BGS GSI3D 2nd International Meeting

British Geological Survey’s package used to produce BG Libya’s surface maps and well prognoses.

The second international GSI3D meeting was held at the British Geological Survey’s (BGS) offices in Keyworth with around 100 in attendance. The Geological Surveying and Investigation in 3D (GSI3D) package is used by the BGS and others to make, not just geological maps, but a 3D geology database. GSI3D is a component of a much larger initiative by BGS, ‘DigMapGB’ to move from traditional maps to the database. GSI3D aims to make geological information understandable to users with flexible 3D viewing. The tool also offers geologists a ‘traditional’ approach to capturing field data from boreholes and cross sections and other observations. BGS’ project manager Holger Kessler claims a ‘paradigm shift’ in the way geological survey communicates to whole population. Kessler sees ‘Lithoframes,’ 3D models of the subsurface, as the ‘natural successors to geological maps.’

Hans Georg Sobisch of Insight Köln originally developed GSI3D for the Lower Saxony Geological Survey. BGS bought a license in 2001 via its £5 million, 3 year Digital Geoscience Spatial Model (DGSM) R&D program. GSI3D blends traditional geological mapping techniques with digital terrain models and controlled lists of formation names. The package presents survey geologists with familiar workflows and tools for interactive cross section drawing, fence diagrams, envelope (coverage) construction and mapping.

Andrew Newell (BGS) presented a project performed under contract with BG Libya for the generation of a GSI3D model in support of oil exploration. The model of the South Sirte basin was initially conceived to source groundwater for BG’s drilling program. Newell noted that ‘all ingredients for an overseas 3D model can be rapidly gathered over the internet,’ along with paper data sources. The digital terrain model came from NASA’s SRTM and InSAR’s free global coverage. Previously such work would have involved much complex downloading and data re-formatting. Today, a Kings College London add-in for Google Earth lets you pull up SRTM data in ARC, ASCII or GEOTIFF format—providing ‘high quality data for free.’ Base maps in the form of Landsat ETM tiles are a one click download from and borehole data came from Libya’s ‘Great Man Made River’ project. Deliverables included well geology prognoses and contour maps of the main horizons. The model, which only took six days to complete is now also used for exploration well prognoses.

The GSI3D meet finished with a demo of ‘GeoVisionary’ a 3D stereoscopic visualization package developed by Virtalis to browse BGS’ multi-terabyte data set. More from The full text of The Data Room’s Technology Watch report from the GSI3D conference is also available on

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