Established in 1909, the Bureau of Economic Geology is the oldest research unit at The University of Texas at Austin. The Bureau is the State Geological Survey of Texas and has been an integral part of the development of the state’s economic success through the years. Researchers at the Bureau spearhead basic and applied research projects globally in energy resources and economics, coastal and environmental studies, land resources and use, geologic and mineral mapping, hydrogeology, geochemistry, and subsurface nanotechnology. The staff of over 250 scientists, engineers, economists, and graduate students, representing 27 countries, often working in integrated, multi-disciplinary research teams.1Bureau of Economic Geology. (n.d.). About. Retrieved May 19, 2021, from https://www.beg.utexas.edu/about/who-we-are
Gulf Coast Carbon Center
One of their research groups, the Gulf Coast Carbon Center, has been at the forefront of research on carbon storage not only in Texas but around the world. Since 1998, this center has been a leader in research that facilitates a proactive response by energy-related businesses to reduce atmospheric release of CO2. Researchers at the Gulf Coast Carbon Center have led major field research projects to develop effective technologies that monitor retention of CO2 in the subsurface. In addition, researchers have led a number of diverse projects, such as estimation of storage capacity, economic assessments of CCUS, risk of leakage to water resources, assessment of pressure, and offshore carbon storage in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Coast Carbon Center is considered to be a world leader in the crucial research required to mitigate the effects of CO2 emissions.
Career Spotlight: Dr. Sue Hovorka
In 2018, the center’s senior research scientist and principal investigator, Dr. Sue Hovorka, was awarded the Greenman Award. This award is widely considered to be the most important distinction presented to a researcher in the field of carbon capture and storage. It is given annually to an individual in recognition of “services to the development of knowledge and understanding of the issues involved with carbon capture and storage and greenhouse gas control technologies.”2Bureau of Economic Geology. (n.d.). Dr. Susan Hovorka. Retrieved June 21, 2021, from https://www.beg.utexas.edu/people/susan-hovorka
Dr. Hovorka’s Academic Background
Ph.D. Geology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1990
M.A. Geology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1981
B.A. Geology, Earlham College, Richmond, IN, 1974
Dr. Hovorka led the center’s work in the Cranfield Project as part of one of the Department of Energy’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships. The project had many goals, but among them was to demonstrate the concept of ‘stacked storage’: the phased use of subsurface reservoirs, combining early use of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in a hydrocarbon reservoir with later injection into underlying or adjacent brine-filled formations. The concept for stacked storage is that the current EOR operations would support infrastructure, characterization, and public acceptance for the second phase, longer term saline storage.3U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory. (2017). Cranfield Project. Retrieved November 9, 2020, from https://netl.doe.gov/sites/default/files/2018-11/Cranfield-Project.PDF4Southern States Energy Board. (n.d.). SECARB Overview. Retrieved November 9, 2020, from https://www.sseb.org/programs/secarb5Hovorka, S. D., Meckel, T. A., & Treviño, R. H. (2013). Monitoring a large-volume injection at Cranfield, Mississippi—Project design and recommendations. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 18, 345-360.
Image Credits: courtesy Hilary Olson