“The Treacle Mine” Earthcache

Article by Emma Evans, Senior Geophysicist, ION

Approximately 3 miles east of Bath near the village of Bathford in Somerset is the Nature reserve of Browns Folly. Underneath the nature reserve is Browns Folly Mine, a large complex of tunnels and caverns created by the demand for Bath stone to build the Georgian city. Part of the complex was subsequently used by the MOD as an ammunition depot during World War II. In recent years the tunnels have become popular with cavers and occasional partygoers and are also home to a number of geocaches including an Earthcache – GC4P440 – Below Above – The Treacle Mine.

Visiting the mines is quite an experience. We visited three different sections and accessing the tunnels ranged in difficulty from remembering to duck to crawling through a tunnel reminiscent of The Great Escape. Once inside however the tunnels are roomy and easy to negotiate for the most part with the occasional hands and knees crawl or scramble over discarded stone (deads) or fallen roof slabs.


The mines are nothing less than a particularly evocative museum. Mining equipment remains where it was left and footprints from hobnail boots are clearly visible alongside horseshoe prints in the mud (future Anthropocene ichnofossils perhaps). Writing on the walls shows what appear to be customer orders and also the occasional prayer. Unfortunately many of the old rail tracks have been stolen for scrap metal, at least one entrance has been partly filled in by a local caving club to limit access in an attempt to prevent further vandalism, but some do remain and the deep imprint of rails and sleepers is clearly visible. The older parts of the mine pre date the rails and were the domain of horse drawn mine carts. Deep ruts are evidence of the passage of the heavily laden carts and the small stable with its three hitching points is a sobering reminder of how miserable life must have been for the horses. My children also now have a far better appreciation of my occasional threat to send them down the mines.


Evidence of mining activity is also present in the rock with tool marks visible on walls and ceilings and soot marks extending up above the candle niches. In numerous places there are rope marks on the walls and parts of the wall cut away to allow the passage of mine carts around the corners. There are also a number of apparently finished blocks of stone left abandoned at the sides of the tunnels for unknown reasons.

Mining artefacts are not the only attraction in this subterranean world. Old wooden props host mushrooms which glow eerily in the light of a UV torch. Cave formations (speleothem) are in evidence in the form of cave pearls and gours. In a number of places these formations are marked by a ring of stones to prevent them from being trampled. Bats also live in these tunnels although we didn’t see any on this occasion.


The Earthcache itself is known as The Treacle Mine. This is a nod to an old joke which has been played on the gullible since at least the nineteenth century. It is split into two locations showing two different formations of “Treacle” (calcite and other minerals precipitated from the cave water). At the first location the mineral flows down a vertical wall over decades of graffiti. At the second there are stalactites forming as the water drips down from the roof forming flow deposits on the floor below and the occasional pillar as stalactite meets stalagmite.


Having thoroughly explored the tunnels, finding a total of five geocaches we exited through an impressive cavern known as Clapham Junction for perhaps obvious reasons. The cavern itself was formed by the pillar and room mining technique in which blocks of stone are removed but wide pillars are left behind to hold the roof up. The overall effect is of a mediaeval vault on a staggering scale.

The mines are a fascinating place to visit but can be dangerous due to the two main risks of roof fall and getting lost. Go with a guide if you possibly can, maps are also available. Take at least two torches preferably at least one head torch to leave your hands free and wear a hard hat. You will bang your head. Full access conditions and equipment recommendations are available at GC4JEK6 – Below Above – A Tour in Brown’s.


December 2016 President’s Page

My Final Words

Colin Percival - invisibleLooking back at 2016, it has been an extremely difficult year for the industry, but things are finally starting to improve. The society has come through the downturn in good shape, with healthy finances, a tremendous office team headed up by Maria, a great council and a very supportive membership. As we move into 2017 we will have some excellent new representatives on Council, and with an improving oil price can look forward to a year with more flexibility in what the society can offer to its members. This year has been about refining the society strategy and starting its implementation. This is a result of work undertaken in 2015 to define a strategy for the society which includes the invaluable input from the membership questionnaire. Maria has produced a clear strategy document that summarises this work and provides guidance for the office team on the operational procedures required to support it. I look forward to the implementation continuing in 2017.

The society’s objective is to be the number one oil and gas focussed geoscience society in Europe and Africa. Key deliverables are:

  • Increasing the membership of the organisation – A target has been set to Increase membership to > 7000 by 2021.
  • Delivering our charitable purpose of educating the public in the scientific and technical aspects of petroleum exploration – A target has been set to engage >1500 individuals outside the society directly per annum.
  • Maintaining a robust organisation – Operate a balanced budget, maintain staff turnover at current levels and create a high performing Board.

