Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Drill Cuttings Collection


Envelopes of drill cuttings stored at Maryland Geological Survey
Envelopes of drill cuttings stored at Maryland Geological Survey

The Maryland Geological Survey (MGS) Drill Cuttings Collection consists of washed and unwashed cuttings from drilling sites throughout Maryland. The collection includes chips from rock drilling as well as cuttings from unconsolidated Coastal Plain sediment drilling. There are approximately 2,600 boxes (15.5” x 5.5” x 3.4”) in the collection. Generally, each box contains between 4 and 60 envelopes, bags or vials of cuttings. Cataloging, relabeling, repackaging, and inventorying of this collection is in progress.


The Drill Cuttings Collection is now primarily stored in the MGS Core (and Cuttings) Library in the basement of MGS’s Kenneth M. Weaver building. Due to space constraints, some cuttings are stored in the basement of the Weaver Annex building. The majority of the drill cuttings were collected by well drillers and MGS geoscientists. Some sets of cuttings were donated to MGS by other researchers, other government agencies, and geotechnical or environmental consultants. Many of the wells and/or boreholes from which the cuttings originated are referenced in published MGS reports.

Prior to storage at the Kenneth M. Weaver building, the Drill Cuttings Collection was stored off-site in a building that lacked proper climate and pest control. Many of the boxes and the enclosed paper sediment bags or envelopes had weathered and aged. Labels on the outside of the boxes, identifying the contents and additional collection information, had faded.

Only minimal preservation activities were completed on a small part of the collection following the collection’s relocation to the Kenneth M. Weaver building. As a result, many of the boxes remain in poor condition and have continued to deteriorate. General collection metadata was submitted to the National Digital Catalog (NDC) in 2009, but detailed metadata was never created and no further preservation activities were completed for this collection until 2017.


Thanks to funding from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP), MGS began the preservation of the drill cuttings collection in 2017-2018 as part of its FY2017 NGGDPP grant tasks. This preservation work has continued in subsequent NGGDPP grant cycles. Specifically, MGS has:

The detailed inventory of the Drill Cuttings Collection involves a systematic approach to 1) identify and record the status, attributes, quantities, and storage location of each set of cuttings; and 2) importantly, match the cuttings to borehole locations and related documentation. As part of the inventory process, a database was created to help capture information about each set of cuttings, including, but not limited to:

An envelope of drill cuttings stored at Maryland Geological Survey

As of August 2021, approximately 1,999 boxes of drill containing over 43,500 envelopes have been inventoried. The vast majority of these storage containers have required relabeling and repackaging or reinforcement. Approximately 1,400 of these boxes containing approximately 38,261 envelopes of cuttings have been linked to borehole locations. These are included in the interactive map of the MGS Drill Cutting Collection and data table (see links below). Many additional boxes have been partially cross referenced to boreholes. Funding received as part of on-going FY2020 and FY2021 NGGDPP grants (2020- 2022) supports the continuation of the above preservation activities.

These preservation efforts target a collection in danger of deterioration, and provides stability for a collection that is a sought-after resource. MGS geologists – as well as geoscientists from other government agencies, universities/research institutes, and private firms – access these cuttings for their research to address geologic, hydrogeologic, geohazard, and energy/waste related issues in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region. Many sets of cuttings in the MGS collection are from boreholes drilled decades ago; some cuttings may be unique and/or impossible to replace.


For inquiries regarding the MGS Drill Cuttings Collection or to schedule a visit, please contact:
Ms. Heather Quinn – 410-554-5522,
Mr. Dale Shelton – 410-554-5505,


The work described above is being funded, in part, by successive grants awarded in 2017, 2018, and 2019 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP). Please visit our “Data Preservation Efforts” webpage for more information about the NGGDPP grants and the ongoing preservation efforts at MGS:
Maryland Geological Survey – Data Preservation Efforts