ISGS - March 2009 Activity Highlights
ISGS - Home Page of the Illinois State Geological Survey
Drill rig outside fo the Natural Resources Building, March 2009
New Borehole at ISGS Reveals 300 Million Years of Earth History
How do geologists find out what sediments occur below land surface when there isn't any surface exposure or excavation deep enough to reveal the sequence of geologic materials? When few boreholes are available for a site or when the records of the sediments they encounter are incomplete, the only way to obtain high-quality, site-specific information is to drill the borehole yourself. And that is just what the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) did, right in its own backyard. This newest borehole was drilled behind the Natural Resources Building (NRB), the Survey's home on the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus. A main reason for the drilling was to demonstrate for the public how samples of sediment are retrieved using a drill rig. The drilling and demonstration occurred before, during, and after the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability (INRS) Naturally Illinois Expo, held March 13–14, 2009.
Although initially conceived as a demonstration of drilling equipment and technique that would penetrate about 50 to 100 feet, the effort soon evolved into a serious "push-to-bedrock, and-then-some" project to acquire a sediment record spanning the last 300 million years of earth history at this location. Only a few high-quality boreholes have been drilled to bedrock in Champaign County—fewer still within the city limits. A borehole previously drilled by the ISGS just south of campus revealed a bedrock sequence that included two seams of coal that had not previously been mapped in this part of the county, even though they are similar to seams mined in surrounding counties.
Lineup of cores taken from the Natural Resources Building drill hole, March 2009
The drill crew and geologists drilled for six days total and terminated the borehole at a depth of 372 feet, having reached the target layer of bedrock. Most of the upper 304 feet of sediment is a compact mixture of gravel, sand, silt, and clay and was deposited during the last 700,000 years of earth history during three distinct glacial episodes when huge continental glaciers pushed southward out of the basins of the upper Great Lakes, notably the Lake Michigan basin. Other sediment layers of silt and very fine sand suggest periods of time when lakes, fed by water from melting glacial ice, covered this location. This sediment record is extensive and appears to contain a nearly complete record of the glacial history of this site.
Additional study by geologists will extract more detail from this part of the core. The 304 feet of glacial sediment overlies, in direct contact, bedrock that is about 300 million years old, which means that about 300 million years of earth history are not preserved as a sediment record in this area. What happened to this sediment? Erosion is the most likely culprit. The processes of deposition and erosion are constantly at work on the surface of the Earth with one or the other dominating during various periods of history.
The sediment core extracted from this borehole records a history spanning millions of years beginning about 300 million years ago. Drilling into 60+ feet of Pennsylvanian age bedrock at the bottom of the INRS Expo core hole has afforded ISGS geologists a teaching and demonstration tool for the public as well as crucial data for regional geologic maps, geology of the Pennsylvanian age, and coal resource identification. The discovery of almost 4 feet of Herrin Coal directly below the ISGS, along with evidence of thick Herrin Coal from adjacent oil records will now allow geologists to expand the known resources of that coal seam by possibly hundreds of millions of tons. The new coal information coupled with bedrock surface mapping will allow us to construct a subsurface map showing the approximate extent of the Herrin Coal in Champaign County.
The information from this new borehole will eventually be placed in the archives at the ISGS. The ISGS archives contain records for more than 500,000 boreholes that have been drilled throughout Illinois during the last century. The boreholes were drilled for a variety of reasons: exploration for oil, gas, and coal; installing residential and municipal water wells; engineering purposes related to highway, bridge, and commercial construction; and rock and aggregate resource extraction such as building stone and sand and gravel. Geologists can study the drilling records from many boreholes in an area to determine the general vertical sequence of geologic materials. (Contact: Mike Barnhardt or Scott Elrick)
Attendees examine the core from the
First Naturally Illinois Expo Draws Crowd
On Friday and Saturday, March 13-14, 2009, The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Illinois State Water Survey, and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center joined forces to present the first Naturally Illinois Expo of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability. The new event expanded and replaced the ISGS Open House.
