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Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril
SIDEBAR 3-5Alaska Geologic Materials Center
The Alaska Geologic Materials Center (GMC), Eagle River, Alaska, retains geologic materials from industry and state agencies. In addition, the GMC has agreements with the BLM, USGS, and MMS to archive their rock materials. The GMC holds collections of cores and cuttings from 1,250 oil and gas wells, 920 holes representing 145 mineral prospects and developments, 4 wells representing a geothermal prospect, and 12 holes representing two proposed dam sites on the Susitna River, in addition to a range of other geologic information. A 1982 agreement between the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the USGS established the GMC. In the original agreement, the value of the collection was stated as “hundreds of millions of dollars.” Core and other samples from the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska were among the initial samples preserved in the GMC. Catalogs of all materials are available on computers at the center, though not on the Internet.
The facility has 9,000 square feet of heated space, but also makes extensive use of large unheated transport (CONNEX) containers for storage of materials, and can expand by purchasing additional containers and shelving. Costs of operating the GMC (a minimum of $110,000 per year) are borne primarily by the state, with additional support from industry donations. Major upgrades have been achieved using federal funds ($300,000 in 1984 from the USGS, and $460,000 in 1999 from the BLM). In 2000, 72 percent of users of the GMC were from industry (oil, gas, and coal), 10 percent were from government agencies, and 18 percent were from academia and the public. No user fees are charged, but clients from industry must cover costs of processing materials.
Committee Conclusions of Best Practices: (1) state, federal, and private holdings; (2) state, federal, and private support; (3) some cost-recovery from industry users; (4) relatively complete holdings of regional importance.
SOURCE: John Reeder and Debbie Patskowski, GMC, personal communication, 2001, 2002.
ment agencies, and others. The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS, 2002) is an example of a consortium approach for seismic data retention, assimilation, and use.
Government’s Current Role
Government regulatory agencies frequently require filing of at least some subsurface data from oil and gas exploration (though not cores or cuttings). The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Fluid Minerals Division, for example, requires deposit of completion records and logs for wells drilled on federal lands. These data reside in approximately 50 BLM offices around the country and are accessible only within the BLM. They are part of the Automated Fluid Mineral Support System, but there is no overall index for this system (Duane Spencer, BLM, personal communication, 2001).
The BLM Solid Minerals Division is responsible for coal, uranium, and other leasable solid mineral exploration on federal lands. This does not apply to lands acquired by “claim” (non-leasable or metallic minerals). According to statute (43 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 3484.1(a)(4)), the lessee “shall retain for 1 year, unless a shorter time period is authorized by the authorized office, all drill and geophysical logs and make logs available for inspection or analysis by the authorized officer, if requested.” The “authorized officer, at his discretion, may require the operator/lessee to retain representative samples of drill cores for 1 year.” There is thus no requirement for permanent data storage of any type. According to the BLM, “a database for coal lease and reserve information called the Solid Leasable Minerals System was developed in the mid-1980s, but discontinued in 1995 due to telecommunications problems and issues concerning the protection of confidential data” (James Edwards, BLM, personal communication, 2001). The USGS uses BLM data in its assessments of national coal resources. To complete the most recent assessment (in 1999), USGS staff commonly traveled to individual BLM offices and obtained hard copies of maps of coal outcrops and mines on BLM lands because limited digital data were available at that time (Suzanne Weedman, USGS, personal communication, 2002).
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) requires the submission of completion records in hardcopy form for oil and gas wells drilled on the continental shelf (pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf [OCS] Lands Act, as amended [43 U.S. Code 1331], and MMS regulations 30 CFR § 250, 30 CFR § 251, and 30 CFR § 280). Basic well log information is kept for 2 years and 60 days, or until the lease expires, whichever comes first. Beginning in 1976, seismic survey data are held for 25 years before being released. The first