested in digital technology, and attended GSI’s internal seminar on digital acquisition and processing. Interestingly, a key seminar instructor, Rudy Prince, did not show up as he had quit GSI to found a processing company called Digicon Geophysical Corp. (now CGG Veritas).

I was transferred in March 1966 to Saudi Arabia to work for Aramco, and arrived in Beirut for my work visa. Housing was not available in Dhahran's secured, one-mile square compound, so we were asked to rent an apartment in Beirut. Being in Beirut was just like being in heaven - those were the golden days of Beirut and Lebanon and unlike now, living there was extremely safe. So, some 12 months later, when Dhahran housing did become available, most GSI families refused to move to Saudi Arabia.

My assignment in Saudi Arabia was to re-interpret about 100,000 line kms. of refraction data in order for Aramco to decide whether the acreage the data covered should be relinquished. Most of the refraction data in Saudi Arabia were recorded continuously along in-line directions only. Based on basic principles of refraction surveying for two- layer cases, we got a programmer to write a software for a Common Surface Point (CSP) two-fold stack (not to be confused with CDP, because depth points of refracting waves are far apart, depending upon depth). We were able to display the 24-channel stacks on films for each surface location, and to splice them together to produce a continuous film section along the line, just like a reflection section. This innovative method worked because of very gentle dips; we did have misties where there were structures.

My most lasting memory of the Saudi assignment was from the 1967 war between the Arabs and Israel. GSI families living in Beirut were evacuated to Greece via a chartered boat to Cyprus, and then by plane to Athens. This group included wives and children (three of them ours, aged 2, 3, and 5). Nobody in GSI’s Saudi or any other GSI office around the world knew exactly where they had gone, as communications to the Middle East were almost impossible. I took the first available flight to Athens out of Dhahran, but could not find the family. After a desperate search for 2-3 days, I located them at Vouliagmeni Beach, some 20 km south of Athens. After that, families for American companies were not allowed to return to Beirut for an extended period, so Roshan decided to stay with her brother who was working in Afghanistan for National Iranian Oil Co. On my next rest leave, we were fortunate to see the majestic Buddha statues carved out of the mountains in the beautiful Bamiyan valley. Sadly, much later in March 2001, the Taliban destroyed these beautiful and historic statues.

In January 1974, I joined Cities Service Oil Company at their regional office in London. Our projects were in various countries in Europe and Africa, and we were required to evaluate new acreage and drilling recommendations made by our partners including NAM (Shell-Exxon Joint Venture). We visited the Republic of Guinea, which was then a communist country, where for the first time we saw communism in action – people lining up to get their quota of the free food, with no free market shops. We were there to set up a joint venture with a Japanese company, and together we met the country's president, Ahmad Sekou Toure, to negotiate a deal. He had been the leader of the country for 26 years, but it was only in the last 5 years that he wanted to westernize the country and move into capitalism. Unfortunately, we were unable to consummate the deal because of the terms he wanted.

I was transferred to Houston in 1978, and later became Manager of Geophysics for International Operations and Technology. This required visiting multiple countries in Latin America, Africa, Far East, and South Asia, including Sri Lanka. Locations of my most memorable projects included: onshore in the Amazonas, Columbia; Parana Basin, Brazil; Mendoza and Neuquen, Argentina; Somalia; offshore Amazon delta, Brazil; NW Australia; Philippines; Indonesia; Congo; and Kenya. In offshore Kenya, finding a seismic boat to acquire data was a problem because of lack of business in that part of the world. Service Companies demanded high mobilization/demobilization fees. After considerable negotiation we finally got the project done. As a perk, I got a helicopter ride all the way from Nairobi to Mombasa and back, and squeezed in some time to go on a safari in the Masai Mara. Also in Kenya I had the pleasure of meeting Muhammad Ali, the great boxer, in 1980. He was staying in the same hotel in Nairobi, and we had breakfast together. Ali had been sent there on a mission by President Carter.

In Amazonas, Columbia, we came face-to-face with drug smugglers/dealers, but made a peaceful, verbal pact to keep out of each other’s way, and our helicopters away from jungle clearances and airstrips. In Argentina, we had contracted a British vibroseis crew for the Neuquen area, but the Falklands War broke out in 1982 between Britain and Argentina – and we had to abandon the field crew without completing the program. In Brazil, we were partners with BP in the Parana basin. The objective there was to get reflections from clastic reservoirs underlying about 1000 meters of surface basalt that would attenuate the downgoing seismic energy. We contracted a seismic crew for one year to conduct experiments to determine the best combination of source and recording parameters to obtain reasonable reflections beneath the basalt. Unfortunately, at about that time OXY (Occidental Petroleum) acquired Cities Service, and I never saw the end of that project.

About a year prior to the “merger” with OXY, I was “informally” offered two assignments – one based in Buenos Aires, and the other, as head of the Research Group in Tulsa to direct the company's research in operational and interpretation areas. I declined both, which in hindsight turned out to be good decisions. OXY shut down Cities’ 600 million dollar research facility in Tulsa, and sold most of its non-producing international assets. Only 20 of nearly 400 employees were retained, including me from the Cities International HQ staff in Houston. Most of us were transferred to Bakersfield, California. I wanted to stay in Houston, the capital of the oil industry, so I resigned. A year or so later, OXY moved to Houston!

Soon after leaving Oxy, I joined Newmont Oil Company (a subsidiary of Newmont Mining Company), as Chief Geophysicist. NOC's areas of interest were in offshore Gulf of Mexico, onshore Gulf Coast, and some international projects. We had an onshore acreage in the Lake Arthur area of Louisiana that looked promising, and with some new 2D seismic we found some 600' of pay sand at 15,000' plus depth. This contributed to increasing NOC's cash flow, and we were looking to buy other companies that had good assets. However, due to shareholder activism (by the famous T. Boone Pickens), the parent company was forced to sell NOC.