Well over 2,500 teachers, students, families, and other visitors attended the two-day event, which featured 42 exhibits and interactive activities conducted by over 100 Institute staff volunteers. Among this year's new exhibits were borehole drilling and geophysics demonstrations, groundwater activities, climate and weather displays, and informative exhibits on Illinois insects, mushrooms, arthropods, and mussels. Examples of new technologies and tips on going "green" were featured also. Finally, some ISGS classics—the Kids' Fossil Dig, Build Illinois, Ice Age glacial models, and others—continued to be crowd pleasers. On Saturday morning, 120 runners and walkers turned out for the second ISGS Earth, Wind, and Fire 5K Run and 2.5K Walk.
This successful outreach event could not have been held without the participation of staff volunteers, students, the INHS Mobile Science Center, the Illinois Petroleum Resource Board, and private donors. (Contact: Cindy Briedis)
Green River Lowlands Sand Dunes Project Completed
Xiaodong Miao completed the project "Sand Dunes in the Green River Lowland, Northwestern Illinois." The recent increase in dune studies in North America has been heavily focused in the Great Plains, and less attention has historically been given to the dune fields east of the Mississippi River. This project gives new absolute ages and suggests a potential sediment source for sand dunes in the Green River Lowland, Illinois. The new information provides scientists with a better understanding of the dynamic interactions between the eolian, glacial, lacustrine, and fluvial processes that shaped the landscapes of the upper Midwest.
Seven coherent optically stimulated luminescence ages (OSL, or optical ages) obtained from four sites suggest that major dune construction in the Green River Lowland occurred within a narrow time window around 17,500 ± 570 years ago. Contrary to previous assertions that dune sand was sourced from the deflation of underlying outwash sand deposited when the Lake Michigan Lobe retreated from the area, Green River Lowland dunes were formed as a result of drainage from the Green Bay Lobe through the Rock River.
The optical and radiocarbon ages from multiple sites indicate that dunes were reactivated during early, middle, and late Holocene times. If the dunes were the relics of Pleistocene glaciation, the future activation of dunes will be very limited. However, the multiple periods of eolian activity during the Holocene suggest high potential for future sand activation in the region, and these results are informative for environmental prediction and potential future mitigation. The findings were presented at the 2009 North-Central Geological Society of America meeting. A paper also has been submitted for journal publication. Additionally, two maps have been produced to differentiate the surficial eolian and outwash sand in Bureau and Lee Counties. (Contact: Xiaodong Miao)
Annual Petroleum Report Completed
Bryan Huff has completed the 2007 annual report of the petroleum industry in Illinois. This annual report tracks production on a field-by-field basis and is published online ( http://www.isgs.illinois.edu/sections/oil-gas/annual/annual-2007.pdf). (Contact: Bryan Huff)
Graduate Student Receives Travel Award
Lu-Ming Chen, a graduate student of NRES advised by Mei-In Melissa Chou at the Illinois State Geological Survey, received a travel award provided by the Graduate College. Lu-Ming will travel to present a paper related to a value-added application using a coal gasification by-product at the World of Coal Ash Symposium during May 4–7, 2009, in Lexington, Kentucky. (Contact: Melissa Chou)
Activated Carbon Project Funded by EPRI
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has selected the Illinois State Geological Survey to prepare a large quantity of a chemically modified, high-capacity, activated carbon fabric cloth for a pilot-scale demonstration test at a coal-fired power plant site. The new high-capacity sorbent developed by Seyed Dastgheib has a mercury removal capacity several times higher than the best commercial sorbents tested to date. (Contact: Seyed Dastgheib)
Talk Presented at American Chemical Society Meeting
Illinois State Geological Survey scientists Mei-In (Melissa) Chou and Sheng-Fu (Joe) Chou attended and presented a paper at the 237th American Chemical Society Fuel Division Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 22–26, 2009. The preprint, entitled, "Future Building Blocks—Energy-Efficient Concrete with Class F Fly Ash," was published by the conference on a CD-ROM. (Contacts: Melissa Chou or Joe Chou)
Petroleum Short Course Taught
On March 4, 2009, Hannes Leetaru taught a Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC) short course titled, "Computer Mapping for Exploration and Production." The course was part of the Illinois Oil and Gas Association annual meeting and was attended by almost 50 petroleum professionals from the Illinois Basin. (Contact: Hannes Leetaru)
Members of the IL delegation at the National Ground Water Association Legislative conference, with ISGS staff member Bev Herzog in the center. Photo courtesy of Sue Bohenstengel, Illinois Assoc. of Groundwater Professionals.