Growth in our membership is clear recognition that we are providing what our members want. Growth will come if we can demonstrate the value that the society brings to members through our various offerings. It is important that these membership benefits are clear and valuable and that we can cater for people in diverse locations and assist those who are not currently in full time employment. Our strength is providing low cost networking and knowledge sharing opportunities. In order to develop these, we are looking at making some of the talks and courses available over the web and providing discounted rates for events to our unemployed and retired members. Our new website is currently under construction which will provide a more user friendly format with a much broader array of options. This should go live around Easter 2017 and we are looking for some members to road test it in advance of this. If you are interested in assisting us please contact Maria in the PESGB office.

Educating the public in the scientific and technical aspects of petroleum exploration is our charitable objective. Our Outreach programme targets the wider public and it is important that this reaches a sizeable audience. In addition we need to focus our message on the petroleum industry and the benefits it brings to people. The society now has a plan which will see it being proactive in what we fund and support, and we are developing links with like-minded societies and organisations in order to deliver this as cost effectively and as widely as possible.

This month sees PROSPEX being held at the Business Design Centre on the 14th and 15th December with the President’s Evening on the final night being held further along Upper Street at Islington Assembly Hall. This year we have introduced a one day rate for PROSPEX and discounted rates for unemployed or retired members. The cost of tickets to the President’s Evening are £35 and there will be the opportunity to bring a friend/partner for £45.

Turning to the UKCS, although the 2016 E&A well count is likely to be a record low at around 16, the results to date look very encouraging with a significant number of successes announced which help to confirm that there is still potential left in the basin. This is great news, as a positive track record is absolutely critical to securing further investment, and starts to dispel the myth that the UKCS is supermature or indeed all over. To all those involved in these successes, keep up the good work!

The next President’s page will come from Nick Terrell who takes up the reigns in January 2017. I wish Nick well and look forward to assisting him whenever required next year.

Have a great Christmas and New Year



What Rises from Beneath?….A Gas Seep in the Inner Hebrides?

Article by Peter Macalister Hall

Sailing off the West of Skye this summer I noticed a single thin trail of bubbles rising form submerged Tertiary basalts in the intertidal zone.  (Picture).  Curious.  It was late evening and I was rowing the dog ashore for a short land-break before bed.

We had sought shelter from high winds, anchoring in the SW corner of Loch Bharcasaig, a small bay in the NW of Loch Bracadale.  This is easily accessible by boat, but is a fairly remote corner of West Skye if on foot.

Collection of a gas sample was impractical at the time.  The bubbles were small, their ascent slow.  The trail varied with the slight swell and the rubber dinghy declined to hold still, similarly the dog.  Lacking equipment and with plans for another week afloat, I gave up and moved on.

However, day dreams of Hydrocarbons or perhaps even Helium persisted.  A chat with other geologists at Aberdeen University encouraged me to probe further.  There are Jurassic rocks on Skye and Raasay, but no record of a gas seep in the Inner Hebrides.  Finding a thermogenic hydrocarbon seep would be an interesting development.  I really needed samples and gas analyses to avoid doubt –preferably at minimal cost.

I contacted Core Lab, a large Oil Industry Service Company with a long history in Aberdeen.  They were intrigued and fully appreciated the potential significance.  They agreed that even a long shot was worth a quick check.  Very generously, they agreed to run a couple of analyses at a slack moment.  Cost?  “Hum.  How about:  please don’t forget us if this proves interesting.”

I returned to Skye by car and with some trouble relocated the seep.  Things look different from land.  Sample collection was in waist deep water on a rising tide.  I placed a large inverted plastic funnel weighted with a lead collar over the source of the bubbles.  Elastic bands from the collar held a water-filled glass jar over the funnel spout; the rising bubbles gradually displaced the water in the jar.  I collected three half full jars, each taking about 15 minutes to accumulate.  Probably a rather comic sight, but the location was so remote there were only Sea Eagles as observers.  The jars were sealed underwater and remained inverted during transport.  Collection of a headspace sediment sample was not possible.  The bubbles were rising through a Tertiary basalt flow directly into sea water.  No near-surface soft sediment -only rock.

Sadly, in the end, the bubbles proved to be air.  Analysis of one of the samples is attached.

Jar 2 Headspace Gas

Oxygen/Argon 21.516
Nitrogen 78.368
Methane 0.000
Carbon Dioxide 0.116
Ethane 0.000

(Trace presence of Methane and Ethane.  Atmospheric Methane is ~0.0001 Mole%).

