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Relocation of BGS Core Store

A number of Fellows have expressed concern about the decision of the British Geological Survey to relocate core and cuttings currently held at Gilmerton, near Edinburgh, to Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, as part of an exercise to rationalize and more effectively manage a large number of diverse collections presently spread over many sites.

At its meeting on 25 November 2009, Council discussed the matter and was assisted by a report from the Petroleum Group Committee of the Society which had considered the importance of the core collection and possible damage to it in transit. The minutes of the Council discussion and the summary of the Petroleum Group Committee advice are available to download below:

In the light of the Council discussion, Lynne Frostick, the President of the Society, wrote to Prof Ludden, Director of BGS, on 30 November 2009 saying:

“In circulating the Tribal Group report to members of the review panel on 14 October Jeremy Giles invited feedback.

One aspect of the review which has attracted particular comment is the decision by BGS to relocate core and cuttings materials from Gilmerton and Loanhead to Keyworth. As you know, this has been the subject of much debate in Geoscientist and in the PESGB newsletter.

In the light of representations made by Fellows, Council discussed both the report and the proposed relocation of core material at its meeting on 25 November. Council is grateful to Richard Hughes, Director of Information and Knowledge Exchange, in presenting a summary of the report, for explaining the diversity of the collections and the many locations where they are presently housed and of the advantages for bringing this material together at a single location with the potential synergy that they can be better stored and viewed together in purpose built accommodation.

Previously to the meeting I asked Graham Goffey as Chair of the Petroleum Group, the Society’s expert group, to canvass views. Graham’s note tabled at the meeting is attached.

Council accepts that it is for BGS to decide how it is to manage core collections and their location and recognises that those decisions are driven by the requirement to maintain diverse and nationally important collections in appropriate conditions and in a cost effective way. However, there is real concern about potential damage to the core in transit and the Society is looking for assurances that BGS will, as custodian of irreplaceable material, exercise all due care. We suggest that prior to transport advice is sought from specialists well versed in the conservation and transport of friable material and steps taken to treat material accordingly. Given the volume of material to be transferred and the potential risk to it should there be a road traffic accident, no doubt BGS will undertake a full risk assessment. Further, in order to establish the extent of damage in transit, you may wish to consider photographing the material prior to transfer. Council was pleased to note that within the material still held by operators there may be a photographic record of the cores taken shortly after drilling and to learn that BGS will work to secure that archive with a view to making it available on line.

Given the concerns raised Council welcomes the invitation that a member of the Petroleum Group should serve on the BGS Collections Advisory Committee.

In summary, while recognising that the decision to relocate the core is an operational matter for BGS, Council is looking for reassurances that BGS will honour its obligations as national custodians to safeguard the material.

I am copying this letter to the executive and non executive members of the BGS Board, Jennifer Cook and Jeremy Giles.”


On 16 December 2009 Prof Ludden replied:

“Thank you for your letter dated 30 November and the comments relating specifically to the decision to relocate the cores and collections from Gilmerton and Loanhead to Keyworth.

I am grateful to you for allowing time at Council for a thorough discussion of the complex issues. I am grateful also to Graham Goffey, Chair of the Petroleum Group, for his summary of the group’s views on the BGS proposals.

Council is not alone in raising concerns about potential damage to the integrity of the core collections during transit. BGS fully recognises the uniqueness and strategic national importance of the Gilmerton collections in particular, and understands its obligations as custodian. I would like to assure you, and Council, that BGS will seek expert input before moving the collections, and that a full risk assessment will be undertaken and appropriate mitigation measures put in place to manage the situation. BGS has been in contact with Graham recently on this matter and he has kindly nominated a representative of the Petroleum Group to provide input to the process.

BGS is pursuing the possibility of gaining access to the photographs of cores that we believe still remain with the operators, with the long-term objective of making these collections available through the world-wide web. I believe this to be a very valuable long-term goal, but its realisation will require the cooperation, and possibly the financial support, of many different parties.

BGS has also offered to open a dialogue with academic users of the Gilmerton store to explore what can be done to further support the training and teaching of the next generation of petroleum geoscientists.

