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Michael Thomas (1953-2020)

A highly regarded chartered geologist who worked in the petroleum industry for many years

Michael ThomasMichael was born in Pointe-a Pierre-Trinidad in 1953, where his father was an expat oilfield engineer. He lived there for 12 years, before moving to Pembroke in Wales, where he attended Pembroke Grammar school. In 1971, he enrolled at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where he studied Natural Sciences, graduating in 1974 with a 2.1 degree in Geology.

Exploration geology

After graduation, Michael worked in petroleum exploration and development until retirement. Initially, he worked for Texaco in Tulsa and Houston. Returning to London in 1976, he spent time on North Sea oil exploration rigs. After leaving Texaco in 1977, and following one year with AGIP UK, he joined Clyde Petroleum, moving to Ledbury, Herefordshire in 1978. This was to become his home base for his subsequent career.

Working initially as an exploration/development geologist, Michael became Chief Geologist, introducing up-to-date computer technology. He then spent five years in the Netherlands working in development geology, and later as Asset Manager in joint ventures. During this period, Michael obtained a Certificate in Management with the UK Open University. On returning to the UK in 1997, following the takeover of Clyde Petroleum by Gulf Canada, he worked as Business Coordinator, and was involved in successful exploration in Yemen.

Following the sale of Clyde Petroleum’s UK assets in 1998, Michael briefly consulted, and then joined Paladin Resources in London in 1999 as Asset Manager for Romania and Tanzania. He was also involved in UK exploration and was Technical Manager for the takeover of operatorship of BP’s Montrose and Arbroath Fields by Paladin in 2002/3.

Following Paladin’s take over by Talisman in late 2005, Michael worked for Dominion Petroleum as Chief Operating Officer, mainly in London. He managed exploration programmes in Tanzania and Uganda, including drilling the first exploration well in the Lake Edward basin of Uganda.

In early 2011, Michael joined Falkland Oil and Gas in London, as operations manager for their Falklands exploration programme, leading to drilling of the first two wells in the East Falklands basin in 2012. Falkland’s exploration expanded with the acquisition of Desire Petroleum’s North Falklands interests. Michael then left to consult part-time for a small UK company, from 2015 until late 2017, and fully retired in March 2018, following a diagnosis of motor neurone disease.


Michael was a Fellow of the Geological Society and a Chartered Geologist. Whilst on the Petroleum Group committee, he was a co-editor for the UK Oil and Gas Fields 25 years Commemorative Volume, and convened a follow-up conference. He co-authored a number of papers on exploration in Tanzania and Uganda, whilst with Dominion Petroleum. He was also chairman of Ledbury Round Table in 1991-92.

Michael married Margaret in 1975, and they have two children, both married. Michael’s interests included Roman archaeology, travel, hill walking, kayaking and rowing. Following the 2011 Fitzwilliam College Reunion, Michael became interested in Reunion rowing and was co-organiser with Brian Smith for 2016 to 2018.

Written by Margaret Thomas