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Лопатин Николай Викторович



Interview with Nikolay V. Lopatin is the first chapter of the “Wildcat“ project.


Nikolay Lopatin is the author of the world brand “Lopatin’s Method”. In 2008 he was  awarded with the Special Award of American Association of Petroleum Geologists for his discovery of the most important principles of formation and migration of oil and gas. The method for catagenetic maturity estimation by using time-temperature index (TTI) had been successfully used for more than 20 years in different countries. Then it was developed in EasyR0 model proposed by Sweeney and Burnham in 1990.


Nikolay Lopatin talks on his life, first steps in science and achievements giving accent to special role of his great heaven-born teacher Nikolay Bronislavovich Vassoievich, who played a big role in his life.


Two main problems of the petroleum science in Russia, which prevent the functional evolution are clearly defined by Lopatin in a conclusion.





My family and I come from Stalingrad (Volgograd). I was an eyewitness of the heroic defense of the Stalingrad. I still  remember the eyes of German military aviator, who bombed our stemboat, carrying women and children in Astrakhan… My biggest dream was to enter the Air Force Academy but, unfortunately, I flunked the centrifuge. Then I entered the North-Caucasus Mining Institute (Vladikavkaz), which I graduated from in 1961. After graduation I returned to Volgograd, where I worked for a short period of time as a driller assistant, playing a primitive role - dragging drilling pipes. Then new institute, VolgogradNIPIneft, was established and I moved there to study petrophysical properties via log analysis, primarily carbonate rocks. I worked there for 4 years.


One day I came across publication in a newspaper on recruitment in Postgraduate School in Moscow State University. Honestly speaking, I understood that there was little chance for me to pass the exams because I was mining geologist. But the fate decreed another way.


Firstly, I wrote an abstract then I had an interview with professor Igor Vysotsky. And for some reason he liked me and admitted to the exams. I passed all three exams with excellent marks. There were only five vacancies and six candidates. I was the sixth. The rest were insiders, "their own." I was sure, I would not pass but prof. Vassoievich rose and said: “It is Lopatin, who should be taken in the first instance”. That's how I became a graduate student at the Department of Geology and Geochemistry of Combustible Minerals.


MSU Postgraduate School - 1968. I worked like a tiger; I attended classes in the Institute of Coal Chemistry and the Chemistry Department of Moscow State University, the MSU Philosophy Faculty, the department of dialectical materialism, where I studied logic and methodology. A year and a half later I proposed a methodology to assess the kinetics of chemical reactions, thermal cracking of kerogen. However, it would never happen but for one thing. On the second day I went out into the corridor of our department of Moscow State University, and heard a loud laughter. It was Vassoievich.





Nikolay Bronislavovich Vassoievich. His mother was a German, and his father - a Prince of Montenegro. They handed son Slavic breadth, vigor and generosity of nature in conjunction with the German tochnochstyu, reliability and clarity.He had a sincere response to everything as opposite to modern scientists. Unusually honest, gifted, Vassoievich was a man who completely devoted himself to the science. He was extremely famous and well known in scientific community. He had a conversation with almost the whole world. He received articles from all over the world, and everyone asked him to make at least half a page response. He refused to no one, making up to 100 reviews a week. As soon as some thought came to his mind, he immediately shared it with everyone, absolutely without any ulterior motive.


Someday it was needed to write a review of the huge monograph. That day he said: "You are the one, who will help me and our department." 2 weeks (only once a day to have a meal) of hard work reveals in 500-600 pages of review with pictures. When he arrived, he understood that we both were probably cut from the same cloth. He realized that he was dealing with a competent man, the one he could rely on. It was a greatest praise and thus a possibility to do science under the leadership of a great scientist. And the first lesson of morality I got when I brought the first article with his surname at the first place. Nicholay Bronislavovich smiled and said that he did not need 302th paper, and then crossed out his name... Such attitude to authorship was normal for Nicholay Bronislavovich, but in outstanding articles, especially for the congresses and meetings he has entered many people.


