The Bureau of Economic Geology The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences
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February 2013

J.P. Nicot, Bridget Scanlon

Interviews with J.-P. Nicot and Bridget Scanlon were featured in a recent article on water usage in the Daily Texan titled "UT Study Finds Large Increase in Water Used for Fracking, but Still a Small Proportion of State's Water Use." The article examines Nicot's recent work in water usage, especially as it pertains to the process of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to produce untapped reservoirs of natural gas and oil. His most recent study finds that, although use of water for fracking more than doubled between 2008 and 2011, it represents about 1% of the state's water usage. That volume, says Nicot, is unlikely to endanger Texas' aquifers, and he notes that companies are seeking to reduce economic and environmental impacts by using nonpotable water with biodegradable additives to improve efficiency. To read the full Daily Texan article, click here.


Stephen Laubach Stephen Laubach has been named one of the Theme Chairs for the inaugural Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC) in Denver, August 12–13. URTeC is a science-driven event and a collaboration among three of the largest professional energy resource science societies in the world: SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers), AAPG (American Association of Petroleum Geologists), and SEG (Society of Exploration Geophysicists). Laubach will serve as chair for the theme "Fracture Characterization," which will include the following research topics: Evaluating Fractures in Thin Section and SEM, Importance of Natural Fractures in Tight Reservoirs, Anisotropy of Fractured and Layered Systems, Hydraulic Fracture Modeling and Prediction, and Stimulated Rock Volume. The intent of the conference is to encourage collaborative, cross-discipline education and research across the entire range of technical backgrounds in energy exploration and production.


Aaron Averett and Claudia Gerardo

The Bureau is once again expanding its aerial surveying capabilities with the addition of "Goliath," a fast and secure mobile data-storage and -processing system. Its two redundant 40-terabyte (TB) RAID 5 arrays speed the transfer of field data by a factor of 10 over conventional storage systems while providing full redundancy to ensure data integrity. Goliath is the creation of Aaron Averett, pictured at left with Departmental Buyer Claudia Gerardo, who managed acquisition of its components. Averett designed and assembled the system to meet specific requirements of the recently acquired Chiroptera lidar instrument and the imminent addition of an advanced hyperspectral camera system. Operating simultaneously, these components will generate high-resolution data at the rate of about 1.5TB per 2-hour flight. Goliath has been made rugged for transport and field deployment and enables the research team to remain in the field for the duration of the project—sometimes as much as a week or more. More important, the new system allows researchers to visualize and verify the quality of collected data rapidly, reducing logistical costs and total project time.
Sagavanirktok River, Alaska lidar survey: click to enlarge image





The Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC) convened its winter sponsors' meeting at the Bureau January 30–31. The consortium, whose mission is the study of geologically sequestering CO2 in the deep subsurface and dissemination of that information to the public, heard presentations on a wide range of related topics from member researchers. Principal Investigator Susan Hovorka opened the meeting by welcoming attendees and provided an overview of GCCC studies. Bureau researchers and students followed with research reviews. Changbing Yang presented his findings on geochemical sensitivity to CO2 leakage. Katherine Romanak spoke on "New Application of the Processed-Based Assessment to Groundwater." Student Mary Hingst presented "Methane in the Shallow Subsurface: Geochemical Impacts at Cranfield," and Brad Wolaver presented a talk titled "Green Field and Brownfield Monitoring are not the Same." Mehdi Zeidouni spoke on "Adapting Leaky Well Models to Fault Leakage Models," and student Sean Porse presented "Comparison of Sensitivity of Pressure-Based Methods with Geochemical Methods for Leakage Detection." Hovorka gave an update of the GCCC capacity database, Seyyed Hosseini spoke on "EASY-Tool: Overview of New Award," and student Kerstan Wallace presented "Limitations of Static Regional Capacity Estimations and Effect of Additional Data/Effort on Capacity Refinement, Application for Offshore." Student Logan West presented "Assessment of ROZ—Analog of Long Term Storage and CO2 Market." Alex Sun presented "Optimal Monitoring Network Design for Detecting Leakage," and Vanessa Nunez spoke on "Progress and Limits on Thermal Monitoring." Finally, economist Gürcan Gülen presented his findings on an "Associated Economic Model."



The Bureau of Economic Geology will host Industry Day during the third week of March at the Bureau's Austin Core Research Center. This year's event, themed "The Confluence of Energy and Environmental Research," will showcase the breadth and depth of the Bureau's geosciences and environmental research programs in areas including carbon storage, enhanced oil recovery, unconventionals, and nanotechnologies. In addition, the event will feature one of the world's preeminent archives of well cores and cuttings. Targeted primarily to current and potential industry partners in the fields of conventional and alternative energy, the exposition is intended to increase understanding of Bureau research goals and objectives and to encourage further collaboration with industry partners. Bureau Director Dr. Scott Tinker will deliver the keynote presentation, and an information booth will feature the Switch energy project, our new documentary about world energy. Students will also be spotlighted; those featured will be presenting posters and summaries of their research studies. For more information about this event, please contact Mark Blount.

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On February 19, Christopher Smith (above left), Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy at the Department of Energy (DOE), and Anthony Cugini (center), DOE Director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) visited the Bureau for a day of discussions and presentations on energy and environmental research. Both Federal policymakers received a briefing by Director Scott Tinker (above right) on research at the Bureau, and then they listened to presentations by researchers on current Bureau work, including a review of rock–fluid interaction at the Gas Geochemistry Lab by Pat Mickler, a tour of the Nanogeoscience Lab by Farzam Javadpour, a look at results using the Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope by Rob Reed, a tour of the Core Research Center by Bill Ambrose, an overview of ongoing CO2 research programs by Susan Hovorka, and a look at unconventional resource production by Steve Laubach. Scott Tinker concluded with an overview of the Sloan Shale-Gas Reserve Study. A brief reception afforded Smith and Cugini the opportunity of meeting with a number of Bureau students and researchers.
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