Staff Member Meets with Congressional and Administration Staff
As chair of the Government Affairs Committee of the National Ground Water Association (NGWA), Bev Herzog attended the NGWA Legislative Conference on March 23–24, 2009. She met with staff members in the offices of U.S. Senators Durbin, Burris, and Enzi (WY); Representatives Johnson and Schock; and Congresswoman Lummis and Senator Barasso (both WY). This year's issues included passage of the SECURE Water Act and a request for funding for its pilot groundwater monitoring network, a new U.S. Geological Survey study on water quality in domestic wells with a request for a tax credit to well owners who have their wells tested, and inclusion of geothermal heat pumps in potential renewable energy portfolio standards (REPS). The SECURE Water Act was included in the Omnibus Public Lands Act, which had previously passed the Senate and passed the House on March 25. The Act was signed into law shortly thereafter. Illinois plans to apply for the pilot monitoring network program should funds become available. Both the tax credit and REPS requests were met positively. Herzog also took the opportunity to thank the staffs of Representatives Johnson and Schock for the assistance their office provided to fund the Illinois Height Modernization Program. Their continued support was requested. The following day, Herzog and two other government affairs members met with the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science Technology and Policy in the Executive office of the President primarily to promote full implementation of the SECURE Water Act. (Contact: Bev Herzog)
Attendance at U.S. Department of Energy Conference Draws Interest in ISGS Project
Illinois State Geological Survey scientist Yongqi Lu attended the Annual DOE/NETL CO2 Capture Technology for Existing Plants R&D Meeting, Pittsburgh, March 24–26, 2009. An overview of a recent U.S. Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL)-funded project entitled "Development and Evaluation of a Novel Integrated Vacuum Carbonate Absorption Process" was presented at the meeting. The overview included an introduction of the technology background, project planning and schedule, and updates on the current progress. All of the current DOE/NETL contractors working on carbon capture projects were invited to participate in this workshop. (Contact: Yongqi Lu).
Workshops Presented for Naturalists
Bob Vaiden presented two 3-hour workshops on March 25, 2009, that included PowerPoint presentations. The first workshop was for the Cook County Master Naturalist program; the second workshop was for the Kankakee County Master Naturalist program. In both workshops, Vaiden presented basic stratigraphic principles, Illinois geologic history ("Build Illinois"), weathering, soil, and the effect of geology and geomorphology on the landscape and ecological communities. Additionally, Vaiden worked with the Anita Purves Nature Center in Urbana on a new exhibit and arranged for the Center to acquire a surplus sieve. He answered a request concerning a rock specimen by e-mailing the explanation that included Web links with photos. (Contact: Bob Vaiden)
Grade School in Benld Affected by Mine Subsidence
Robert Bauer was interviewed on March 30, 2009, during a live radio show in southwestern Illinois about a relatively new grade school in Benld, Illinois, that was affected by coal mine subsidence. Bauer provided general information on coal mine subsidence over abandoned mines and mentioned the availability of relevant coal mine subsidence publications, maps, and information on the Illinois State Geological Survey Web site. The sag is over the Superior Coal mine and is about 700 feet across according to the Office of Mines and Minerals. The school is mostly in the tensile zone of the sag. The tensile zone is found near the outside edge of the depression where the ground bends downward into the depression. This bending causes the ground surface to crack open with ground motions moving toward the center of the depression. Any structure located in this area is pulled apart. The school district canceled school on Monday, March 30, 2009, and probably will abandon the building for the rest of the school year. Evaluation of this plan is ongoing. The Office of Mines and Minerals indicated that five homes are also being affected. (Contact: Robert Bauer)
Updated 07/31/2012 SLD