Datapages, Inc.Print this page

The Dawn of Petroleum Geology in the Middle East: A Case Study of George Bernard Reynolds in Iran and Max Steineke in Saudi Arabia

Sorkhabi, Rasoul *1
(1) Energy & Geoscience Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

Despite the largest concentration of the world’s oil reserves in the Middle East, the history of petroleum geology in this region has been far less researched and published compared to that in North America and Europe. The knowledge and use of oil seeps in the Middle East goes back to the antiquity. Nevertheless, the modern oil industry in the region began in the first half of the twentieth century with discoveries in Iran (1908), Iraq (1927), Bahrain (1932), Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (1938) and Oman (1940). Prior to these oil discoveries, mapping of the outcrop geology by European geologists in the nineteenth century had provided a stratigraphic framework for geologists and had drawn their attention to abundant oil seeps found in the region. Here we look at the life and work of George Bernard Reynolds (1853-1925), an English mining engineer, and Max Steineke (1898-1952), a geology graduate from Stanford. Reynolds, working for the British investor John Knox D’Arcy, was responsible for the discovery of the Masjid Suleyman oil field in southwest Persia 1908, the first of its kind in the Middle East which led to the establishment of British Petroleum (initially called Anglo-Persian Oil Company). Steineke, working as Chief Geologist for Socal-Aramaco, played a leading role in the discovery of the Dammam field in 1938 and Ghawar (still the world’s largest oil field) in 1948 in Saudi Arabia. Both these men utilized the concepts of anticlines and seeps to locate oil accumulations. Working conditions in the hot climate of the Middle East were far more difficult than today. Nevertheless, both men shared certain qualities, which were probably characteristics of the early oil pioneers everywhere: Versatile talents (from geology and drilling to intimacy with local cultures and languages), enthusiasm and persistence, and good working relations with local people, some of whom were their field guides. These two profiles demonstrate once again Wallace Pratt’s famous maxim, “oil is first found in the minds of men.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90142 © 2012 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, April 22-25, 2012, Long Beach, California