Research news and awards

Latest news about our research. Project progress and collaboration. Awards and achievements.

The European Plate Observing System EPOS) has been officially launched this week
The European Plate Observing System (EPOS) has been officially launched this week at a ceremony in Rome at the Italian Ministry of Education and Universities and Research.

EPOS is a research infrastructure that will provide a better understanding of the physical processes controlling earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, tectonic movements and other such geo-hazards with potentially grave impact on the environment and the welfare of citizens. The launch was the latest milestone in EPOS. The European Commission granted the legal status of European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) to EPOS on 31st October. This provides the facility with a stable legal structure and administrative advantages to contribute to the long-term sustainability of EPOS.

EPOS will enable scientists to address key scientific and socio–economic questions, including understanding geo–hazards and geo–resource issues and improve our ability to better manage the use of the subsurface of the Earth. BGS will play a key role in achieving this. BGS is one of 46 beneficiaries, representing 23 countries across Europe participating in the project. BGS have been heavily involved since the start and are leading the development of the core services. BGS research will also contribute many of the Thematic Core Service Communities – infrastructures that provide data services to specific communities.

Professor John Ludden, Direct of BGS said: "EPOS will create a unique and world class data infrastructure. BGS leads the core data services of EPOS, thus recognising and enhancing an opportunity for global leadership in Geoscience data systems." When EPOS is complete, a researcher will be able to sit in front of a computer screen and be able to download a great range of earth science data from across Europe, and visualise them in real time in many different ways.

9 November 2018

The rig on site at the United Downs Industrial Estate
Drilling has started this week near St Day in Cornwall to demonstrate the potential of the geothermal resource in the UK to produce electricity and renewable heat. The pioneering demonstration plant at the United Downs Industrial Estate will supply up to 3 MWe (Mega Watt electrical) of electricity, enough to power 3000 homes.

Two deep geothermal wells will be drilled into the granitic rock beneath the site, the deepest of which will reach 4.5km making it the deepest onshore borehole in the UK. Water will be pumped from the deepest well at a temperature of approximately 190°C and extracted heat will be converted into electricity and supplied to the National Grid.

The low carbon energy source does not suffer from peaks and troughs that many other sustainable power sources are subject to and it is hoped that this innovative approach will be replicated in other suitable sites in Cornwall and Devon. Dave Schofield, Director of Energy Systems and Basin Analysis at the British Geological Survey said 'Geothermal energy in the UK has the potential to significantly contribute towards reaching out CO2 emission target; the Cornish geothermal project has the potential not only to supply electricity and heat, but also to demonstrate technical and economic feasibility of this form of clean energy.'

The project has received around £18 million in funding, including £10.6 million from the European Regional Development Fund. The British Geological Survey is just one of the delivery partners in the project and is well placed to help provide good science to the United Downs programme and projects linked to it including microseismic monitoring as well as geochemistry and hydrochemistry analyses.

More information on geothermal energy

8 November 2018

BGS Director John Ludden
Under the terms of the MoU which BGS signed with NERC following the creation of the BGS board, a new BGS Science Advisory Committee has been recruited. Following an open competition, and interviews conducted by Mike Stephenson and Donna Kirkwood (Chief Scientist of Natural Resources Canada), I am pleased to announce the composition of the committee :
  • Professor Frances Wall (Professor of Applied Mineralogy, Camborne School of Mines)
  • Professor Mike Bradshaw (Professor of Global Energy, Warwick Business School)
  • Dr Liz Fellman (Associate Director, NERC)
  • Joanna Coleman (UK Energy Transition Manager, Shell)
  • Dr Patrick Bermingham (Exploration Chief Geophysicist, Shell International)
  • Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer (Assistant Deputy Principal, Research & Innovation, Heriot-Watt University)
  • Professor Cherry Tweed (Chief Scientific Adviser, Radioactive Waste Management Ltd)
  • Dr Andy Croxford (Head of EU Exit and Environmental Strategy, The Environment Agency)
  • Professor Stephen de Mora (Chief Executive, Plymouth Marine Laboratory)
The BGS board approved Mike and Donna’s recommendation that Frances Wall chair the committee, and she has accepted that offer.

