BGS datasets for energy

The BGS holds a wealth of information and data related to energy.

This page aims to keep you informed about the energy-related products and information that we hold, so check back regularly for updates.

3D geological models

3D models help us visualise the ground at depth without the need for training in complex geological techniques.

The BGS is developing a National Geological Model of the UK's subsurface to give decision makers greater clarity in planning for the future.

The National Geological Model contains many useful geological surfaces that could help to constrain the location of resources such as shale gas.

See the National Geological Model and Lithoframe pages for more information.

Below are two examples of 3D model data:


Area covered by the lithoframe 3D models

LithoFrame is a brand name for 3D models of the UK’s subsurface geology, these are the 3D equivalents of the geological map and like our map data (BGS Geology), our models are available at a series of resolutions.

Our current LithoFrame250 (1:250 000-scale resolution) models cover many of the country’s major Upper Palaeozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary basins including those with hydrocarbon potential. The models are composed of stratigraphic surfaces of key horizons broadly classified stratigraphically at Group level at extending to depths of up to 5 km.

These models provide a well-constrained structural framework for regional, strategic assessment of groundwater and energy resources, and for deep underground storage and waste repositories.

These surface models are available in GIS format as ASCII grids through our enquiries service.

Some of these models have been derived from the data in published BGS subsurface memoirs available from our Bookshop, these are:

  • Cheshire Basin: Report numbers 0852725183 and 0852723334
  • Craven Basin: Report number 0118845365
  • East Midlands: Report number 0852726716
  • Northumberland Solway Basin: Report number 0118845012

Also available are data for:

  • London Basin
  • Weald Basin

In detail some of the model data may differ slightly from the contoured surfaces in the subsurface memoirs due to further editing and adjustment during the modelling process.

The models have all been produced in the GOCAD software and are made available as built. These data have not, as yet, been subject to rigorous corporate QA and approval procedures or documentation of metadata beyond that contained in the subsurface memoirs.

They are supplied as geological surfaces rather than as 3D volume models and whilst they contain much useful information about the structure and infill of many major sedimentary basins they do not represent a full stacks of stratigraphic surfaces nor do they attempt to model the basement or superficial rocks.

Cross sections

The 1:625 000 scale bedrock geological map of Great Britain has been extended into the third dimension with the release of the UK3D_V2015 dataset; this comprises an interlocking fence diagram of about 120 cross-sections through Britain’s crust to depths between 1–5 Km.

These sections are available for free download in a variety of digital formats from UK3D, with a summary metadata report detailing the techniques and data types used in the section construction.

Aquifers and shale gas

Understanding the current distribution of methane in UK groundwaters will provide a baseline against which any future changes can be measured.

This is particularly important due to the increasing interest in shale gas exploration in the UK.

Find out more about the BGS National Baseline Methane Survey of UK groundwaters.

The Aquifers and shales pages provide an overview, at a national scale, of the spatial relationships between Principal Aquifers and some of the major shale and clay units in England and Wales. It is important to understand these if shale gas is to be developed in a safe and sustainable manner.

BGS reports and papers

Where BGS is required to work under contract to DECC some reports are available at Oil and gas: onshore exploration and production. Other energy-related publications are available at NORA (the NERC Open Research Archive.)


The BGS borehole database contains a wealth of information related to energy that is an essential resource for the exploration or study of coal, methane and shale gas.


The BGS borehole database known as SOBI (Single Onshore Boreholes Index) contains over one million records of boreholes, shafts and wells from all forms of drilling and site investigation work.

The collection covers onshore and near shore boreholes from Great Britain dating back to at least 1790 and ranging from one metre to several thousand metres deep. About 50 000 new records are added each year.

Individual borehole scans are freely available; search Borehole scans.


The BGS holds borehole core from approximately 15 000 boreholes, most of which are stored at Keyworth. Borehole material is held in a number of different forms, please see the borehole material type key for further details.

Additional online databases can be searched to discover the physical collections held in the NGR, including:

Geophysical logs

Geophysical logs measure the physical properties down boreholes at regular intervals which measure the properties of the subsurface rocks and fluids. BGS and the NGDC hosts the UK National Geophysical Data Archive which aims to holds all available geophysical logs data for all UK wells for which data is digitally available. BGS host data on behalf of a number of organisations including the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, UK Coal, the Department of Energy and Climate Change and NERC amongst others. Data is available via BGS enquires in LAS and other formats.

