Committed to the Industry

Drawn to challenge, committed to an industry – that’s Ralph W. Baird, 2011 recipient of the Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award from the Petroleum History Institute.
This article appeared in Vol. 9, No. 2 - 2012


Ralph W. Baird on the riverboat in Marietta, Ohio, to receive the Petroleum History Institute’s 2011 Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award for lifelong dedication to exploration geophysics work and international education work with IYPE 2007-2009; with Daniel Leech on left, founder of Leech Carbide. Ralph W. Baird has been attracted to challenge since he began his education at the Colorado School of Mines in the spring of 1967. In a 2008 article in the Colorado School of Mines Magazine Baird stated:

“At every other school where I interviewed, people chauffeured me around. But at Mines they just said: ‘We’re at the top of the hill. Look for the gold dome. We’ll be waiting for you.’” Baird had to hoof it up to Guggenheim with his heavy bags in tow. And he decided right then that Mines was the college for him. “That impressed me,” he says. “I knew I’d have to work for whatever I got. I knew I’d have to earn it. And I found that attractive.” (Colorado School of Mines Magazine)

In his daily work, Baird tends to take a different view of geologic and seismic data and offset well daily drilling reports. At a high level meeting a few years back, the exploration manager of this offshore operator asked why Mr. Baird was reviewing the work of his geoscientists. The drilling manager hesitated, and then replied, Mr. Baird is “The Driller’s Geophysicist”. Since that day, that moment, Baird has proudly carried thelabel ‘The Driller’s Geophysicist’. If Ralphcould, he says he would look at and review every well’s drilling plan before they are drilled; his methodology and procedures would reduce the costs and the risks.

In an industry overshadowed by misunderstandings and a bad rap, Ralph Baird acts as a voice that counters the negative public opinions and sentiment of the business by extending his knowledge and expertise to educate the public as well as industry professionals.

“People do not see the good that oil companies do for society. Most people see only the price at the pump and depend on what they hear from the media, particularly the TV. Yet the attitude should be that oil and gas companies are heroes.”

“We need smart, working people to explain the real jobs that deal with exploration.” Baird explained. “It’s not going to be Exxon, Shell, Chevron or BP, it’s going to be working people who will communicate this message.”

Building Blocks

Baird earned a B.S. in geophysical engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in 1971 and continued his graduate studies in petroleum engineering, economics and business administration at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma State University and the University of Houston respectively.

“In college I didn’t see a future in oil and gas,” Baird explained. “I studied exploration geophysics and went into exploring for uranium using aeroradiation and aeromagnetics and then ground-truthing the data we collected from the aircraft.”

Baird came to understand the integral role of exploration for resources to meet society’s needs for energy and materials. “It was a real commitment to be in this industry,” Baird said. “Society is built on mobility – it makes us independent.”

In 1971, Baird joined ConocoPhillips as an exploration geophysicist. He later served in positions at Fairfield Industries and Timko, Lindahl and Schweikhardt, Inc. before he founded Baird Petrophysical International in 1978, a Houston based international geological and geophysical services company that specializes in applying exploration technologies to solve petroleum engineering problems.

In 2008, Mr. Baird cofounded PetroDevelopment Partners, a Texas and Louisiana based private equity fund. The fund manages and invests in producing properties and is organized as an opportunity fund to invest in private companies and technology.

Another company, Baird Petrophysical, maintains a database of seismic attributes, pore pressure data, drilling data and drilling results for over 4,600 wells, at last count.

Standing for Education

Ralph (right) with brother Glenn Baird and Ralph’s Bellanca Super Viking, the Corvette of small planes. Baird is especially passionate about the education system and actively advocates that young men and women study engineering and sciences and avoid undergraduate business degrees.

“When I think about the next generation, I see how we’re going oversees to hire people because the people now in this country are not prepared to work in engineering or science,” Baird said. He believes in fostering the principles on which industrialized nations were built, such as innovation and engineering.

President George W. Bush’s 2007 American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) gave Baird a bit of hope for his own country’s future workforce. “When I read the National Academies report entitled Rising Above the Gathering Storm, it inspired me to speak out,” Baird said. The ACI was purposed to reinvigorate investment and research in the physical sciences and engineering and to encourage youth to study math, science and engineering.

Baird followed the American Competitiveness Initiative to Congress and continued to advocate its implementation.

Still, Baird attempts to share his vision. He asks, “What do you want for your children and grandchildren in the next 10 years?”

In 2011 Ralph W. Baird received the Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award from the Petroleum History Institute for his outstanding contributions to the business of oil and natural gas.

The Petroleum History Institute is a non-profit corporation that is dedicated to pursing and promoting the history, heritage and development of the modern oil industry.

Baird is an active member in 32 professional organizations, including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and the American Petroleum Institute among others.

Wide Ranging Interests

At the Houston Club, Ralph (right) with Richard Baile, SEG Foundation Board Chair Emeritus. Ralph is a Trustee Associate of the SEG Foundation. Baird was a board member and manager of the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE 2007–2009), a group formed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the highly successful International Geophysical Year (IGY 1957–58) in which Russia’s Sputnik was launched. The IYPE advocates the accumulation and expression of the knowledge of the world’s 400,000 earth scientists that makes the Earth a safer, healthier and wealthier place for future generations. This group developed a global umbrella of now 80 countries with active committees with a unified purpose of educating the next generation about Earth Science. Baird is now a senior advisor to the follow-on organization, the Earth Science Matters Foundation, based in The Netherlands.

Baird also applies his experience in GIS mapping, underwater sonar searching, field planning and supervision, data collection and analysis, data interpretation and reports in his work with Texas EquuSearch, a technology search and recovery team that started in August 2000 to provide volunteer horsemounted search and recovery for lost and missing persons. With Baird’s help and guidance, the organization now utilizes oilfield methods and technology to find missing loved ones. He believes in the EquuSearch motto, ‘Lost Is Not Alone’. Families who contact Texas EquuSearch know what this means.

Baird has conducted numerous searches with Texas EquuSearch, including the well-known search for Alabama teen Natalie Holloway in Aruba, using geophysical instruments and methods such as a side scan sonar, ground penetration radar, model aircraft/drone photography and exigent requests to access and interpret cell tower data and FAA radar data in hot-shot emergency surveys and research/training surveys.

Baird is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Colorado and a licensed professional geoscientist in the state of Texas. He also enjoys flying as a licensed pilot.

Challenging the Industry

As the industry struggles to attract new talent and exploit more challenging resources, Ralph Baird provides a proactive and positive voice. He has risen to the occasion and challenges the rest of the industry to join him.

“I am a geophysicist and I don’t think I’ve ever had a boring day working.” Baird said. “I’m committed to finding more resources for society.”


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