The Committee for the Preservation of Cores and Samples is working on the following projects:
Preservation of Geological and Geophysical Data
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, an international organization, supports the preservation of geological and geophysical data for the public good. AAPG encourages its membership, through their professional affiliations in industry and appropriate individual member actions, to lend their support for the development of a comprehensive, integrated, long-term management plan. Such actions will help ensure preservation of, and future access to, valuable geoscience information. AAPG encourages all geoscience data stakeholders to coordinate their efforts and provide data access to the American Geological Institute's National Geoscience Data Repository System and similar programs in other countries.
Responsible management and efficient development of petroleum resources requires improved access to the best available scientific information. Geological and geophysical data provide critical innovation required for sound exploration, development, and environmental decisions. Future generations of scientists and policy makers must be able to use these data to address the energy, environmental, and natural disaster challenges facing the nation in the 21st century.
The downsizing of the energy and minerals industries combined with public-sector budgetary constraints jeopardizes vast quantities of valuable geological and geophysical data. These data are critical to our understanding of the Earth's natural resources and environment. They represent capital investments measured in billions of dollars. Many of these immense data holdings are irreplaceable and are of significant value to independent oil producers, academia, government researchers, and the nation at large.
Preservation and access to these data are critical to energy security and economic prosperity. These data enable energy and minerals companies to enhance their exploration and production programs for improved recovery of oil, gas, and mineral resources. Applications for these data extend beyond the petroleum industry, including environmental protection, water resource management, global change studies, and basic and applied research. These data are also used for reducing risks from earthquakes and other geological hazards, and screening sites for waste disposal, designing highways and other infrastructure.
The National Geoscience Data Repository System (NGDRS) is effort by the American Geological Institute (AGI) to preserve and provide improved access to domestic geological and geophysical data. These data are at extreme risk of being discarded by industry but constitute an invaluable resource for a variety of public domain activities. State geological surveys are a major source of public repositories and play a major role in the preservation and access to geoscience data. Efforts to preserve data should build upon existing state and regional data centers, which should have first right-of-refusal for any data being transferred into be public domain.
In the course of their exploration and development activities over the past several decades, major oil and gas companies have acquired enormous amounts of domestic geological and geophysical data. These companies have the most comprehensive geoscience datasets and sample inventories of information related to the Earth's crust of any organizations in the world. Literally billions of dollars worth of subsurface geoscience information is in jeopardy of being lost due to the general decline of industry support for curation and maintenance of data repositories.
A 1995 National Research Council report, Preserving Scientific Data on Our Physical Universe, concluded that ''a general problem prevalent among all scientific disciplines is the low priority attached to data management and preservation. Experience indicates that new research projects tend to get much more attention than the handling of data from old ones, even though the payoff from optimal utilization of exists data may be greater.'' The observations, directed at federal agencies, are equally true for the private sector. A 1996 National Research Council report, The Dynamics of Sedimentary Basins, recommended ''continued funding for efforts to preserve, archive, and disseminate data on sedimentary basins.''
In the first phase of the NGDRS project, initiated in 1995, AGI documented industry's interest in contributing billions of dollars worth of inactive domestic company data files to a national repository system. For example, the total amount of seismic data identifed is conservatively estimated to represent more than 100 million line miles, which constitute a substantial fraction (perhaps 25 percent) of all seismic data collected in the US since 1950. The rock core and cuttings are estimated to represent a significant fraction (perhaps 60 percent) of the core and cuttings held by the major oil and gas companies.
Industry data files contain unique and detailed information for countless localities throughout the world. The data are in a wide variety of formats, ranging from digital well logs and seismic refection data tapes, to paper and film records, to rock core and cuttings samples to paleontological collections, including the analyses thereof.
A model for transferring data from the private to public sector is provided by the 1994 AGI-facilitated transfer of Shell Oil's core facility in Midland, Texas to the University of Texas at Austin. Shell deeded its collection of 2.2 million liner feet of core and cuttings to the university along with its warehouse. Shell also provided an endowment to cover annual operating expenses of the facility. A1l of the data in this transfer entered the public domain for the first time.
Over many years, the petroleum sector has invested billion of dollars in acquisition of geological and geophysical data. Because of chance exploration targets and economy conditions, significant amounts of data are in jeopardy of being lost or destroyed. These data remain valuable not only to future petroleum exploration but also to basic and applied research, natural hazard mitigation, and environments remediation. Thus, AAPG encourages efforts, such as AGl's National Geoscience Data Repository System, that seek to preserve and improve access to geological and geophysical data. Such voluntary programs are especially important in the United States and other nations where companies retain ownership of their data.
