2023 O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation: Chengbo Li, Ph.D.

ConocoPhillips Inventor Chengbo Li, Ph.D., Recognized for Innovating New Seismic Survey Technology for the Oil and Gas Industry That Leaves Less of an Environmental Impact and Increases Efficiency

ConocoPhillips Inventor Chengbo Li, Ph.D., is the recipient of the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation from TAMEST. He was chosen for his innovations in industry-leading Compressive Seismic Imaging (CSI) technology and the development of core algorithms and software infrastructure.

Exploration seismology is one of the most powerful tools in the oil and gas industry. It takes images of the earth through seismic surveys to create a comprehensive model of subsections of the earth. Larger surveys require thousands of receivers creating seismic waves for each shot and take thousands of shots in a grid pattern to create the seismic data.

Dr. Li found a way with CSI technology to lessen the labor and environmental footprint of the seismic survey process. Instead of working in a regular grid, CSI sets the sensors and shots in a non-uniform but optimal way and utilizes mathematical optimization to reconstruct the survey grid using dramatically fewer data points than conventional methods. Doing so has changed the landscape of seismic surveys by tremendously reducing the number of channels, shots and days required to complete the process.

In practice, the innovative CSI technology Dr. Li helped develop uses less than half of the source and receiver points versus conventional technology, with optimized survey positions to produce the same or improved quality of subsurface image. Since 2015, ConocoPhillips has used its CSI technology on approximately 30 seismic surveys, improving exploration, development and production performance by providing high resolution seismic data with less environmental footprint and lower seismic acquisition costs (with direct savings of over $250 million).

“When you look at the research in the geophysical imaging, it is very clear that Dr. Li’s work is redefining the industry standard for seismic surveying,” said Nominator Jie Zhang, Ph.D. (NAE), Founder and Chief Scientist, GeoTomo LLC. “This CSI technology allows the oil and gas industry to produce these seismic surveys in less time, with less shots and receivers, and most importantly, with less of an environmental impact. It really has and will transform the way we do our work moving forward.”

Dr. Li is one of five Texas-based researchers receiving the TAMEST 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards. Each are chosen for their individual contributions addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society, and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness.

Dr. Li will be recognized at the 2023 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, and will give a presentation on his research preceding the award ceremony at the TAMEST 2023 Annual Conference: Forward Texas – Accelerating Change in Houston, Texas, at The InterContinental Houston – Medical Center.

All are encouraged to attend the ceremony and the TAMEST Conference.

About the O’Donnell Awards:

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards annually recognize rising star Texas researchers who are addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society, and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness.

Thanks to a $1.15 million gift from the O’Donnell Foundation in 2022, the O’Donnell Awards have expanded to include an additional science award. The awards now recognize recipients in the categories of Medicine, Engineering, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences and Technology Innovation. (Previously, the TAMEST O’Donnell Awards rotated its science award between physical and biological sciences every year.)

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards are made possible by the O’Donnell Awards Endowment Fund, established in 2005 through the generous support of several individuals and organizations. View a full list of supporters here.


TAMEST was co-founded in 2004 by the Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison and Nobel Laureates Michael S. Brown, M.D., and Richard E. Smalley, Ph.D. With more than 330 members and 18 member institutions, TAMEST is composed of the Texas-based members of the three National Academies (National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences), the Royal Society and the state’s 9 Nobel Laureates. We bring together the state’s brightest minds in medicine, engineering, science and technology to foster collaboration, and to advance research, innovation and business in Texas.

TAMEST’s unique interdisciplinary model has become an effective recruitment tool for top research and development centers across Texas. Since our founding, more than 275 TAMEST members have been inducted into the National Academies or relocated to Texas.

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