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Preservation Pitch Hits the Mark

Funds Sought to Save Data

A heavyweight report calling for immediate action to preserve and make available U.S. geoscience collections and data to the public received a "positive reception," by the National Research Council Committee on Energy Resources.

The 218-page report, funded in part by AAPG and the AAPG Foundation, calls for $130-$180 million in funding to establish three centers — one each in the Gulf Coast, Rock Mountain and Pacific Coast regions — to immediately begin to capture and classify the fast-disappearing cores, cuttings, fossils, geophysical tapes, paper logs and rocks.

The report called the data "the foundation of basic and applied geoscience research and education."

Past Powers Medallist Robert M. Sneider led the AAPG delegation on the committee compiling the report. He said the Council indicated a "very positive response," as did members of the Senate Resources Committee staff.

Other AAPG members involved in compiling the report included:

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A heavyweight report calling for immediate action to preserve and make available U.S. geoscience collections and data to the public received a "positive reception," by the National Research Council Committee on Energy Resources.

The 218-page report, funded in part by AAPG and the AAPG Foundation, calls for $130-$180 million in funding to establish three centers — one each in the Gulf Coast, Rock Mountain and Pacific Coast regions — to immediately begin to capture and classify the fast-disappearing cores, cuttings, fossils, geophysical tapes, paper logs and rocks.

The report called the data "the foundation of basic and applied geoscience research and education."

Past Powers Medallist Robert M. Sneider led the AAPG delegation on the committee compiling the report. He said the Council indicated a "very positive response," as did members of the Senate Resources Committee staff.

Other AAPG members involved in compiling the report included:

  • Past AAPG Editor Kevin Biddle, ExxonMobil, Irving, Texas.
  • Donald D. Clarke, the City of Long Beach, Calif.
  • John Steinmetz, of the Indiana Geological Survey, Bloomington, Ind.
  • Sally Zinke, of Ultra Petroleum, Englewood, Colo.

AAPG members who reviewed the report included past AAPG president and Powers Medallist William L. Fisher, Stan Eschner, of Trio Petroleum, Scott Hector of Carneros Energy and Robert Laing, ChevronTexaco. Raymond Price, of Queen's University, Kingston, Canada, was chief reviewer.

While the collections' importance to the public was underscored by "real world" examples (see related story, page 21), the report also noted the serious losses of data and cores already lost due to a lack of cohesive preservation program.

Sneider said "the amount of material that is disappearing is shocking."

Examples included:

A warehouse owner discarded samples from the world's deepest well — the 31,441-foot Rogers #1 in Washita County, Oklahoma.

Despite efforts to save hundreds of thousands of feet of cores from 122 wells in California, they were dumped in the fill that became the Long Beach Harbor expansion.

Adding to the misfortune, the samples that were able to be saved (two shipping containers and selected core), were moved several times and in the process the jostling destroyed them.

Inaccessibility examples were also cited in the report. They included:

The paleontological collection at U.S. Geological Survey's Denver Federal Center is probably the largest such collection in the United States — but there is no funding for curation and are commonly accessible only when the investigator is present.

When an independent acquired a major oil companies' interests in an oil field, the cores, which were stored outdoors for two years, are now on unorganized pallets in a warehouse with random equipment laid on top of them.

The DOE cores stored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are stacked outside buildings in the open and are overgrown with weeds.

In laying out a plan to preserve the data and collections, the report seeks to:

  • Request funds from the U.S. government.
  • Set up a private foundation and obtain funds from industry, individuals and foundations — and obtain tax incentives for the donations.
  • Set up steering science-advisory committees to establish protocols to collect, process and provide access to data and collections.

The next step, according to Sneider, is to obtain the National Research Council's important blessing to approach the House and Senate Energy Resources committees for inclusion in the U.S. energy budget. Chris Maples, study chair, and Sneider already have made presentations to the Senate staffers.

Other joint sponsors involved in creating and presenting the report include the American Geological Institute, the DOE- Fossil Energy, DOE-Yucca Mountain, Geological Society of America, National Science Foundation, Paleontological Society, Petrotechnical Open Software Corp., Schlumberger, Smithsonian Institute and the USGS.

AGI initiated a major study of geoscience data preservation in 1994 with the support of the DOE. AAPG's Committee on the Preservation of Cores and Samples, headed by Edith Allison, has had a long-standing effort on preservation.

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