Petroleum Engineering Distinguished Seminar Series

The Petroleum Engineering Distinguished Seminar Series brings in innovators and leaders from industry and academia.

Spring 2023 Semester Speakers

April 17 - Peter Mueller, EcoVapor Recovery Systems

Emissions, Regulations, and Solutions


A picture of Peter Mueller

Emissions of methane, VOCs, NOx, and CO2 from oil and gas production facilities are coming under increased scrutiny by Federal, State, and even local jurisdictions, as well as the general public. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, while VOCs and NOx are precursors to ozone formation. CO2 concentrations are increasing in the atmosphere which is being linked to climate change. Oil and gas production facilities, especially those that service multiple horizontal wells with thousands of barrels of oil per day flowing through dozens of atmospheric tanks, are capable of generating millions of cubic feet per day of flash gas that historically has been vented or flared, unnecessarily wasting that resource, as well as generating hundreds of tons of emissions unnecessarily.

Colorado, especially the Denver Metro-Northern Front Range area, is where oil and gas development, population growth, and elevated standards of care for the environment are colliding every day. There has been a concerted effort to reduce or even eliminate oil and gas development from Colorado through imposition of the toughest waste reduction and emission control rules and enforcement in the country. The interesting result, however, is that various technologies have been developed and employed to meet this challenge and now a barrel of oil developed and produced in Colorado is the cleanest in the United States, and probably the world, and that’s something we can all be proud of.


Peter has had many roles in the oil and gas industry over 44 years since graduation from Mines in 1978. Those roles included drilling, well control, production, operations, acquisitions and divestment, receiver, legal matters, gas marketing, managing gas gathering and processing facilities, and regulatory affairs for operators. He Chaired the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2001 to 2007 and most recently co-founded EcoVapor Recovery Systems to help operators control air emissions from oil and gas production sites. Peter has worked the US onshore, US offshore, and internationally.

March 27 - Marc Hesse, UT Austin

Reaction Fronts in Porous Media


A picture of Marc Hesse

The theory of systems of hyperbolic conservation laws provides a powerful framework to understand multi-component reactive transport in porous media. Under the assumption of local chemical equilibrium and in the limit of negligible hydrodynamic dispersion, reactive transport is governed by the nsystem of quasi-linear PDE’s

(c + s(c))t + cx = 0

where s(c) is the equilibrium constraint between the total concentrations of the components in the pore fluid, c, and the total concentrations of the components in (or sorbed onto) the solid, s. The Riemann problem is self similar in x/t and allows (semi-)analytic solutions for non-linear reactions. This has been exploited in the Theory of Chromatography for isotherm-based reactions.

I will present an extension of the theory to modern surface complexation reactions, which include the electrostatics at the surface. These reactions govern the pH of pore fluids and the mobility of contaminants in the subsurface. The non-linearity introduced by surface complexation reactions is not genuinely non-linear and introduces new transport phenomena, such as composite waves. The analytic solutions also provide an excellent match to experiments over a wide range of compositions, illustrating the utility of the theoretical framework in realistic systems.


Marc Hesse is a computational geoscientist interested in the geological fluid dynamics with application to the Earth, Energy, Environment, and Planetary processes. Marc initially studied Geology at the Technical University of Munich and the University of Edinburgh where he has developed an interest in a broad range of geological phenomena. Recognizing the importance of fluid dynamics and mathematical modeling in the study of porous media Marc shifted towards applied mathematics and its applications in the geosciences during his graduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Cambridge, and Stanford University and during his postdoc at Brown University. In 2009 Marc joined the Jackson School of Geosciences and the Oden Institute of Computational Engineering and Sciences at the University of Texas.

March 13 - Louis Durlofsky, Stanford

Optimization and History Matching Frameworks for CO2


A picture of Dr. Durlofsky

There are many challenges associated with achieving carbon storage at gigaton scales. In this talk, I will present some of our recent developments in two areas relevant for the reservoir engineering of CCUS projects. A general framework for optimizing CO2 storage operations using derivative-free algorithms will be described. Different objective functions (involving minimization of mobile CO2 and maximization of storage efficiency) will be considered, along with a range of practical constraints. A multifidelity optimization treatment will be shown to be effective and to provide improved computational efficiency. The use of a deep-learning-based surrogate model for history matching will then be discussed. A previously developed architecture, referred to as a recurrent-residual U-Net, is extended to treat coupled flow-geomechanics problems. Its ability to model pressure and plume location in new storage aquifer realizations, and displacement at the Earth’s surface, will be demonstrated. Finally, the deep-learning surrogate will be applied within a history matching workflow.