While fully recognising and understanding the concerns of the Geological Society, I would like to reiterate my belief that relocating the Gilmerton and Loanhead core collections to a purpose-built facility at Keyworth is the best way of guaranteeing their future accessibility to both industry and academic users in perpetuity.”


On 23 February 2010, Henry Allen, the President of the PESGB wrote to Lynne Frostick and Graham Goffey, chair of the Society’s Petroleum Group as follows
:

“I write to you on behalf of the members of the PESGB on the basis that we encompass the vast majority of users of the BGS Core Store at Gilmerton, Edinburgh, despite being excluded from the consultation process in 2009. Today we are publishing on our website the results of a survey of members’ views on the proposed closure of the Edinburgh facility which you can see at www.pesgb.org.uk. In summary 77% believed the core store should remain in Edinburgh and 89% of active users thought so. You will also see that in the March PESGB Newsletter I have stated my own analysis of the situation and what should be done to resolve it.

I met with Professor Ludden of the BGS last week to share these results and propose that a Steering Group of the real stakeholders should be set up to reconsider the way forward. Professor Ludden appeared to reject this on the basis that the decision was in the hands of higher authorities.

In view of this, I have written to NERC and DECC but I am also asking for your support for the formation of a Steering Group on the basis that this is the only politically acceptable way forward. It would consider;
  • What is the purpose of the Edinburgh Core Store – a passive academic archive or a practical working facility or something else?
  • What are the true economics of the current operation, what are the future economic constraints, and what are the financial numbers behind alternative ways forward?
  • What is the most optimal, viable solution to meet the agreed purpose within the defined economicconstraints?
Please note that I am also writing to Jon Gluyas, as Chairman of BGS, formally asking that the Board of the BGS reconsider their position at the next meeting.

I’m sure you are conscious that many of our members will also be members of The Geological Society and therefore I ask you to consider carefully what stance your organisation and in particular the Petroleum Group, should take on this matter. Now that the views of the geoscience community in the oil industry are clearly demonstrated, I do hope that the Geological Society are prepared to join the voice of reason.”

On 12 March 2010 Lynne Frostick, the President of the Society, wrote to Dr Allen saying:

"You wrote on 23 February asking the Geological Society to support the formation of a Steering Group to consider a number of issues concerning the BGS Gilmerton Core Store and the decision to relocate core and cuttings presently held there to Keyworth.

Whatever the imperfections of the consultative exercise conducted by the Tribal Group on behalf of BGS, the history and process by which the Survey has decided to consolidate the onshore and offshore core/cuttings with other archival material at a single location (Keyworth), this Society believes that it is for the BGS to decide on what are essentially operational matters internal to the Survey. Rather, our concern is to ensure that BGS as custodian of this nationally significant dataset is able to clearly demonstrate that the core can be safely and cost effectively moved and that all appropriate steps have been taken to safeguard the integrity of the core in transit. The Director has said in writing that BGS will obtain expert input before moving the collections, that a full risk assessment will be undertaken and appropriate mitigation measures put in place to manage the situation. To inform that process, we have agreed that a representative of this Society’s Petroleum Group Committee participates in the Collections Advisory Group and is able to advise Council of the Geological Society as to the BGS’ planned measures and safeguards. In addition, we are encouraging BGS to explore the opportunities for enhancing access to the cores through mounting a comprehensive photographic record on the web.

In all of this, although we may regret the manner in which this decision has been made, the Council of the Geological Society has been concerned to support what it perceives to be best for Earth sciences. This is a matter that has not generated any meaningful direct comment to the Society from its Fellows and it seems that the Society’s membership is either not particularly concerned about the matter or is comfortable that the representatives of the Society are acting appropriately in this matter. In this respect, the Council of the Society is not responding to any particular lobbying from Fellows but is following common sense in focussing on the key area of concern, namely minimisation of the risks of damage in transit, by assessing BGS’ transport plans associated with a single move to Keyworth, which seems to be the least transport intensive process.

Please be assured that Council will continue to actively monitor events and will not be slow to act in the interests of our Fellows if it becomes necessary."

Council is concerned that the Fellowship at large is kept informed on this matter and action taken by the Society.