(This information was prepared and reviewed by certain scientific members of the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Division for Professional Affairs of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, for use by its members and other interested parties.)
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PETROLEUM GEOLOGISTS
AS RECOMMENDED BY ITS
CORE AND SAMPLE PRESERVATION COMMITTEE,
IN SUPPORT OF THE NATIONAL GEOSCIENCE DATA REPOSITORY SYSTEM.
(Statement Approved by AAPG Executive Committee, October 1998)
WHEREAS responsible management and development of the nations petroleum resources requires improved access to the best available scientific information.
WHEREAS geological and geophysical data provide critical information required for sound decisions on resource utilization and environmental protection.
WHEREAS the Association as a professional society promotes and encourages efficient development by the petroleum industry.
WHEREAS the National Geoscience Data Repository is an effort by the American Geological Institute (AGI), a non-profit federation of 31 geoscientific societies, to preserve and provide improved access to domestic geological and geophysical data in danger of being discarded.
WHEREAS future generations of scientists and policy makers must be able to use these data to address the energy, environmental, and natural disaster challenges facing the nation in the 21st century.
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, as recommended by its Core and Sample Preservation Committee, that both the Association and its members issue a strong and clear endorsement of the importance of preserving geoscience data for the public good.
Further, that the Association encourage its membership, through their affiliations in the petroleum industry, to provide support for the development of a comprehensive integrated long-term management plan to ensure preservation of geoscience information.
Further, that the Association encourage all stakeholders in geoscience data utilization to coordinate their efforts and provide access to data to further the intent of the AGI for the National Geoscience Data Repository System.
Public Core & Sample Repositories
Alaska Geologic Materials Center
Alaska Geologic Materials Center
Arkansas Geological Commission
Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
California Well Sample Repository
Delaware Geological Survey
Florida Geological Survey
contact: Dr. Jon Arthur: firstname.lastname@example.org
Illinois Geological Survey - Oil and Gas Section
Indiana Geological Survey
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Kansas Geological Survey
Kentucky Geological Survey
Louisiana Basin Research Institute
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
contact: K. Schwartz: (410) 554-5525
Michigan Geological Survey
Western Michigan University
University of Southern Mississippi
contact: Maurice A. Meylan: email@example.com
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Nebraska Conservation and Survey Division
Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
contact: David Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org
New Mexico Bureau of Mine & Mineral Resources
New York State Geological Survey/State Museum
North Dakota Geological Survey
Ohio Geological Survey
Oklahoma Geological Survey
Oregon Dept of Geology & Mineral Industries
contact: Dan Wermiel: email@example.com
South Dakota Dept of Environmental & Natural Resources
contact: Fred Steece: FredS@denrrapcty.state.sd.us
Texas Bureau of Economic Geology
Tennessee Dept of Environment and Conservation
contact: Marvin Berwind: (615) 532-1508
Utah Geological Survey
West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey
Wyoming Geological Survey
Core and sample data is available on-line.
U.S. Geological Survey Core Research Center
Alberta Energy and Utilities
Alberta Energy and Utilities Board - Alberta Geological Survey - Mineral Core Repository
Manitoba Energy and Mines -
Newfoundland & Labrador Mines & Energy
|Nova Scotia Natural Resources
Mines & Energy Branch
Saskatchewan Energy & Mines
website: http://www.gov.sk.ca/enermine/about/semlab/sslabout.htm contact: (306) 787-2621
Geological Survey of Canada - Core & Sample Repository
For a listing of geoscience data repositories providing paper records as well as core and samples. See the AGI Website.
Scott L. Montgomery
In its day, the great library at Alexandria was known to hold ?the
memory of the world.?
Built and maintained by the Ptolemaic kings of northern Egypt who came
after Alexander the Great, the library sought to preserve works from many
lands and languages.
It became thereby an invaluable source of knowledge for scholars,
rulers, military strategists, city builders, and many others.
Loss of the collection by fire is aptly counted among the great
tragedies of history.
The needs embodied by the great library have never changed.
Building large collections of crucial source material has remained a
way to ensure the vitality of knowledge in every conceivable discipline.
To anyone engaged in a technical field, loss of access to this material
would spell disaster.
