Roger Holeywell, An Unsung Hero

Posted on June 11, 2021 by Lisa Ward

by Gary Citron, Senior Associate

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” –Harry Truman

In any successful business, some individuals make significant contributions but remain out of the spotlight. As R&A’s risk analysis software company transitions to a new generation of products, we cannot move forward without recognizing the immense impact R&A Senior Associate Roger Holeywell had as our chief programmer during our MS Excel-based era (1997 to 2020).


Looking for topical yet practical training around 1994, Marathon’s Roger Holeywell attended the AAPG prospect risk analysis class that Pete Rose, Ed Capen and Bob Clapp taught. After completing this classic course, Roger had an epiphany. Converting the concepts, and formulae to MS Excel over the next few weeks, Roger created what became Marathon’s first standardized prospect characterization software. Roger convinced Marathon to widely distribute the software he built. By 1996 Marathon had a standard, consistent package for their prospects.


By 1995 risk analysis concepts became rooted in many larger companies, who similarly built their software packages. The Amerada-Hess Exploration VP phoned Pete to ask if anyone had built software to apply the concepts taught. Pete approached Mobil, Conoco, and Marathon with that request. In short order, Mobil and Conoco said no, but Roger, after checking with Marathon management, replied “Sure, Marathon will license theirs.” Within a couple of weeks, Marathon received $10,000 from Hess, and Hess was a happy client with a new software tool. A couple of months later, Roger called Pete to inform him that Marathon no longer wanted to directly sell software but was willing to partner with Pete because of his extensive contacts. A 1997 contract between Marathon and Pete’s LLC, Telegraph Exploration, provided for a 50-50 revenue split, with Marathon retaining ownership of the code, and Telegraph handling all business matters. To help manage the growth, Pete approached Roger to run the new software company, Lognormal Solutions (LSi), owned by the newly formed Rose & Associates (R&A) in 2000. Roger declined that offer, as he wanted to focus on progressing his career at Marathon.

However, in what became a win-win situation, Roger expressed interest in continuing to raise the profile of his progeny. By 2001 Roger received written approval from Marathon to work for LSi, further progressing the software, but on his own time (nights, weekends, and selected vacation days). By January 2005, Marathon executed an addendum to the 1997 agreement relinquishing all ownership rights of the software to LSi. Roger’s retirement from Marathon in 2015 allowed him to become a full-time Senior Associate and programmer at R&A.

In addition to the prospect software, Roger also coded the original versions of multiple zone aggregation software. These products evolved into Multi-Zone Master (MZM) and Multi-Method Risk Analysis (MMRA). MMRA and Multi-Zone Master would be bundled with a versatile utility program Roger created (Toolbox) to gather, condition, and analyze data to fashion inputs into MMRA software. The toolbox features myriad curve fitting capabilities and calculation of hydrocarbon fluid expansion and shrinkage attributes.

R&A’s software was particularly attractive to companies of mid-size market capitalization. But to serve smaller companies who wanted a consistent characterization platform to demonstrate their savvy Roger built the Essentials Suite in 2004, which had prospect software with two-zone aggregation capability, limited data plotting, and a portfolio aggregator. A much lower price point with basic capabilities admirably serves these smaller companies.

How did all this work get done essentially through one person who worked as a full-time Marathon employee? The answer is PWP (Pajama Weekends Programming). While at home over the weekends Roger’s attire was strictly unadulterated pajamas-only. The design and programming sessions were hardly a picnic, as Roger shared some of the major challenges they tackled. For example, how to keep the software working optimally after Microsoft released versions of Excel that conflicted with the code to create pervasive security or performance issues? Roger experienced one of his most gratifying programming moments in 2005, harnessing Microsoft’s VBA to provide an internal Monte Carlo simulator.


Incredibly, the energy described above that Roger infused into R&A software constituted about 50% of his moonlighting time. The remaining 50%, Roger spent coding SAAM (Seismic Amplitude Analysis Module), the software product generated by R&A’s DHI Consortium. In mid-2000, when many of our clients wanted to see a consistent set of industry-derived best practices around amplitude characterization for chance of success determination (commonly part of ‘risking’), Pete Rose turned to Mike Forrest to geologically weave seismic amplitude anomalies into the fabric of prospect chance characterization. We planned from the start to have Consortium best practices coded into software, so we reached out to Roger to serve as a programmer.

For SAAM, Roger programmed an innovative interrogation process that facilitates a systematic and uniform grading of the amplitude anomaly, beginning with the geologic setting, a preliminary chance assessment solely from geology (Pg), and salient amplitude attributes the seismic survey is designed to extract. SAAM requests the exploration team to answer questions about AVO classification, seismic data quality, rock property analysis, analogs, and potential pitfalls. Thus, SAAM successfully institutionalizes a thorough process they might otherwise avoid or forget. Through the Consortium-derived parameter weighting system, SAAM registers the impact of data quality and seismic observations as well as any rock properties modeling, to determine a modifier to the initial Pg. This modification or ‘Pg uplift’ is now calibrated by over 350 drilled wells. Success rates recorded in SAAM’s database can be critically compared to the forecast success rates to further calibrate the weighting system employed. The Consortium remains a vital industry gathering. Roger attributes longevity to the breakthrough thought that meetings should be member-driven, designed around presentations about a prospect by a member company. During Consortium meetings Roger populates a SAAM file for each prospect in real-time during the presentation, and then the members discuss if they would drill the prospect guided by the SAAM inputs and outputs. Finally, the company reveals the drilling results. All inputs, outputs, and results are added to the database. SAAM’s architecture and workflow were based on a collaborative framework from the very beginning.


It’s hard to fathom the magnitude of such varied software-related contributions built solely in his ‘spare time,’ so for all he has done, here’s a toast to Roger Holeywell, an unsung hero working behind the scenes creating value from risk analysis.