After success with the review Vassoievich involved me in further works at his place. Where I recognized his strict regime of work. Every single day we worked from 4 a.m. till 10.30 a.m. at home with a light breakfast at 6. Then we went to office. Five typists worked for him at the department day and night and could not to deal with all the work. There also were foreign secretaries, who sent out letters all over the world. The whole factory! Nikolay Bronislavovich usually finished his work at 9 p.m. and had a rest for 40 minutes. He used to watch humorous program for about thirty minutes every day. Such a rabid performance! He infected everyone around with his energy, and was always ready to help. I wrote more than 20 articles during these two years. They were posted in famous soviet scientific journal, from where they became known abroad.


N.B. (his secret nickname among colleagues) was not only the father of “The Theory on Sedimentary Migration Origin of Oil” as well as historical-genetic approaches of the study of sedimentary basins. The basin and petroleum system modeling ideology also defined by this approach and then was developed further in the works of his “apostles” Dietrich Welte and Bertrand Tissot.


The uniqueness of Nicholay Vassoievich was lying in multidisciplinary vision of the object of research that will later be called "the work on the intersection of science’s branches". Books and scientific articles on philosophy, linguistics, biology, philology, and ancient history were standing on his table. Hence, Vassoievich always required a clear definition of the terms used. In this sense, Nikolai Bronislavovich showed no mercy. Of course, and I went. I caught also it, of course…


A sense of humor was another amazing quality of Vassoievich that helps him out with dignity from various conflicts.


The role of this highly professional and honorable man in my scientific destiny cannot be overestimated.


Nikolay Bronislavovich started as a field geologist. "Flysch and the Methodology of its Study" and all great monographs on the flysch were written by Vassoievich with terrible thoroughness! He studied Caucasus flysch from Azov to Baku: 945 layers were described in the North-Western Caucasus and 735 of them were traced to Baku. Such a tremendous amount of work has no analogues in the world. Actually, he started to deal with the petroleum science when he was sixty. The department passed through high noon after his moving to Moscow State University in 1963 from VNIGRI (St. Petersburg). He became a сorresponding member of the Academy of Science a much time latter, though he was a true academician in fact.


I should name two Germans among my teachers: Dietrich Welte and Marlies Teichmuller, extremely responsive and open persons. Their studies provided the basis for the paper “Temperature and Geological Time as Factors of Carbonification”, which made my name in oil geochemistry. I have often had productive meetings in Germany with them.


"Petroleum Geochemistry and Geology", a fundamental work of a world-class scientist John Hunt made an indelible impression on me. He was a leading expert in the search for new ideas and was known throughout the geological world. I was fortunate to closely communicate with him first in Volgograd, and then several times in Moscow. His book is always on my desk.


Strong support and practical help in my research was provided by outstanding French scientist Jean Espitalie, whom I consider a friend.


N. Vassoievich passed away at 24 of November of 1981 and my theoretical life came out with him. I switched to the solution of practical problems of geology and geochemistry of oil and gas, first in GEOKHI USSR, and then in VNIIgeosystem. Such goal was long time ago defined by Vassoievich: "Modern oil science has to light the way for exploration."





In line with the big number of practical works of generation potential assessment of different areas of Russia, I can highlight a three significant theoretical works:

- Lopatin, N.V. (1971) Temperature and Geological Time as Factors of Carbonification. Akad. Nauk SSSR., Izs. Ser. Geol., 3,


- Lopatin, N.V., (1983) Formation of fossil fuels. Nedra. Moscow, 192 p.

- Lopatin, N.V., Emets T.P. (1987) Pyrolysis in oil-gas geochemistry. Nauka. Moscow, 144 p.





Firstly, we can observe the obvious “everydayness” of science. Formerly, we were continuously engaged in theoretical generalizations, intensifications. Today we have only very local tasks.

The second is the decreasing of quality of higher education and the lack of devotion to science.





In the nearest future main prospects for giant and super-giant hydrocarbon field discoveries within Russian Federation are associated with the following sedimentary basins (sub-basins).

1. South Kara Basin
Horizons, prospects: Mesozoic deposits

2. Baikit anteclise
Horizons, prospects: The most ancient Riphean sedimentary formations


3. South Barents Basin
Horizons, prospects: Mesozoic deposits




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