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Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...


GEO COVER_DEC11JAN12 for web.jpgThis page has been created to facilitate rapid and timely interchange of opinion. Each month (space permitting) a selection of these letters will be published in Geoscientist Online , the colour monthly magazine of the Society Fellowship.

Correspondence strings are listed in the order that they are begun, the most recent string at the top. Within each string, letters are listed with the first letter of the string at the top, and subsequent letters below.

This page contains letters from the current year.  The archive of letters from previous years are accessible by clicking the links to the left.

If you wish to express an opinion, please email the Editor. Letters should be as short as possible, preferably c.300 words long or fewer. You may also write to:

Dr Ted Nield, Editor, Geoscientist, c/o The Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG.
  • Please note that letters will be edited for publication. This particularly applies to versions  printed in the magazine.  The Editor reserves the right not to publish letters, at his discretion. Writers should submit their letters electronically to ensure rapid publication. All views expressed below are the responsibility of their authors alone.TN

A horse of a different colour 12 May 2016

Received 12 MAY 2016
Published 12 MAY 2016
From John Simmons

Sir, What irony that the lead photograph used to illustrate the feature on the Chalk depicts a concrete horse. Shame on the BGS for not showing a chalk horse. Plenty to choose from in Wiltshire.

John Simmons (Wiltshireman)

Editor replies: John puts his finger on the reason why a concrete horse was chosen - it may be concrete at surface, but what is it at depth?  Hmm?  We're subtle like that here at Geoscientist.

Ground Truth – says who? 29 February 2016

Received 29 FEBRUARY 2016
Published 29 FEBRUARY 2016
From P M A Carruthers
Sir, I feel having Gary Nichols, Managing Director of Nautilus, “Largest single provider of field based training” make the case for field based training is like having the CEO of Ben ‘n Jerry’s make the case for ice cream.  Even worse, he doesn’t even make a good case.

We cannot walk along subterranean hydrocarbon reservoirs, but year-on-year enhanced recovery demonstrates we are doing something right. That would be the study of rock mechanics, fluid mechanics, porosity, permeability, reservoir pressures, injection pressures, flow rates, draw-down fluid contacts & so on.  Surely these are more laboratory sciences rather than field training?  It is not true that we can only study the vertical in well bores.  Most hydrocarbon based well paths now navigate horizontally through the reservoir with down-hole, real time tools which give fantastic resolution of rocks; particularly the measured physical properties so important  to evaluation & production.  We know there are commonly facies variations across reservoirs – no surprise there, but do field studies inform us on the best way to make reservoir fluids flow?

Continuing Personal Development (CPD) is an important aspect to everyone’s career & to companies’ success.  I would venture that the amount spent on Nautilus-type field training by energy sector companies versus everything else they put into individuals’ development approaches insignificance!

For our geological pioneers field study was indeed essential; they also rode around on horses & had no electric light.  Times change.  I like a day in the fresh air as much as the next person, so can’t we just be honest & say we go into the field because we enjoy it, rather than it being “essential or integral” to being a good geologist?

Now, where’s my ice cream?

P M A Carruthers


Cutting remarks 16 February 2016

Received 16 FEBRUARY 2016
Published 16 FEBRUARY 2016
From Craig Bunting
Sir, I was very interested to read Gary Nichols' article Ground Truth concerning the advantages of fieldwork in the oil and gas industry - a point I completely agree with.  I have a masters degree, which I have to say has not actually helped me one jot to get into the oil and gas industry - that is, the operator's side of it, the side which gets much of the media attention.  However I wanted to spotlight another perspective.

There is a large body of geologists who work in my side of the industry - oilfield services - who do have considerable field experience: the mudlogging crews and wellsite geologists.  They catch and describe samples during the drilling stage and while this is not quite the same as looking at large exposures in the field, it does give first-hand observation of the reservoir formations as well as any oil they may hold.

The same detail visible through a hand lens on an exposure in the field can also be seen in cuttings samples taken usually every three metres (measured depth, not vertical depth) within the reservoir section.  It is routine for the mudlogging crew and wellsite geologists to describe the cementation, porosity and permeability characteristics of likely reservoir formations and record them on daily and end-of-well reports.  Add to this the interpretation of gas data and the advanced gas-monitoring and interpretation services, core, seismic and petrophysical data is greatly bolstered.  Any office-bound reservoir geologist can simply sit a modest x10 microscope on their desk and ask for the cuttings samples of a well to be delivered to them.

It is good to hear that some operators still value training because in these lean times it has completely stopped for geologists in oilfield service companies who are shedding staff in the hundreds and cancelling all non-profit-making expenditure to ultimately satisfy the shareholder.

Craig Bunting

Your Own Death and How to Cope With It 04 February 2016

Received 04 FEBRUARY 2016
Published 04 FEBRUARY 2016
From Russell Corbyn
Sir, The intrinsic human nature to embrace Armageddon at every and any given turn is as unlikely to dissipate and will likely hang around and haunt us as do the remnants of Amoco Cadiz, Exxon Valdez and BP's latest attempt at reducing biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico. Apocalypse. We love it. We dream of it and yet it never seems to happen.