Curiously, the CO2 Mole% seems rather high.  Normal air is reckoned to have around 0.03 – 0.04 Mole%.  Is some bug respiring somewhere down there, or is it due to intertidal (rich active biozone) sea water degassing in the sample jar ?

The locality comprises layered Tertiary-age lava flows gently dipping seaward.  Sidestepping the CO2 issue, one possibility is that a seaward-dipping cavity beneath the upper flow drains at low tide and that air, compressed by the rising tide, is escaping very slowly through an up-dip crack.

PESGB Houston members – celebrate the festive season together at The Richmond Arms!

Thursday 15th December 2016, 6.00pm
The Richmond Arms Pub, 5920 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77057

We would like to invite you to the inaugural networking meeting for the PESGB Houston Branch.

The objective of the Petroleum Exploration of Great Britain (PESGB) is to promote, for the public benefit, education in the scientific and technical aspects of petroleum exploration. Several regional branches exist to help achieve this objective, holding regular lecture meetings and other educational activities, and providing social and networking opportunities.

Given that there are over 100 members located in Houston, we feel it is time to launch a US regional branch!

We are hereby excited to invite you to our first networking event; so come have a drink, fun and network with our fellow compadres as we end this year with a bang!!!

We encourage you to forward this invitation to non-members, who may wish to learn more about the PESGB.

Food and soft drinks will be provided, and a full bar is available. We hope to see many of you there!

For further information, please contact:
Michael Lee: milee@hess.com
Stephanie Nwoko: stephwoks@yahoo.com
Steven Sawyer: Steven.Sawyer@enipetroleum.com


What Every Asset Manager Needs To Know and More

Article by Stephen Pickering

Forget about technical skills, money makes the world go round, we all know that the average corporate manager earns more than us geologists, although we have much more fun. If however you want to succeed in Oil and Gas Management and earn the type of salary that bankers etc. earn then you’ll need to know all that is listed above and much more! Most of it is not taught in University although some Business Schools come close. What makes our industry even more difficult to comprehend is that it is full of jargon and acronyms designed to cause frustrate and confuse. Quick test on your management skills and career potential – do you know what all the acronyms above mean?


Copyright Bath Oil Training and Development

Aberdeen Party next week, have you booked your ticket yet? Book now!

Soul Bar, Tuesday 6 December 2016, 6pm 

Only £15! Bring a non-member guest for £20*
Tickets include entrance, buffet, house wine, draught beer and soft drinks

(*Non-member tickets need to be booked by the member they are accompanying by calling the PESGB office on 020 7408 2000)

Join the YPs for mixology sessions and learn to make five cocktails!

Don’t miss out, click here to book your place today!

Pitch Your Prospect: Simwell Resources

Burgate Exploration and Production: East Irish Sea Gas Appraisal Opportunity

pitcghBurgate Exploration and Production, on behalf of their co-venturers, is looking for partners to drill this exciting gas appraisal opportunity in the U.K. East Irish Sea that has the potential to be the largest remaining gas field in the region. Well 113/27-2, drilled in 1988, discovered the Castletown gas accumulation in Triassic sandstones but it was considered too small to develop. A new evaluation, using depth migrated 3D seismic data, has indicated that the well was drilled down flank and through a major fault and that a large gas accumulation remains to be proven up-dip. The Castletown discovery has ‘most likely’ prospective resources of approx. 250 bcf. Economics are positive for resource volumes as low as 17bcf. Well design is in an advanced stage and an appraisal well is anticipated to cost £6.5MM.

For further information download the flyer from http://www.simwellresources.com/projects.html and visit Simwell at PROSPEX 2016 on Booth 14

Don’t forget to register yourself for tomorrow’s free Surviving the Downturn Workshop!

The Copthorne Hotel,
29 November 2016, 10.30-12.30

Refreshments will be provided


Connecting with others is how we find strength in the face of adversity- come along and connect with people in similar situations, share experiences and ideas towards getting back into work, build back up your self-esteem and motivation. Andrea will be leading discussions and activities around building rapport, influence and connections, and using LinkedIn to your best advantage.

Click here to book your free place today!

Please share this invitation with anyone you think might benefit, non-members able to attend one session 

Only 3 weeks until PROSPEX 2016… have you registered your place?

Date for your diary:
PROSPEX 2016: 14 – 15 December 2016
Business Design Centre, Islington

PROSPEX 2016 is only three weeks away and is shaping up to be a fantastic opportunity to meet with your peers and keep yourself up to date with the current market.

We have 31 companies onsite presenting their prospects and a full two day timetable.