We in the geosciences?and this includes petroleum geology,
geophysics, and engineering alike?are blessed with another form of such
of course, offer many rewards, but for the petroleum professional, samples
from below ground are more critical.
Drill cuttings and, above all, cores are the exposures of the
are the only means to make the hydrocarbon reservoir visible and
available to direct analysis.
Loss of such ?exposures? is equivalent to the destruction of a book
This should require little elaboration:
one need only consider the range of data routinely derived from a
single whole-rock core and the role of such data in all levels of reservoir
understanding, from facies analysis to reservoir simulation.
Each time a core sample is lost, thrown away, or damaged irreparably,
the knowledge it bears is abandoned to the flames of neglect.
Compounding this misfortune many times is equal to the destruction of
an entire library.
professionals sometimes assume that, in the contemporary era of 3-D computer
modeling, core data have a reduced importance.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, there are at least four reasons why core samples are more
First, major changes have taken place in the direction of the industry.
As widely recognized, this is the age of field re-development and
integrated reservoir characterization.
Producers are faced with growing demands to optimize recovery through
strategic infill drilling, re-completion, waterflooding, carbon dioxide
flooding, and so forth.
None of these approaches can be rationally planned or applied without a
solid understanding of reservoir character, i.e. core data.
Second, sample data is now critical because of the rapid
advances in geologic, geophysical, and engineering science that have
accompanied the ?computer revolution.?
These advances have imposed the need to re-examine and, at times,
re-analyze existing samples in the light of new understanding.
Sequence stratigraphy, seismic attribute analysis, geostatistical
modeling, 3-D reservoir simulation?these are all recent innovations that
would be impossible without both new and existing core data.
Third, one must consider the future in light of the past.
Thanks to steady innovation in completion and EOR technology, field
recoveries in much of the world have improved significantly.
Nonetheless, in most cases fully 60-70% of potentially recoverable
hydrocarbons remains in the ground.
What the future will hold may be impossible to say precisely?except
that advances will surely continue and they will depend, as they have
in the past, on improved reservoir understanding.
New analytical techniques and apparatus will evolve, in large part for
this same reason.
All of which makes existing core samples an irreplaceable resource.
Finally, due to urban development, environmental restrictions, and
other reasons, an increasing number of areas have been closed to future
taken in the past from such areas thus attains a greatly added importance.
In sum, core samples acquire a growing value through time.
This relates to increased importance as a central data source, the
expanding range of analyses drawn from it, and also the high cost of coring
billions of dollars have been invested in coring over the past half century.
What would it cost today to replace the samples that now exist?
A sobering question, to be sure.
Why is any of this important?
The answer is simple:
rock samples are under a greater threat of being lost today, in huge
volumes, than at any time in the past.
Two factors seem to conspire toward this situation.
First, software-based E&P work has helped shift effort away from
direct use of rock, even as such work remains reliant upon it.
Workstation-based reservoir analysis generally demands core data, but not core
actual sample, therefore, once ?stripped? of required information, tends
to inspire disinterest.
A more serious reason behind the need for core preservation has to do
with financial and organizational changes in the industry.
On the one hand, cores are not cheap to maintain:
a 1995 survey performed by Amoco at 11 major industry and private
facilities indicated that costs then ran from $0.67 to $1.51 per box per year
(average $1.16), with large companies holding up to several million boxes
On the other hand, the rapid pace of company buy-outs, mergers,
property acquisitions, and divestitures have made for a great deal of
uncertainty with respect to preserving and maintaining samples.
Mergers have created ?redundancy? in data, while divestitures have
resulted in core changing hands multiple times over a few years.
Add to this the short-term, chaotic cycle of massive layoffs and
partial new hires, plus out-sourcing of many tasks, and it becomes predictable
that much core ends up in some type of administrative or warehouse limbo.
Finally, the strong shift in activity to the international arena has
brought with it a certain devaluation in data and samples from domestic areas.
Are these dangers for core preservation unique to the present moment?
The answer is both yes and no.
As early as 1948, the AAPG recognized that abundant samples ?of
fundamental scientific importance? were being lost and discarded at an
It therefore assembled a Committee on Preservation of Samples and Cores
to examine the problem and offer recommendations (Lonsdale, 1953).
The major difficulty, the Committee found, stemmed from a general lack
of appreciation for both the near- and long-term value of sample material (AAPG,
the early 1980s, things had reversed.