Please note that under UK legislation BGS does not have the rights to serve all of this data (DECC uses 3rd party data release agents).

Coal resources for new technologies

A series of maps showing the potential of the UK onshore coal resources for both exploitation by conventional (mining) and new technologies. First published in 2003.

The mining technologies shown in the maps include:

  • underground and opencast mining,
  • coal mine methane (CMM)
  • abandoned mine methane (AMM)

The new technologies shown in the map include:

  • underground coal gasification (UCG),
  • virgin coalbed methane (VCBM)
  • coal seam-related carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration.

These maps are result of of a Study of the UK Coal Resource for New Exploitation Technologies Project. Read a report summarizing the results.

Digital geology maps

The BGS has been studying the geology of Britain since 1835 and has produced maps covering the whole country. These datasets are now held as digital geological maps of Great Britain or BGS Geology.

Many paper-only maps have been digitised retrospectively though the nomenclature has often been updated to conform to current usage. Where necessary unpublished maps and additional interpretations have been incorporated; and ongoing revisions continue.

Digital Geological maps are available at a variety of scales from 1:10 000 up to 1:625 000.

More about BGS Geology.

Geothermal gradient

Geothermal energy is the energy stored in the form of heat beneath the Earth's surface.

Geothermal energy is a carbon-free, renewable, sustainable form of energy that provides a continuous, uninterrupted supply of heat that can be used to heat homes and office buildings and to generate electricity.

Our planet is a huge source of energy. In fact 99.9 per cent of the planet is at a temperature greater than 100°C; so geothermal energy is a significant renewable resource.

More information at Geothermal energy.

The BGS has also contributed to the ThermoMap project (Area mapping of superficial geothermic resources by soil and groundwater data). Areas of Europe have been mapped to very shallow (up to 10m) Geothermal Potential (vSGP) levels.

The project harmonised pre-existing datasets relating to geological, hydrogeological, soil, climate and relief geo-data with standardised methods. In addition, samples were taken from 14 test areas across Europe.

Visit ThermoMap for more information about the project outputs or try the Map Viewer to visualise the data.

Methane and CO2

Methane and carbon dioxide emissions are associated with coal, carbonaceous shales, and peat as well as organic rich muds and silts in buried ponds, lakes or drainage channels.

Most methane and carbon dioxide emissions at the surface appear to be derived from abandoned shallow coal mines. Records also show some emissions coming from peat and other natural deposits of organic materials, such as organic material in buried ponds or river channels, the exact location of which is difficult to predict.

Shale anisotropy research

Underground reservoirs and the flow of liquids and gases within them are important to our understanding of reserves of oil, gas and groundwater.

More information at Advanced seismic techniques.

Stress data

Rock stress data are derived from borehole breakout measurements within boreholes and describe the local stress field.

BGS data covers the entire onshore and offshore UK, with 350 borehole records of rock stress.

Data also shows rose diagram and ‘raw’ stress magnitude and direction data for vector display.

You can build your own rose diagrams in the BGS Rock Stress application.

Total organic carbon

Total organic carbon (TOC) is a measure of the weight per cent of organic carbon within hydrocarbon source rocks.

Hydrocarbons including natural gas (principally methane, ethane and propane) may be generated during thermal maturation, from the heating of organic carbon through burial over geological time.

If a shale contains organic carbon in low concentrations (typically below ~2%), it probably won’t have the capacity to produce gas in useful quantities.

The measure of TOC is a starting point; the gas prospectivity of a rock is heavily influenced by the kerogen types within the organic matter- including that derived from plankton, algae, spores, pollen, plant fragments. These can affect gas production, rock porosity and the rates that gas may be released.

When complete, the BGS total organic carbon dataset will be delivered as an excel spreadsheet or as points in GIS format.

Vitrinite reflectance

Vitrinite reflectance (VR) tells us the maximum temperature history of a sediment (the thermal maturity).

When calibrated, VR allows us to understand if hydrocarbons (oil and gas) have been produced from the organic component of rocks.

The generation of hydrocarbons is influenced by the types of kerogen present within the organic matter within rocks. VR is given as a %Ro value, relating to the percentage of light reflected from a sample submerged in oil.

When complete, the BGS vitrine reflectance dataset will be delivered as an excel spreadsheet or as points in GIS format.


Contact the Digital Data team for further information