The ability of our minds to comprehend futures, societies and existences beyond that which we already know is at best limited. We all have versions but articulating a complete picture and comprehending it is another thing entirely. A little knowledge is indeed dangerous and with regard to predicting future trends among a complex web of interactions, is a mere folly, but we endeavour to do so whether in the face of futility or otherwise. There are many who have enlightened our imaginations with tales of greatness followed by disintegration - H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Olaf Stapledon, Arthur C. Clarke, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor and many more have written the doom-laden futures of humanity that we repeatedly seek.

One thing that unifies them all is the acceptance that the increased demand of explosive societal needs or homogenisation are the downfall of Humankind. Reverend Thomas Robert Malthaus (1766 – 1834) predicted the demise of the human race due to an exponential demand for food and water that the agricultural practices of the day could not sustain. Not to worry, some time passes and there are technological solutions, societal changes and this of course affects the bottom line of altering supply and demand in a way that maintains our existence. Phew. I’m not dead after all.

So by that logic we are all ok as long as technology can fix it and society can adapt. Brilliant. This indeed backs up the argument supplied by David Nowell in Vol 26, No. 1 of Geoscientist. Aside from a quick dip into elevated temperatures possibly being bad, it is assumed that the whole world is being paranoid and the only reason we don’t want to drill in the arctic is because we’re a bit guilty of driving cars around and flying planes rather needlessly – to which I totally agree, we are addicted to oil and perversely defending it by capitalist measures. Can’t we leave some things alone?

What was clear from little Tommy Malthaus prediction was that something had to change or indeed we would be faced with significant famines and yet, things have and, disproportionately, we still are.

From the substantial desertification of Sub-Saharan Africa (and the modern day analogue with 30s dustbowl America that were once luscious plains), Latin America and Mongolia/China to global and regional overpopulation, bee and insect depletion, rising sea levels, overconsumption, fresh water resource depletion, invasive species, virus transportation due to globalisation, etc. it could be assumed we are living in perilous times. The anti-argument may be that we are always living in perilous times. Would that last statement be a bit remiss and blasé? (Maybe I am dead).

Of course it would. To merely state that the more environmentally aware scientists are blinkered and that humanity should have a good look at itself in the microverse is utter insanity. Fiddle away, Nero. Sanity would suggest the overloading of a system is not a good thing. Note the end Permian and end Cretaceous et al. There is so much to examine closely in society at the decision making levels. That does not render the journalist wrong, and to state it is “divisive” is grossly unfair and wrong. Aside from the fact that polemic is used to bring attentions to poorly reported matters, the reality is that we are addicted to oil and it will kill us by direct and indirect measures should we persist (what say you Rev. Tom?) along the same lines of irresponsible use. Perhaps we need to prove Malthaus wrong again, maybe that societal change and technological revolution at the higher levels is needed once more. Putting the blinkers on and blaming an SUV driving mum with a rather well fed child watching Red Dwarf (again) on DVD is probably not.


Russell Corbyn CEnv MRSC FGS MIEnvSc – Site Investigation, Soil and Rock Analysis, Concrete & Cementitious Materials Petrology and Petrogaphy, Waste Materials & Re-Use Assessment. Kiwa CMT Testing.


Hubbert's Peak, apples, and oranges 19 January 2016

Received 19 JANUARY 2016
Published 19 JANUARY 2016
From Antony Wyatt

Sir,  Hillis is correct to point out that Hubbert (1956) was predicting peak production, not exhaustion, of liquid hydrocarbons (and not other energy resources), but misses out that he was concerned with what were then considered to be conventional sources.

My understanding is that production from potential sources such as deep water and fracking were excluded from his calculations. To include these unconventional sources in a test of a Hubbert’s predictions seems a bit like comparing apples and oranges.

Dr Antony Wyatt, School of Engineering, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, AB10 7GJ


Hubbert's Peak not even 'correct' 13 January 2016

Received 06 JANUARY 2016
Published 13 JANUARY 2016
From Richard Hillis

Sir, Ragnarsdottir and Sverdrup in their article Limits to Growth revisited (Geoscientist 25.9) stated “Hubbert (correctly!) predicted an exhaustion date for the oil and energy resources of the United States as 1970”.  In fact the 1970 date refers to US liquid hydrocarbons (not other energy resources such as coal and uranium) and is Hubbert’s (1956) predicted peak production, not exhaustion, date. 

strjs Furthermore, and notwithstanding the enormous respect which Hubbert deserves for his body of work, as the figure illustrates, Hubbert’s (1956) prediction of US oil production is far from correct. The “peak resources community” cannot justifiably continue to use Hubbert’s (1956) prediction of future US oil production in support of their views.

Richard Hillis Chief Executive Officer, Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre, Adelaide.