A huge, expanding network of public repositories existed, with most
accepting new material (Schmoker et al., 1984 list over 100 facilities).
A number of states by that time required samples from oil and gas
state facilities, moreover, were run without any user fees.
This is not to mention, moreover, the growing number of private core
facilities that came of age beginning in the late 1970s.
a large degree, the decade between about 1975 and 1985 represented the peak
era of core collection and preservation.
What has taken place since is a steady decline, geared in part to
Yet, if the future is to hold new opportunities for improved scientific
analysis of oil fields, and thus better recovery, preserving core samples must
be viewed as a priority.
these reasons, the AAPG Committee on Preservation of Cores and Samples was
revitalized in 1995 and is again involved in analyzing conditions that
threaten the survival of sample material.
Committee members from both industry and government are working in
collaboration with the American Geological Institute (AGI), which has itself
launched a major effort to address the problem (see below).
Moreover, such increased awareness has also led the National Research
Council to undertake a study (now in its earliest stages) of the relevant
issues involved in preserving geoscience data.
Early in the 1990s, the AGI noted that ?billions of dollars worth of
domestic geological and geophysical data are in jeopardy of being lost or
significant facts have emerged from recent studies by the AAPG Committee and
the AGI. A
survey of articles in the AAPG Bulletin actually shows an increase in
the direct use of core data during the past two decades, from an average of
38% of all articles in 1979-1981 to 43% in 1996-1998.
At the same time, an AGI survey reveals that the number of public
repositories has fallen to about 50?less than half the total in 1985.
Taken together, these facts are indicators of the situation facing
industry, academic, and government geoscientists today.
question naturally arises:
why don?t companies simply donate their core to existing
repositories, whether private or public?
The problems here are two-fold, and related.
They have to do with cost and space.
cores without any additional funding to help preserve and maintain them is
tantamount to shifting the financial burden to the receiving facility.
States, in particular, currently have scant resources to accept major
volumes of new core, which would require building or renting new facilities.
At the same time, companies that might be interested in core
philanthropy are usually in the midst of cost-cutting measures themselves, and
may not be willing or able to contribute funds if the expense is viewed as
private repositories that have raised fees in recent years have seen a
significant decline in use.
the other side, some significant donations have taken place.
In 1994, Shell Oil donated its Midland, Texas core facility, including
2.2 linear feet of core and cuttings, to the University of Texas at Austin
along with a $1.3 million endowment (equivalent to about $4/ box).
This would appear to offer an excellent model for future philanthropy.
The problem, however, is that industry conditions today are not what
they were 6 years ago.
Few companies, including possibly Shell itself, feel they are now in a
financial position to make cash donations at such a level.
The second problem is space.
Even as they were being built and excellently maintained, the
repositories of the 70s and early 80s were filling up due to the accelerated
pace of drilling activity linked to the price boom.
The surveys conducted by AGI and the AAPG Committee indicate that
public facilities are now nearing full capacity.
The AGI estimates that
as much as 3-4 million ft of core are on the verge of being discarded
unless space can be found to save it.
By comparison, the USGS core facility in Denver and the Core Research
Center (CRC) of the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology in Austin, two of the
largest public repositories in the U.S., each hold about 1.4 million ft.
The Denver facility cannot presently accept volumes of new core without
disposing of old samples, and the CRC is estimated to be 85%-90% full.
These facilities summarize the larger circumstance faced by public
repositories in general.
steps might be taken to save the great number of samples now threatened? The
AGI and AAPG Committee have come up with ideas that seem innovative and
the one hand, with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy and portions
of the industry, AGI has investigated archiving and preserving data in
Though necessary, this is not sufficient, for all the reasons given
AGI and AAPG propose the creation or identification of a centralized
repository site, a Library of Congress for samples that would be in the public
a repository, in fact, might form a major part of an even larger collection of
geoscience data that would include seismic, well log, geochemical, thin
section, scout ticket, and other important data also in danger of extinction.
This idea has been vigorously pursued by the AGI.
Beginning in 1994, the Institute began to study the feasibility of
establishing just such a National Geoscience Data Repository System (NGDRS)(AGI,
Discussions with petroleum and minerals companies since then have
indicated a willingness on the part of operators to consider donating truly
vast amounts of data (see Table 1), totaling perhaps 25% of all land seismic
data collected in the U.S. since 1950 and over 50% of all cores and cuttings
held by major oil and gas companies (AGI, 1999).
