The National Geothermal Data System—Free Online Access to America’s Digital Geothermal Resources

Geothermal data results

“When it comes to harnessing America’s vast geothermal energy resources, knowing where to look is half the battle,” writes Arlene Anderson, Technology Development Manager of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Program (“Pinpointing America’s Geothermal Resources with Open Source Data,” http://energy.gov/articles/pinpointing-america-s-geothermal-resources-open-source-data). The DOE has addressed this issue by formally launching the National Geothermal Data System on April 30, 2014, with the intention of reducing the cost and risks associated with widespread adoption of this clean, renewable energy resource. This system represents a nationwide effort to recover historical records relevant to geothermal exploration and, for the first time, make them freely available online. It has the potential to fundamentally change America’s energy portfolio by driving efficient exploration for geothermal energy from Earth’s interior. “This interactive, open source database provides project developers and other industry partners with the critical information they need to cut the time to identify and develop new production areas and reduce upfront discovery costs,” says Anderson. State geological surveys from all 50 states contributed significantly to this effort by digitizing and making available more than 30 major types of data, resulting in more than 9 million interoperable data points, including 650,000 well logs, 530,000 borehole temperatures, and 1.7 million oil and gas, water, and geothermal well headers.

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) played a major role in this massive effort by providing more than 27,000 bottom-hole temperature values and associated data as well as more than 16,000 drill stem test results (i.e., tests that measure fluid content and pressures of potential reservoirs in the wells). Using proprietary data processing software developed at the ISGS for such projects, Bryan Huff oversaw a team of approximately a dozen students tasked with identifying electronic record information and adding numerous new data fields to these files to contribute to the National Geothermal Data System. The ISGS contributed digital copies of all temperature logs in the ISGS collection, compiled a bibliography of ISGS geothermal-related publications, scanned oil-well folder contents, and researched collections of old geophysical logs donated by industry to find logs lacking in the Survey’s collection. Alison Lecouris provided programming and uploaded the new data to the national database, ensuring consistency with National Geothermal Data System schemas and standards. In addition to directly contributing ISGS geothermal data sets, Melony Barrett led the ISGS’ project participation as one of four regional data hubs. As a regional hub, the ISGS is responsible for hosting various digital log and map files and for publishing National Geothermal Data System-compliant web map and feature services for the ISGS and 14 other states in the northeastern quadrant of the United States.

Locations of wells with bottom-hole temperature values used in this project.One derivative product of the effort was a joint report by the ISGS, Indiana Geological Survey, and Kentucky Geological Survey titled “Development and Application of a New Geothermal Database for the Illinois Basin,” by Tiffany A. Proffitt, Kevin M. Ellett, Charles W. Zuppann (Indiana Geological Survey, Bloomington), Melony Barrett, Bryan Huff, Chris Korose, Alison Lecouris (ISGS), and T. Chase Noakes (Kentucky Geological Survey, Lexington), which was presented at a meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Such a comprehensive effort at subsurface temperature data compilation and analysis had not been attempted since the 1970s.

The nationwide project was coordinated by Kim Patten, Associate Director for Strategic Planning and Development at the Arizona Geological Survey (kim.patten@azgs.az.gov), on behalf of the Association of American State Geologists. Sara Pratt, associate editor of EARTH magazine, describes the project as “one of the most successful programs to date” for data sharing in the geosciences “to foster understanding, discovery, and development of geothermal energy resources” (“Digitizing Earth: Developing a Cyberinfrastructure for the Geosciences,” http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/digitizing-earth-developing-cyberinfrastructure-geosciences).

The National Geothermal Data System is powered by the US Geoscience Information Network, a web-based, data integration framework where users maintain their data in a distributed system. The system infrastructure utilizes free and open source software whenever possible and hosts a suite of custom analytical and visualization tools. For more information on the ISGS effort, contact Bryan Huff (bghuff@illinois.edu) or Melony Barrett (mebarret@illinois.edu), and for the coordinated nationwide effort, see the websites for the National Geothermal Data System (http://geothermaldata.org/) and U.S. Geoscience Information Network (http://usgin.org/).