Brandon Nuttall retires after 41 years with KGS
The Kentucky Geological Survey of 1978, when Brandon Nuttall joined the Oil and Gas Section, was very different from the KGS of today. Nuttall, who retired from KGS June 3, says the Survey’s computing abilities 40 years ago were limited to two handheld programmable calculators. So he spent a lot of time on a manual keypunch machine at the UK Computing Center punching programs and data into IBM cards as part of his job reviewing oil and gas permit applications. (It would take 5 years of negotiating with the Computing Center to get the first mini-computer into Breckenridge Hall, where KGS offices were located at the time.)
“In the morning, I processed incoming applications for permits to drill a well,” Nuttall says. “I reviewed the application, plotted the well on a map, assigned a number, and decided whether there were going to be samples or not.” He walked those permits back to the state Division of Oil and Gas, located at the time on the UK campus, and picked up well-completion reports for processing at KGS.
The information he gathered in that process, along with data collected in projects done with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association, were the beginnings of the KGS oil and gas well database. Information about wells was originally provided on paper maps showing well locations and information about each well. A far larger database is now freely accessible and searchable on the KGS website. Nuttall says his involvement with the development of the online database is one of the most gratifying projects he was involved with in more than four decades at the Survey.
“There were lots of states that wanted to do what Kentucky did with our database to make it available and, once we made it available through our web service, to make it searchable. We made a bunch of decisions along the way that I think were really good. One of them was that we didn’t go with proprietary specialized software that required users to buy licenses.”
Nuttall came to KGS from a job doing coal resource consulting for an engineering company, after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in geology. Don Haney chaired EKU’s geology department at the time. He would later become state geologist and KGS director. The “Haney Era” at KGS brought changes to the Survey, including the construction of the Mining and Mineral Resources Building, KGS’s current location. Survey staff had previously been located in four buildings on the UK campus. “By getting everyone together in a single building, that really went a long way to helping KGS serve the state,” Nuttall says. “I was really glad that it happened.”
Nuttall plans to do some travelling in retirement and consulting for Kentucky’s oil and gas industry. But he says there is unfinished work to improve the online databases he wants to complete. So he’s likely to show up in a suite of cubicles on the third floor of the KGS building that has come to be known as “Codgerville.”