BDA Webinar – November 2022 – What does the AGS Data Format have to do with drilling?

November 18, 2022

The latest British Drilling Association (BDA) webinar took place on 16 November 2022 and looked at the topic of “What does the AGS Data Format have to do with drilling?”.

The webinar was presented by Adam Lumber, Associate Technical Engineering Director, Structural Soils Limited, and began by explaining what is AGS data, before moving on to why does AGS data matter and how does it relate to drilling, sampling, testing?

Beginning with the AGS Data Format, and how it is used to transfer data reliably, between organisations working in the ground investigation industry, Adam went on to look at what types of data AGS files may contain, such as borehole and trial pit log records as well as sample data, in situ and laboratory test results, monitoring data, plus custom data groups and records of other ‘associated’ digital files.

For a typical ground investigation (GI) project, Adam then discussed who actually produces AGS data, highlighting the role of GI contractors, subcontractors, and designers in this process and how each produce or receive AGS data.

Focussing on why a designer or client wants data in AGS format, Adam explained some of the more common uses such as to develop ground models, conduct design work, establish correlations between different geotechnical properties or to locate geohazards. Sometimes, Adam noted, AGS data is required simply “because the contract or specification requires it.”

The structure of the AGS Data Format was then detailed, its specification being contained in the freely available AGS publication Electronic Transfer of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Data. A brief overview of its evolution over the years was presented, along with an explanation of the different published versions, version 4.1.1 being the current version which is now only just coming into use in the industry.

Adam explained what an AGS file ‘looks like’, how they are comma separate text files that can be viewed using simple text editor software such as Notepad or converted into a Microsoft Excel ‘cross-tab’ format using freely available convertor software. This ‘cross-tab’ format can enable the non-specialist to view and understand data in an easily accessible way without recourse to specialist database software, should they wish. He explained the structure of an AGS data file, how information is arranged into data GROUPS collecting related types of data (e.g. SAMP group = samples), that data in each group is transmitted under different data field HEADINGS (for example sample top depth, sample base depth), that the data in each heading is of a specific TYPE (for example a number reported to 2 decimal places, or an abbreviation/code from standard pick list), and where relevant reported in a particular unit (e.g. metres, %, etc). The AGS suggested TYPE and UNIT for each piece of data are reflective of the requirements of specifications and standards used in the UK.

AGS data and how it specifically relates to drilling was explored – virtually all information from a Driller’s log is commonly included within AGS data. Some specific examples were looked at – Driller’s log descriptions, samples, and standard penetration test results. Adam also looked at what use is made of drilling data.

To demonstrate why AGS data is, in most cases, far more useful to designers than paper or PDF reports alone, Adam used this example. A Contractor provides Designer with a GI report, which may contain borehole logs, laboratory results, etc. The Designer, who wants to create cross-sections, plot SPT values vs depth, tabulate moisture contents vs undrained shear strength, etc., has several options:

  • Option 1: manually type the GI information into Designer’s own software
  • Option 2: Designer obtains the data in Excel, sets up own graphs, plots, etc for each project
  • Option 3: Designer imports AGS data into own database software which can manipulate the data AND accept new or revised data – this being the most efficient and preferred option.

Adam introduced the digital reporting requirements of the “UK Specification for Ground Investigation 3rd Edition (2022)”, explaining how this new edition defines a single deliverable, the ‘digital report’, of which AGS data forms a required element. He contrasted this to the 2nd Edition (2012), in which the ‘report’ and ‘AGS/digital data’ were effectively treated as two separate things.

He then looked at the AGS requirement that all parties who use (submit or receive) AGS format data be registered with the AGS as a user of the Data Format as a ‘Registered Organisation’, the benefits of registration and the number presently registered. To close, Adam touched upon other areas of note such as the process of checking or validation of AGS data, and how the British Geological Survey encourage parties to provide them with AGS data which is then used to generate freely available borehole log records, supporting the ‘Dig to Share’ initiative.

After a quick recap, the presentation concluded with a Questions & Answers session.

To view the webinar recording, visit:

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