Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (www.beg.utexas.edu).
5th International Meeting, National Geoscience Data Repositories, U.S.G.S., Reston, Virginia, September 21, 2004
Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin
DeJarnett and Laura C. Zahm
The Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG), a research arm of the University of Texas at Austin, also acts as the State Geological Survey. The BEG has been curating cores and samples for over seventy years, and it is an integral part of its overall mission to preserve this invaluable and irreplaceable geologic resource for future research. The BEG operates three repositories (Austin Houston and Midland), and together these repositories hold nearly 1.8 million boxes of geologic material available for public use. The collection includes onshore and offshore rock material from domestic and international locations. Many of the cores represent classic examples of siliciclastic and carbonate depositional systems. Interested geoscientists can access the online BEG database for a listing of all available geoscience data at the three BEG repositories (http://begdb1.beg.utexas.edu/Igor/). Currently, search criteria include state, county, depth, API, operator, lease, field, well name, and sample type. This database is continually updated, and it will soon be driven by a geographic information system (GIS) whereby rock material of interest can be located by selecting an area on a map.
The newest of the BEG repositories, or research centers, is the Houston Research Center (HRC). The BEG, building on an initial gift from BP, and with the support of the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Research Council (NRC), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), has established the HRC as the first regional core and sample research center in Houston, Texas. The NRC has strongly supported the establishment of regional core and sample repositories such as the HRC. Further support comes from the NSF, which is funding the HRC to curate terrestrial cores, samples, and collections used in NSF-funded projects
The HRC’s mission
The HRC provides a state-of-the-art core layout facility, two fully equipped conference rooms, and a comprehensive technical library, all available for public use. All interior space, including the core warehouse, is climate controlled. Elevated loading docks, specialized storage for frozen core, and basic rock preparation equipment make the HRC well designed for curation, easy access of materials, and research. Most of the cores, samples, and cuttings at the repository were acquired by private industry, but all are now available to the public. The HRC expanded in 2004 to include an extensive technical library donated by Unocal Corporation. Valued at nearly $5 million, the library includes books, journals, maps, field guides, Federal Government reports, and monographs of more than 50,000 items. The collection is a research-quality library emphasizing geology, geophysics, and petroleum engineering. The library is open to the public and has a professional librarian onsite.
The BEG is striving to make the HRC a flagship public-sector core and sample repository in the United States, and the ultimate goal of the HRC is to continue building our endowment to cover all operating expenses and user fees, resulting in a true public geologic research center. Originally built and operated by Amoco, the HRC was later acquired by BP, then donated to the BEG in late 2002. A generous multiyear granting program from DOE has provided for many of the operational expenses of the HRC during its first years of operation. The BEG is actively pursuing donors of both rock material and cash to endow the facility. With the help of finite operational grants (such as the DOE grant), this endowment will reach a level in 5 years where the interest earned on the endowment will cover operational expenses of the HRC well into the future. In addition to generous donations from BP, Oxy, and XTO Energy, the BEG is currently in negotiation with several other companies that are interested in donating rock material and cash to the HRC.