With company acquisitions becoming frequent occurrences in the early to mid-eighties, I decided to go on my own. In 1988, Les Denham (my colleague at NOC, a very capable geophysicist whom I have known since the early 70’s) and I founded II&T (Interactive Interpretation & Training, Inc.). We offered geotechnical outsourcing services to the global upstream petroleum industry, as well as training using seismic workstations. In those days, the immediate client reaction was “why do I need a workstation, I much prefer paper sections where I can touch and feel my horizon picks, tilt sections anyway I want, squint my eyes for an extra filter, etc.!!”. We focused on interpretation and other services such as quality control for seismic data acquisition and processing, project management, “off-site” data room services for third parties to review data on our workstations for the companies buying/selling prospects, etc. The II&T staff was supported by a team of associated geologists, geophysicists, and engineers with extensive global experience and proven results in hydrocarbon exploration and production, integrating geophysical, geological, and engineering data in a variety of basins throughout the world.

One of II&T’s most memorable projects was a subcontract with a processing company bidding for an integrated data processing and interpretation contract with the Chinese, soon after the 1989 tragedy of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The processing company needed experienced interpreters and selected II&T. With an anticipated contract value that could be well over $1 million, almost all processing/interpretation companies from the USA and Europe were anxious to break into the “open door” Chinese market, and were bidding for this job. Based on the strength of our technical bid, we were awarded the contract, which was a big shot in the arm, during just the second year of existence of II&T. Interestingly, our Chinese counterparts who were training with us in Houston in 1990 did not understand the word “bank” and carried close to $75K cash in their pockets until we taught them the concept of banks, interest earning accounts, and ATM cards. Imagine all the changes China has gone through since then, so much so that the USA now borrows money from China!!

Many years later, we shut down II&T in January 1, 2013. It seemed to be a good time to say goodbye to my long professional career. Meanwhile, over the years I had become increasingly involved with activities of the Geophysical Society of Houston (GSH). GSH is the largest SEG Section in the world, with membership numbering between 2000 and 2500. I initiated and chaired various special group meetings, including the Technical Breakfast (1995) which has since become very successful. I was elected the First VP (1996), and later in 2001, the GSH President (2001). I have stayed involved with GSH activities, and am currently co-chair of the GSH Office.

During my 50 plus year career, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with a number of well-known geophysicists, in no particular order: Nigel Anstey, Reg Neale, Alistair Brown, Lee Lawyer, Robert Sheriff, Milo Backus, Enders Robinson, Turhan Taner, Norman Neidell, Rudy Prince, John Sherwood, Fred Hilterman, Mike Graul, Roy Lindseth, Leon Thomsen, Milton Dobrin, Manik Talwani, Ken Larner, and Brian Russell. The list is not complete by any means, and my apologies to those whose names I have inadvertently omitted.

There have been some very interesting firsts in my life. I graduated with the ‘first’ batch of IIT graduates in 1956 (B. Sc. Hons. in Geology and Geophysics) and was the ‘first’ Indian student member of SEG in 1957!! My IIT degree was presented to me by Prime Minister Nehru, the ‘first’ Prime Minister of independent India. Also interesting to note, my Imperial College Master’s Degree was presented to me by the Queen Mother in 1959, and I was the ‘first’ postgraduate student allowed to shake hands with the Queen Mother!! In the United States I was the ‘first’ (and so, far the only) ethnic Indian elected President of GSH in 2001-2002.

My simple closing message to all readers of this article is that we are in a business that offers unique challenges and opportunities to young geoscientists. These include the possibility of working in exotic countries, making exploration discoveries, witnessing technological breakthroughs, and being a part of, or leaders in, established, yet vibrant industry organizations such as the SEG and GSH. My own experiences, like many of my peers, reflect these opportunities.

Most of the photos and some material are courtesy of Google. I thank Dr. Soman Chacko for editing this paper, and for his encouragement, without which I probably would not have written it.

Dave(ndra) K. Agarwal from Nehru Hall, graduated in 1956 with a B.Sc (Hons) in Geology and Geophysics, and then obtained a D.I.C. (1958) and M.Sc. (1959) in Geophysics from the Imperial College, U.K. He has worked for GSI, Cities Service Company, Newmont Oil, and Occidental Petroleum, in both technical and leadership roles, before starting his own consulting company II&T in 1988. His experience spans geophysical operations, seismic processing, interpretation, and project management. He has worked in many countries and in a wide variety of basins. He retired in 2013 after having a career of over 50 years in the oil industry. Dave has been very active in professional societies; he was the First VP (1995-96), and later, President (2001-02) of the Geophysical Society of Houston. His E-mail id is


Figure 1. Memories of IIT Kharagpur (1956): the main building (upper left); a plaque (top right) memorializing the Hijli detention camp at which the campus was located, and Nehru’s vision for IIT; a photo (bottom) of the first batch of students at the Dept. of Geology & Geophysics (I am third from left, and Prof T.C. Bagchi at extreme left).

Figure 2. Aerial view of Zagros fold belt (left), and typical Asmari stratigraphic column (right)

Figure 3. Left: Dave Agarwal being awarded his 60-year SEG membership certificate by SEG President Nancy House during the GSH Honors and Awards Banquet in May 2017; right: Roshan Agarwal presenting a bouquet at a SEG/GSH award ceremony honoring Dr. John Sherwood (middle), with Dr. Enders Robinson at left, and Dave Agarwal at right