Product has been added to the basket

Kenneth John Chew (1945-2019)

Influential petroleum geologist with an enthusiasm for the history of geology and tourism development initiatives

Kenneth ChewKenneth (Ken) John Chew was born in August 1945 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  He obtained a first-class honours in Geology from the University of Aberdeen in 1968, before starting a PhD in Aberdeen on the ‘The Origin of Certain Base Metal Sulphide Deposits at Manitouwadge, Ontario’.  While at Aberdeen he was active in student politics, serving on the Student Representative Council as Full‑time Secretary (1969‑1970) and President (1970‑1971), and was the first student on the University Court  

Petroleum exploration

The petroleum exploration industry was now starting up in Aberdeen and Ken joined BP Petroleum Development in 1974, working as a rig geologist in the ‘Operations Geology’ unit: one of the wells he ‘sat’ was a renowned stratigraphic test drilled in a syncline in the Celtic Sea. In 1976 he joined the Geology Department of University College Galway, where he lectured principally on applied aspects of geology. His PhD thesis was awarded in 1977. 

1978 saw a return to the petroleum industry at the new office of Petroconsultants Ltd. in Dublin. He became the assistant manager and head of research, with overall responsibility for the company's petroleum exploration database. 


In 1987 Ken transferred to Petroconsultants' (later IHS) Geneva headquarters where he held a number of appointments including Head of the E&P Database, VP - Computerized Services Division, VP - Geological Information Division and VP - Database Support & Client Services Division. Petroconsultants’ worldwide products included their ‘Well Records’ and ‘Field Records’, which were initially paper-based but were progressively incorprated into a digital database (Iris21). 

Ken was centrally involved in creating this database and expanding it to include ‘Basin Monitors’ (for each of the 1800 worldwide basins he outlined!) This digital reserves database was the only source of comprehensive, reliable information on the oil and gas fields of the world. All the major companies relied on it, as did the International Energy Agency in Vienna. Ken’s access to this wealth of data on petroleum reserves and resources provided the opportunity for a series of articles on the hydrocarbon reserves of the North Sea, Norway and western Europe. 

Retirement and further research

Early in 2006 Ken left the IHS Geneva office, but continued to work for IHS out of his home in the Scottish Highlands, officially ‘retiring’ in 2010.  He maintained an interest in many aspects of geology, including the history of geology and the geology of Scotland, while continuing to work as an independent analyst of Unconventional Oil & Gas E&P Activity.

In recent years Ken was active in the fieldwork team investigating the Port Askaig Tillite on the Garvellachs and Islay and used his knowledge of analysing worldwide sedimentary basins and their columns to compare the stratigraphic record of the Port Askaig Tillite with other Neoproterozoic glacial successions. 

He was also heavily involved in the community of his adopted home village of Killin in Perthshire, where he led many tourism development initiatives up until his sudden death from a brain haemorrhage in July 2019.  He is deeply missed by his family, partner and friends. 

By David Chew and Anthony Spencer