The Terms of Reference will need to be agreed, but the committee’s broad role is to :

  • Advise the BGS CEO and Director of Science & Technology on the development and delivery of the overall science strategy for the BGS as a national and international centre of excellence for geosciences in a way that maximises and demonstrates its impact
  • Advise on funding and impact opportunities
  • Advise on the development and implementation of a process for evaluating the quality of BGS’s research

The committee’s first meeting will be in Keyworth on Friday 16 November, where the focus of discussion will be the refreshed science strategy. It is expected that the committee will meet a couple of times a year, with input being sought when required outside of formal meetings. The committee will also advise us on the process for evaluating BGS science.

This is a very strong committee with extensive expertise and experience in academic research, industry, and government liaison. I am sure it will provide invaluable advice to BGS in the exciting and challenging time we are facing.

Professor John Ludden CBE

5 November 2018


The BGS has provided historical maps and reports on the geology of Korea as part of the centennial celebrations for the foundation of the Korean Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM).

In 1918, the Geological Survey of Chosen (Korea) was established during Japanese colonial rule (1910–1945). After Korea was partitioned following the end of the Korean War (1953), there was little official contact with the BGS for many years. In 1969, a UK technical aid programme initiated collaboration that has continued for 47 years with the first assistance to build capacity in geological mapping and mineral exploration. This has evolved over time to a relationship where in recent years the BGS shares its knowledge through training courses such as geohazard and tsunami risk, urban geological mapping and carbon capture and storage.

In 2018, the BGS provided KIGAM access to its archive of maps and reports on the geology of Korea extending back to 1903. These have been copied as high-quality scans and printed along with several originals on extended loan to celebrate the centenary year of the formation of KIGAM and the 47 years of friendship and respect between our two countries.

The presentation was made on Wednesday 31 October 2018 at the 54th Annual Session of the Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia (CCOP) in Busan, Republic of Korea. Prof John Ludden, chief executive of the BGS, presented the maps and reports to Dr Bok Chul Kim, president of KIGAM.

John Ludden said:

'Congratulations on your 100 years. The BGS has been working with KIGAM for 47 years, half a century of partnership, and we intend to continue working with you in the future. I want to pass on the best wishes from Tony Reedman, who many of you remember and was clearly a popular figure in this part of the world.'

Photos from the event are available on the BGS Facebook page.

31 October 2018

Seismic trace

Since hydraulic fracturing started at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, earthquakes have been detected close to site.

We publish detected events on our website page earthquakes around the British Isles in the last 100 days. Magnitudes are local magnitude (ML) and are calculated to one decimal place, as is standard practice in earthquake seismology.

The BGS has deployed additional seismic sensors across the north of England. This denser network allows us to detect smaller earthquakes than we are typically able to do.

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has strict controls in place to ensure that operators manage the risk of induced seismicity. This includes a requirement for operators to control and monitor the fracturing process and assess the risk of induced seismic events.

The BGS is not a regulatory body. Our role is to provide impartial data. Current regulations require operators to stop hydraulic fracturing if an event with a magnitude of 0.5 ML or above occurs during operations. It is the responsibility of the operators to carry out real-time seismic monitoring and any decision to stop will be based on the information they provide rather than by the BGS.

Our seismic monitoring provides an impartial source of earthquake data. Data from our stations are viewable on the real-time seismograms page of our website.

Seismic activity at Preston New Road: FAQs

For any media enquiries contact the BGS Press Office.

30 October 2018

The British Geological Survey (BGS) has become one of the first organisations to achieve the new health and safety standard: the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety System (OHS) standard. This followed a rigorous audit which involved more than 25 members of BGS staff from different departments across the organisation and looked at the whole range of work BGS carries out, from labs to catering to fieldwork.

The ISO 45001 is the world's first global health and safety management system dealing with health and safety at work. The certification was developed by experts in occupational health and safety and provides a global benchmark for organisations, ensuring that they operate in a consistent, healthy and safe manner. BGS is the first centre within UK Research and Innovation to achieve accreditation.

Professor John Ludden, Director of the British Geological Survey said: "This is a significant step of which BGS can be justly pleased. It recognises our commitment to achieving positive health & safety culture and setting high standards in what we do."

This standard differs from the previous British Standard OHSAS 18001:2007 in that it requires an integrated and holistic approach to safety management. This has allowed BGS to reflect on its scope of business and the impact their work has on the wider communities in which it operates. The BGS values societal impacts highly and works for the benefit of society to meet changing needs with responsive, innovative and interdisciplinary science.

