Electronic Geologic Logging

Project ID: 19117
Principal Investigator: Robert Rinehart
Research Topic: Water Operation Models and Decision Support Systems
Funded Fiscal Years: 2019, 2020 and 2021
Keywords: None

Research Question

Current Reclamation practice for geologic drill hole and concrete core logging involves taking hand written notes during field activities, transferring these notes to hand drawn draft or "stick" logs, entering data into a word and excel format, and finally turning the draft logs over to a CAD technician to produce final, electronic logs (often in the gINT program). This process can be inefficient and slow, and can be error prone due to the number of people involved, interpreting another person's notes, and the amount of data transfer that occurs.

Technology exists, and is commonly used in the Private Sector, that utilizes tablet computers (Apple iPad, Microsoft Surface, etc.) with specialized software to produce digital logs in real time while in the field. These logs still require review for accuracy and completeness but eliminate unnecessary data transfer and remove extra personnel from the log production workflow.

The specific questions this research addresses are:
1) Which software (if any) best meets Reclamation's field investigation needs?
2) Would Reclamation benefit from adopting electronic geologic logging practices?

Need and Benefit

Need: Geologic investigations are the cornerstone of infrastructure investigation programs. The quality and detail of
the geologic investigation underpins the reliability of Reclamation's infrastructure. Ensuring that data is collected in
real-time and at the state-of-the-art is critical for Reclamation's mission of water and power delivery.
Reclamation's field investigation practices are antiquated in that they rely solely on paper notes and multiple levels of
data transfer. It is common for drill hole or core logs to take months to be completed, causing slips to project
schedules or design activities to move ahead using assumed values. In addition, the multiple levels of data transfer
and personnel involved can lead to errors. These delays, assumptions, and errors can be costly. Significant
improvements could potentially be made to Reclamation's practices by adopting the use of tablet computers and
specialized software for logging geotechnical investigation drill holes and concrete coring activities. Such practice is
becoming more and more common in the Private Sector and may soon be standard practice. By entering data directly
into software, being able to pair log data with photographs within the same software, utilizing drop down menus and a
consistent and complete logging format, and being able to transmit draft logs electronically in near real-time, higher
quality logs can be produced much more efficiently. This research aims at evaluating several commercially available
software/apps, and performing and documenting them via pilot implementation projects.
Benefit: With Reclamation's Geology personnel – responsible for creating drill hole and coring logs – experiencing
extremely high workload across the agency, improving the logging process would directly benefit dozens of project
annually, across all Regions. Utilizing tablet computers with logging software/apps allows Reclamation's field
investigation activities to be performed better, faster, and cheaper. Rather than a multistep process involving multiple
personnel, a single field Geologist could produce draft logs in near real-time which could then be sent back to the
office for review and finalization. A process that takes up to a year could be completed in less than a month with the
potential for more data-rich logs with fewer errors. In addition, the field tablet can be very useful when communicating
problems with the investigation or design team – a preliminary log can be sent in real-time to provide a visual in order
to help the team field-fit a solution.
Urgency: If this research is not funded, current practices will continue. Schedules may continue to slip due to delays in
the production of drill hole and coring logs. Budgets may continue to increase due to costly assumption or errors.
Technology is growing exponentially and many companies are adopting tablets into their field practices. Using old
business models with high overhead and a mindset that says, "We've always done it this way, so why not continue the
same way?" may result in Reclamation falling behind the state-of-practice. All five Reclamation Regional Geologists
have recognized the need to look into improvements and are committed to supporting this research.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Electronic Geologic Logging (final, PDF, 600KB)
By Robert Rinehart
Research Product completed on September 30, 2019

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20