We have kept registration fees at the same rate as two years ago, and introduced a one day rate and an unemployed rate also.  PESGB and OGA hope that this will enable you to still access PROSPEX even during these difficult times.  More information can be found on the PROSPEX website: http://pesgb.org.uk/pesgb/pages/events/general/prospexpages/prospex-show

If you’ve yet to register for the show, there is still time, with registration closing at 5pm on Friday 9th December. Registration on the day will be available.

See you in December for the 14th PROSPEX Show!

With thanks to our sponsors who have supported us in this difficult climate.


Meet the new Aberdeen Director, Michael Scotting

michael-scottingAfter completing my B.Sc. in Geology at RHUL in 1993 I drove down the A329 from Egham to the now defunct Postgraduate Research Institute for Sedimentology at the University of Reading to undertake an M.Sc. in “Sedimentology and it’s Applications”. Graduating from that course in 1994 I entered a world of Brent Crude at $16/bbl and few jobs for graduates, quite reminiscent of today in many ways. After a couple of years making ends meet working a variety of admin jobs I finally got my break in 1997 courtesy of Halliburton’s Mud Logging service in Aberdeen. After an eventful first trip working for Cairn on a Romanian three-legged jack-up in the Bay of Bengal I found myself working back in the North Sea. I really enjoyed the job, and have since found the experience invaluable, especially when talking with our beloved colleagues from the well engineering department!

However, I struggled to see a long-term career path for myself offshore, and when I heard that a position was about to open up working for a small consultancy providing a TA to BP’s Clair Team I got myself on a bus out from Aberdeen to Banchory to be interviewed by Henry Allen at PGL. I was to work for Henry for nearly 10 years, and learnt an awful lot from him along with many other of my colleagues in an incredibly rich and diverse consultancy. I was lucky to work with some very experienced folks and benefited from the strong mentoring they provided, something I have always remembered and try to replicate whenever I am lucky enough to work alongside the fresh eyes of more junior staff. In that time I worked on Clair for BP, on HPHT exploration in the Moray Firth, general exploration in the CNS and back to the West of Shetlands for Enterprise. I then changed roles and took on the challenge of leading the sales and support effort for PGL’s “new” well correlation software ODM (recently rebranded as IC) as well as their Ternan Play Fairway Maps of the UKCS. This was a departure from purely technical work and gave me the chance to build an extensive network of contacts around the world as well as a bit of jet-setting to travel to exhibitions and to meet clients. I spent two years in that role and enjoyed it greatly, but eventually decided that it was time to return to a technical role and I was posted into CNR for a year as the Production Geologist for the giant washing machine (~90% watercut!) otherwise known as the Murchison Field

Eventually I had to cut the apron-strings of the “Family” firm and went off to work in The Netherlands for Wintershall. However, I had met my now wife just before I left Aberdeen and after a year of a long-distance relationship, with a heavy heart, I left The Hague just before my prospect  was drilled making the Wingate discovery. Returning to Aberdeen in more buoyant times in 2007 I chose to join Talisman, initially as a consultant, but after a year or so as staff. Here I initially took responsibility for their West of Shetland acreage, before being re-deployed into the CNS where I was part of the team that won the Seagull License (recently handed over to Apache to operate through the development phase) in the 25th Licensing Round. After a successful 26th round I was seconded into a team performing a corporate strategic review of the UK business working alongside a team from McKinsey’s. This was an eye-opener in more ways than one.

My next step onwards and upwards was to join the recently “Koreanised” Dana Petroleum as Exploration Team Leader for the CNS. This was my first dedicated leadership role and I loved it, I found the experience of guiding the team, ensuring delivery of high quality geoscience but with a clear eye on the business imperatives quite fascinating. I am incredibly proud of my varied team and what they achieved.

Unfortunately the Korean axe was swung low across Dana’s explorationists in 2015 and I was “let go” along with many others all over Aberdeen and across the globe. I have since set up my own consultancy, Ossian Resources (not named after the beer, but rather the mythological teller of tales which I felt was an apt analogy for an explorationist!). I have also been lucky to be asked to help with delivering some Petroleum Geology for Engineers courses for both Post-graduate and Under-Graduate Reservoir and Petroleum Engineers at Aberdeen University. This has provided a breath of fresh air at a rather quiet and bleak time up here in Aberdeen.

Throughout my career I have been exceptionally lucky to benefit from the kind words and wise counsel of a number of exceptional geoscientists (and even a couple of engineers) and I have recently enjoyed the thrill of preaching the message of exploration to a few junior staff and students myself. I have felt invigorated by this on every occasion and look forward to doing my best to help deliver a positive future for our Aberdeen membership as we ease our way out of the current darkness into the light…