This certificate relates specifically to activities based at or managed by the BGS Keyworth site in Nottingham. In the future, it is hoped to extend the accreditation to the whole of the BGS.

More information

30 October 2018

Medical geology diagram

"Soil quality — Assessment of human exposure from ingestion of soil and soil material — Procedure for the estimation of the human bioaccessibility/bioavailability of metals in soil" has been published. The in vitro method known as the Unified BARGE Method (UBM) was developed by Joanna Wragg and Mark Cave with international partners from the BioAccesiblity Research Group of Europe (BARGE). The method is validated for priority soil contaminants (arsenic, cadmium and lead) and an important scientific milestone for the provision of robust and defensible ingestion bioaccessibility data for human health risk assessments for professional and academics working in contaminated land management. We would also like to make posthumous recognition of the very important contribution of Lizzi Andersen for her work on the ISO technical committee in seeing the UBM through the standardisation procedure from first proposal to final publication. The BGS geochemistry laboratories offer the UBM as part of their lab capability.

More information:
British and International Standard BS ISO 17924:2018
BioAccesiblity Research Group of Europe
Validation of the Unified BARGE Method (UBM)

23 October 2018

Dr Tracy Shimmield
Dr Tracy Shimmield has been appointed as the chair of the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus. Dr Shimmield brings a wealth of experience to the role, being an executive member of the British Geological Survey (BGS) and co-director of Edinburgh's Lyell Centre, a purpose-built £21 m facility, which enables the BGS and Heriot-Watt University to build on their individual and combined interdisciplinary expertise in land and marine conservation, geology and geoscience.

Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) are investing over £4.5 million, with £2 million coming from Orkney Islands Council, as they seek to support the growing research and innovation activity, as well as the expansion of marine renewables companies in Orkney.

Dr Tracy Shimmield will provide leadership to the ORIC board, and is a key appointment in the multi-million pound project. She said she was excited to lead the research and innovation campus, and was optimistic for the future.

"Orkney was the centre for innovation for the British Isles 5,000 years ago and I will work with partners to ensure Orkney once again leads discovery and innovation," said Dr Shimmield following her three-year appointment to the post.
"I am very optimistic about the future employment and business opportunities for Orkney, and ORIC will be key in developing these opportunities from both academia and business."

Dr Shimmield also serves on the Norwegian New Knowledge on Sea Disposal (NYKOS) advisory board and is a member of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Deep-Sea Mining Working Group.

Professor John Ludden, Director of the British Geological Survey said: "I am very pleased to see the BGS executive team being recognised in this way. The ORIC will play a critical role in the strategic development for North-western Scotland and its links to the Nordic regions and the Arctic."

15 October 2018

Seismic trace
BGS Seismologist, Richard Luckett attended a public meeting in Newdigate, Surrey to talk about the science behind the Newdigate Earthquake Swarm. You can find his presentation and conclusions here.

8 October 2018

The exercise was attended by HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York.

Northern Ireland has approximately 2400 abandoned mine workings, the legacy of historic mining activity that has taken place over the past 400 years. The Department for the Economy (DfE), the Northern Ireland civil service within which the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) sits, has responsibility for all abandoned mines, and therefore also to minimise public risk and ensure adequate plans are in place in the event of a major incident.

The GSNI, together with the DfE, has been working with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to develop a regional abandoned mine emergency response plan, which has involved bringing together a number of agencies including the emergency services; mountain, mine and cave rescue organisations, and regional resilience groups.

On 21 September 2018, a live exercise to test the abandoned mine emergency response plan took part at the Marble Arch Caves. The exercise tested the capability to respond and perform a rescue in various situations associated with a mine shaft collapse, a major subsidence event and a person trapped within an abandoned mine.

The event attracted significant media attention that provided the opportunity to highlight the risks associated with abandoned mines. It also helped to publicise the work that the GSNI and the DfE do to minimise public risk and to prepare, through a multi-agency approach, for all major incidents with abandoned mines in Northern Ireland.

This event was the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and brought together a number of agencies and organisations highlighting the need to work together to achieve a common goal. The exercise was attended by HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York, who met with all of the organisations that took place and witnessed some of the scenarios that were tested.

To see some of the media coverage on BBC Newsline you can catch up on the BBC iPlayer.

26 September 2018