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A life of discovery: Ronnie’s story

24 September 2020
Ronnie worked as a geophysicist at bp for 30 years. He credits his “natural, inquisitive nature” for inspiring his career choice

Ronnie Parr grew up in Perth, Scotland, in the 1970s, and vividly remembers the Queen ceremonially turning on the Forties pipeline. “From then on, I feel like I got the bug for the energy industry”, he explained. 


Ronnie worked as a geophysicist at bp for 30 years. He credits his “natural, inquisitive nature” for inspiring his career choice. “I was a strange child”, Ronnie joked, “my first experiment took place at the age of 10, driving electrical currents through the soil in my garden to switch on a lightbulb”. 


Ronnie pursued his passion for geophysics at University, ultimately completing a PhD. He then joined bp’s now-defunct Glasgow office, working in a seismic research role before moving to Aberdeen, where he’s remained ever since. Nowadays few know more about the North Sea than Ronnie. 

I was seeking discoveries West of Shetland in the Atlantic Ocean, for around 10 years, before moving into the Andrew field, in the North Sea. I’ve seen almost the entire North Sea in incredible detail – it was my little piece of the world.
Considering the highlights of his career, Ronnie acknowledges that his best-known achievement was the discovery of the Foinaven and Schiehallion oilfields.
I even had the opportunity to name the latter, having pioneered the discovery. There was one obvious place to name it after – my favourite mountain, Schiehallion.

Despite this, Ronnie’s proudest achievement isn’t the discovery of the field, but the way geophysics allowed it to be fully developed. “We utilised seismic data, giving us a 4D (time lapse 3D) view of the seabed”, he explained. “In the long run, I expect 4D imagery to be more valuable to bp and the wider industry [than the discovery of the field]”, he added.

Ronnie’s work with 4D imagery is even more surprising given his early tech setup. “I remember working as a geophysicist in 1990. Only one person had a PC and it wasn’t me! We worked on paper and with pencils and had to physically lay the seismic line images out across the floor – they were around 50 metres long”.


Now in retirement, Ronnie continues to embrace the inquisitive tendencies that inspired his data-driven discoveries, “I often get up in the morning and see something on the TV or in the press and think, “I’ll follow that up”. It’s no different from what I was doing as a 10-year-old”, he explained. Ronnie has a number of projects still keeping him busy. “One is researching family trees, which has opened my eyes to the tough conditions my ancestors faced. I’m grateful for the stepping stone they provided for me. I also enjoy cycling in the Scottish countryside, revisiting my old gardening skills and looking into low-carbon energy projects”, he explained.


Since his retirement almost a year ago a lot has changed at bp.

I could see the company responding to the environmental situation before I left. The change in leadership has accelerated the process, and the latest strategy announcement detailing how the business is going to transition to net zero did make me stop and think – what a change!

Ronnie is aware that there will be challenges involved, but he remains optimistic about opportunities available to fellow geophysicists at the group. “As a former geophysicist, I can see how my skill set is transferrable to the world of today. Geophysicists will help us overcome some of the biggest environmental challenges we face.”    


Having found the transition to retirement “better than I expected”, Ronnie is “taking his time to see what happens next. Somewhat fortunately my wife and I didn’t have any illustrious travel plans, which is just as well as Covid-19 would have put a stop to them anyway!”

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