The concept is at once magnificent and daunting.
Clearly, it arrives at exactly the right moment, and it has obviously
captured the imagination of companies participating in the AGI studies to this
it continues to face significant hurdles.
On the one hand, the NGDRS has had success in creating a software data
catalog and access system called GeoTrek, now available with limited offerings
via the World Wide Web (http://www.agiweb.org/NGDRS/).
Still in its infancy, GeoTrek promises to be a useful tool.
Yet its ultimate utility will obviously depend on whether an actual
physical facility can be found to house the repository.
Company willingness to donate material is itself largely contingent
upon such a repository being located.
The crucial step is therefore to find a site for the NGDRS collection.
The AGI estimates that, for samples, a facility with at least
250,000-300,000 sq. ft. able to hold 35-ft high racks will be needed.
To adequately set up, maintain, and guarantee such a repository for the
long-term, meanwhile, an endowment of about $10 million would be necessary.
Recently, the AGI identified an unused hangar at Denver?s Stapleton
International Airport, with 250,000 sq ft, as a possible choice.
However, expensive repairs ($2-3 million) and environmental liabilities
made this option unfeasible.
best opportunity for an appropriate site currently rests in the private
sector, specifically at the large core facility operated by C&M Storage in
In operation since 1968, the Schulenberg repository contains several
million ft of core, both from the U.S. and international areas, and has ample
space for expansion.
It has had excellent long-term relationships with a number of major and
independent companies and is set up to provide an array of core-related
services, including slabbing, plug-cutting, drying/boxing, crushing, and more.
There are 2,500 linear ft available for core viewing, and the facility
is kept at constant temperature and humidity (70o F, 50%) for
All record-keeping is computerized.
In a number of ways, therefore, the facility appears excellently set up
to act as a national repository site.
Storage, meanwhile, has indicated a distinct willingness to discuss this
At present, the primary hurdle remains economic:
money must be provided to support the transfer, preservation, and
maintenance of so much new material.
One idea that has been recently proposed is to create a ?public
trust? in the amount of $20 million, to endow a national repository at
Schulenberg and possibly support other facilities as well.
Whether such an endowment is feasible in the current climate of
continued corporate downsizing remains to be seen.
Yet its proposed size can be taken as appropriate evidence of the need
that currently exists.
and human beings share many of the same enemies.
War, fire, physical damage, neglect:
these are among the forces that reduce the dimensions of life and
in the geosciences appear poised to lose large portions of an irreplaceable
The reasons responsible for this situation, tied as they are to change
and turmoil within the energy industry, argue strongly for a new type of
?great library? to counter the threat of loss.
have always been expensive to acquire.
Advances in knowledge and technology have guaranteed that the reasons
for acquiring them not only persist, but have intensified. There is a decided
need for finding ways to save the intellectual and economic capital invested
in the subsurface legacy that has come to exist.
Allowing such capital to vanish is tantamount to impoverishing the
often in history, scholars and scientists have been forced to witness the
destruction of their libraries.
Every time core is lost, it means both data and dollars burned.
Now, perhaps, is the time to find opportunities to do the opposite. We
geoscientists should be become involved and supportive both to find a solution
to the larger storage problem and to continue to serve as stewards for the
material we may have at hand.
1957, Sample and core repositories of the United States, Alaska, and Canada:
AAPG Committee on Preservation of Samples and Cores,
Geological Institute, 1994, National Geoscience Data Repository System,
Feasibility and Assessment Study:
report submitted to
Office of Fossil Research, U.S. Department of Energy, 68 p.
1997, National Geoscience Data Repository System, Phase II Final Report:
National Petroleum Technology Office, U.S. Department of
Energy, Grant No. DE-FG22-95BC
14833, 127 p.
1999, National Geosciences Data Repository System, Phase III:
Implementation and Operation of the Repository, Final Report:
Office of Fossil Energy, U.S. Department of Energy,
Grant No. DE-FG22-97BC-14847, 32 p.
J.T., 1953, On the preservation of well samples and cores:
Shale Shaker, v. 3, no. 7, p. 4
J.W., Michalski, T.C. and P.B. Worl, 1984, Nonprofit sample and core repositories
open to the public in the United States:
U.S. Geological Survey
Circular 942, 102 p.
D.C., 1995, Amoco Core and Geoscience Sample Management Study:
internal report, 17 p.