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January 18, 2023

Reston, Va. — The U.S. Geological Survey is testing a new way of accessing borehole data and samples from across the entire country, made possible in part by funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

This application, named the National Index of Borehole Information (NIBI), will allow natural-resource managers, industry and researchers to discover and access borehole - and core sample holdings from the USGS and state geological surveys through a single portal.  

“The National Index of Borehole Information is a natural complement to the data- and sample preservation work with the state geological surveys,” said Lindsay Powers, program coordinator for the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program. “Whether you’re looking for critical-mineral potential, studying climate conditions, or tracking groundwater quality, you won’t have to go to a dozen different sites to find what you’re looking for. You’ll be able to discover these resources in one place.” 

Boreholes are shafts drilled into the ground at varying depths below the subsurface. They are drilled for many purposes, including looking for groundwater or petroleum resources, studying geologic or climate history, and searching for geologic hazard potential. Frequently, the rock and soil that are drilled to make the borehole are preserved as core - or cuttings samples.  

The drilling process is very expensive and may not be repeatable, so preserving and providing access to these data and materials is vital to provide opportunities for reuse in the future. Cores provide a wealth of information about natural resources like oil, gas, critical minerals, water, past climate conditions or even the potential for storing carbon dioxide. 

The National Index of Borehole Information is a website with inventory management for collection owners and a map-based search feature. The map shows locations of the subsurface resources and provides search filters and interactive pop-ups to link the user to more information, such as how to access the resources. The inventory also connects wells, well logs, downhole geophysical-method results and analytical data coming from actual or synthetic (geophysical soundings) holes in the ground or the material from the borehole (cores and samples). 

Currently, the USGS, state geological surveys and other government institutions and universities maintain libraries of these core samples. The USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program provides annual grant opportunities to the state geological surveys to help them maintain and preserve these samples.  

The samples are all in physically disparate collections with different cataloguing styles, which makes it impossible to easily search across these different collections. The National Index of Borehole Information removes these hurdles by creating a discovery portal for all subsurface data and samples.  

The National Index of Borehole Information is made possible partly through investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is advancing scientific innovation through a $510.7 million investment for the USGS to better map the Nation’s mineral resources both still in the ground and in mine wastes, to preserve historical geologic data and samples, and to construct a USGS energy and minerals research center in partnership with the Colorado School of Mines. In 2022, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law helped enable the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program to give more than $4 million in data preservation grants to the state geological surveys. 

More information about the National Index of Borehole Information can be found here. The National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program is teaming with the Integrated Hydrology and Data Science Branch of the Oklahoma-Texas Water Science Center on application development. More information about how the USGS is investing funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law can be found here.

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