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Fred Meissner
Grand Canyon Field Trip
BornNovember 10, 1931
DiedSeptember 18, 2007 (2007-09-19) (aged 75)
Alma materColorado School of Mines
AwardsSidney Powers Memorial Award
Scientific career
Fieldsgeology, geophysics, and engineering

Fred F. Meissner (November 10, 1931 – September 18, 2007) was an American geologist and engineer who contributed to the fields of geology, geophysics, engineering, petroleum engineering, geochemistry, mineralogy, physics, mining, economic geology, and fishing.


Meissner was an honored exploration geologist, college professor at the Colorado School of Mines and consultant, and a pioneer of the concept that methane gas could be extracted from coal beds (see coal bed methane extraction). He was the 2008 recipient of the Sidney Powers Memorial Award.[1] He also received the Grover Murray Distinguished Educator Award in 2005, the Mines Medal in 1997, and the distinguished service award in 1987.

As an independent petroleum geologist and consultant, Meissner developed exploration projects in the Rocky Mountains and other U.S. and foreign (Indonesia, Nigeria, Chile, Jordan) areas for sale and promotion to industry partners. He has consulted for a number of major and independent petroleum companies, both domestic and international.

As a Colorado School of Mines adjunct professor, Meissner taught advanced petroleum geology, a graduate level course, and was a guest or temporary replacement lecturer for courses taught by other professors. He was also a member of numerous graduate student committees.

From 1980 to 1991 Meissner was exploration manager at Bird Oil Corporation; he also served as exploration manager of the Rocky Mountain region for Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio). During his career he was associated with Webb Resources, Filon Exploration Corporation, Trend Minerals Corporation, and Shell Oil Company.

Meissner held a number of leadership positions with the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), which honored him with the A.L. Levorson Award for the Rocky Mountain Section in 1975. He is also a member of the Geological Society of America and was elected a fellow in 1988. He served as president of the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists (RMAG) in 1997 and the organization named him Scientist of the Year in 1976 and presented him with the Distinguished Service Award in 1991. In 1986 he received the Distinguished Service Medal from Colorado School of Mines.


The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) awarded Meissner the A.L. Levorson Award for the Rocky Mountain Section in 1976, and awarded him an honorary AAPG membership in 2001. He was a member of the Geological Society of America and was elected a fellow in 1988. He was named Scientist of the Year by Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists (RMAG) in 1976, presented with the RMAG's Distinguished Service Award in 1991, served as president of RMAG in 1997, and is an honorary member. In 1986 he received a Distinguished Service Medal for career achievement from Colorado School of Mines and was awarded the Mines Medal for unusual and exemplary service to the School in 2000.

Meissner was active in the Freemasons at Corinthian Lodge #35 in Leadville, Colorado and was a 32 degree.

Meissner was a prolific technical writer and authored over 45 publications, papers, and poster sessions focusing primarily on hydrocarbon generation, migration and accumulation.

His 48 years of industry experience included 16 years with Shell Oil Company working the Permian Basin, Gulf Coast, Rocky Mountain and Mid-Continent Oil Province areas. He had over 20 years cumulative experience with several independents that “found oil and were sold” including Trend Exploration, Filon Exploration, Webb Resources, and Bird Oil. He was a principal in all, with professional responsibilities ranging from exploration manager to vice president.

After leaving Bird Oil in 1991 he has been an independent consultant and professor of geology at the Colorado School of Mines where he sat on thesis committees, taught a graduate course in Advanced Petroleum geology, and was a guest lecturer.

Self-described as an explorationist, he was recognized internationally for his expertise in understanding and predicting the behavior of petroleum systems, including aspects of hydrocarbon generation and migration, basin-wide hydrodynamics, abnormal pressure, and the occurrence of fractured reservoirs, especially as they relate to “basin-center” oil and gas accumulations.

His consultancy, Fred F. Meissner and Associates, undertook investigations for clients in several domestic U.S. areas as well as in West Africa, South America, Europe, Asia and Canada. He also provided public and private instruction on subsurface fluid pressures and their relation to patterns of petroleum generation, migration and accumulation worldwide, and taught several short courses for the Rocky Mountain Region of Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC).

Thinks Like Oil

Ray Thomasson, a past AAPG president and Meissner's prospecting partner, told a story related by Meissner's Shell friend and protégé Larry Meckel that typified Meissner's philosophy and style of teaching:

"Fred said that petroleum geology is a science and the application of petroleum geology is an art form. Just as in fly-fishing, you have to start with the right equipment and you have to know how to use that equipment – that’s the science. But to be successful you have to think like a fish – that’s the art form."


Meissner was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and graduated from South High School. Both of his parents were the first generation in their families that was not involved in the extraction of Western U.S. natural resources. It was here that his connection to the Rocky Mountains was cemented. He developed an interest in rocks and mining and attended the Colorado School of Mines, graduating with the degree in Geological Engineering in 1953. He was an ROTC cadet at Mines and received a commission upon graduation, but deferred his call to Korean War era service for one year in order to complete his master's degree, graduating in 1954, the year he joined AAPG. Funded by a Shell fellowship, his master's thesis concerned the geology of the Doctor Mine, a lead zinc replacement deposit in the Leadville Limestone, in Gunnison County, Colorado.

After completing a tour of duty with the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1956 he began his professional career with Shell Oil Company, where he worked for the next 17 years. While enrolled in Advanced Petroleum Geology as a graduate student (a course Meissner taught at Mines), he studied the hydrodynamic work of Dr. M. King Hubbert and recognized it as a key to certain aspects of petroleum migration and trapping. While at Shell Oil Company he worked with a number of leading petroleum explorationists and, notably, with M. King Hubbert, acknowledged by Meissner as his mentor.

While with Shell he was able to apply hydrodynamic concepts to the occurrence of oil accumulations in deep-water turbidite channels that he identified and mapped in the Delaware Basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Recognizing the presence and potential of tilted oil water contacts in the turbidities, he presented his ideas to management. The manager derided them, refusing to recognize that water contacts could be anything other than horizontal. Shortly after this, the manager retired and Shell brought in a new manager that recognized the potential of the concept and encouraged Meissner to pursue his ideas. As a result, he developed several prospects, three of which subsequently “found oil fields.”

In recognition of Meissner's potential, in 1965 he was transferred to Shell Development Company in Houston where he conducted basic research on hydrocarbon origin, migration and accumulation. In Houston Meissner refined his understanding of the fundamental controls on the existence of petroleum systems. This evolved into a macro-framework understanding of hydrocarbon systems produced as a result of source rock maturity and the existence of fluid potential energy fields in a basin. This has provided a key to understanding the creation of overpressured and underpressured “basin centered” or “deep basin” oil and gas accumulations currently being exploited in the Rockies.


Meissner was a prolific technical writer and authored over 45 publications and papers focusing primarily on hydrocarbon generation, migration and accumulation.


See also: Fred F. Meissner, Fred Franke Meissner

Academic and other works


This article includes a list of general references, but it remains largely unverified because it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (April 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
  1. ^ AAPG Explorer. November 2007. Meissner Could ‘Think Like Oil’