A records collection preserving foundations of petroleum exploration and production history.
Looking for hand-drawn geologic strip-log records of structure features and detail about rocks, sands, clays, shales, and other formations?
Carefully filed in rows of cabinets where bales of cotton once stood, a library of mid-continent well data benefits the Oklahoma petroleum industry. The Mid-Continent Geological Library (MCGL) collection preserves well data. It holds eons of geologic history.
Housed in a refurbished 1923 building once own by cotton growers, MCGL is within walking distance of the Oklahoma City headquarters of several leading U.S. energy companies, including Devon Energy and Continental Resources.
The library offers researchers thousands of easily accessible geological histories; its growing digital archive is the premier repository for mid-continent well logs, according to Chief Executive Officer Mike Harris.
Thanks to the Oklahoma City Geological Society (OCGS), which began the collection in the 1960s, the library moved from the First National Center to its present 10 NW 6th Street site in January 2015. The society also began the legal process to make the library independent.
In the summer of 2017, MCGL officially became a 501(c)(3) separate organization, says Harris, who heads both organizations. Geological society members continue to support and give historic records to the library. Today’s collection of MCGL modern well log histories is the result of a long-standing arrangement between the geological society and the state of Oklahoma.
Well logs submitted by operators to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for required public release are provided to MCGL on a biweekly basis, Harris reports.
On behalf of the state, MCGL staff scans the newly released logs, which also are printed and filed in the library’s log files, where they are available to library members and other users. Lists of released logs are posted online after processing. CDs containing log images are returned to the state.
Importantly, new well log data files are immediately uploaded to the MCGL digital library where subscribers are able to view and download them. “This is well before they can be accessed from commercial services or the state,” Harris explains. That is a benefit of library membership.
The well log library originated in 1966 when several OCGS geologists acquired a private collection, Harris notes. It now operates autonomously from the geological society, allowing more of the general public to explore the collection.
“Anyone can be a member of the library. It is a public resource. As a not-for-profit, anyone who wants to pay the dues can have access to the facility’s information,” he explains.
Accessibility is a key part of MCGL mission of collecting, preserving and archiving geological data, Harris adds. Online researchers must buy a subscription, which helps fund operations and on-going development the MCGL Digital Library. The influx of well data and other information is continuous, which adds value, he says. Exploration companies frequently have their geologists join to gain early access.
The original home of the Oklahoma Cotton Growers Association, the building was built in 1923 with two floors and a full basement. The second floor offers a large meeting area with multi-media facilities, Harris notes. Large, slanted glass windows in the roof (uncovered during renovation) once helped illuminate bales of cotton for consistent evaluation and pricing.
The first floor of MCGL is devoted to geological data library content, geologists work spaces, and staff offices. There are cabinets filled with manually-typed and handwritten sheets called Scout Tickets.
The information was once gathered by a special kind of oilfield detectives who first made their appearance soon after the Civil War.
“The well scout was an individual who would meet with well scouts from other companies to exchange information on wells being drilled,” says Harris. “You can’t have too much information.”
Work areas for research share space for MCGL part-time staff, “who regularly perform document scanning and indexing for preservation of our irreplaceable materials,” says Harris.
The basement has more geological data library content as well as reference materials, documents, journals, and maps. Some of the older maps are remarkably detailed — hand drawn and colored, often many years ago by independent geologists.
The basement includes storage areas for boxes of documents and artifacts donated to the library. Each will be carefully sorted through by a staff member, a volunteer or Harris himself.
Many of the boxes of donated materials come from the families of petroleum geologists who have passed away. The contents can vary, but there often are records that should be preserved.
“These are just a portion of the significant volume of donated historical well data that has been given to the library,” says Harris. “Our members volunteer their time to go through the materials to determine what should be added to our collection.”
Opening the boxes themselves can become a discovery process, he adds, noting that “we often find unique and one-of-a-kind documents.”
Against one basement wall is the Oklahoma Cotton Growers Association’s original walk-in safe. “It was left in place during the 2014 renovation of the building as a record of the past,” Harris says. “The concrete wall is about a foot thick. The safe combination was one number — 36!” Why, remains a mystery, he adds.
Devon Energy, with its 50-story, $750 million headquarters located nearby, contributed $1 million to the original OCGS Capital Campaign and secured naming rights for the library’s renovated building, the OCGS Devon Geoscience Center.
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