Louis J. Durlofsky is the Otto N. Miller Professor of Earth Sciences in the Department of Energy Science and Engineering at Stanford Univeristy. He codirects the Stanford Smart Fields Consortium and the Stanford Center for Carbon Storage. Earlier in his career, Durlofsky was affiliated with Chevron Energy Technology Company. He holds a BS degree from Pennsylvania State University, and MS and PhD degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all in chemical engineering. His research interests include subsurface flow simulation and optimization, history matching, uncertainty quantification, deep-learning-based surrogate modeling, and energy systems optimization.

February 27 - Michael Celia, Princeton

Large-Scale Geological Storage of Carbon Dioxide


A picture of Dr. Celia

Subsurface energy systems have historically focused on extraction of hydrocarbons through mining (coal) or drilling and pumping (oil and gas). These extensive industries have led to myriad environmental damages at the land surface as well as large greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. Future energy-related usage of the subsurface is likely to involve large-scale fluid injection rather than extraction, with much of the injection occurring within the broad technology of carbon capture and storage, or CCS. The required pace of development, and the enormous volumes of fluid involved, make development of a large-scale CCS industry a daunting challenge. While recently expanded tax credits in the United States make development of large-scale CCS in the US possible, global development seems much less certain. In this presentation, I will discuss several key issues associated with CCS, including storage options, infrastructure needs, and regional-scale storage challenges.


Professor Michael Celia is the Theodora Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies at Princeton University, where he is also a Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). Prof. Celia served as Director of Princeton’s Environmental Institute from 2017 to 2021, and as CEE Department Chair from 2005 to 2011. His areas of research include ground-water hydrology, multi-phase flow in porous media, numerical modeling, and subsurface energy systems with a focus on geological sequestration of carbon dioxide. Professor Celia served for 10 years as editor of the journal Advances in Water Resources. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the recipient of the 2005 AGU Hydrologic Sciences Award (citation: For fundamental research contributions to subsurface hydrology and numerical methods in water resources, and for providing a model of Academia at its best). He was the 2008 Darcy Lecturer for the National Ground Water Association, the 2010 Pioneers in Groundwater lecturer for the American Society of Civil Engineers, received the 2012 Hydrology Days Award, and is the recipient of the 2014 Honorary Lifetime Membership Award from the International Society for Porous Media (Interpore). In 2016 Professor Celia was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (citation: For contributions to the development of subsurface flow and transport models in groundwater remediation and CO2 sequestration), and in 2018 he was awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degree from the University of Stuttgart. He has also received several teaching awards, the most recent being the Distinguished Teaching Award from the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton, awarded June 2017.

February 13 - Ruben Juanes, MIT

Understanding and Mitigating Man-Made Earthquakes


A picture of Dr. Juanes

Earthquakes occur when faults slip. While the most devastating earthquakes are of tectonic origin, human activities have been associated with the triggering of earthquakes that have caused substantial economic damage and societal concern. The demonstration that fluid injection can cause earthquakes dates back to the 1970s (Raleigh et al., Science 1976), but critical gaps remain in our ability to understand and, more importantly, mitigate, the occurrence of induced earthquakes. Here I will discuss some of our recent work employing contrasting approaches to help fill these gaps: from minimal-ingredients spring-slider models that account for poroelasticity (Alghannam and Juanes, Nature Comm. 2020) to sophisticated multiphysics computational models that integrate disparate datasets and have succeeded at setting management strategies that prevent earthquakes while allowing subsurface operations in a tectonically active field (Hager et al., Nature 2021).


Ruben Juanes is professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at MIT, where he has been since 2006. He is an expert in fluid flow through porous media and in geomechanics, and has applied his research to the fields of energy resources, carbon capture and storage, gas hydrates, water infiltration and soil irrigation, and induced seismicity. He holds an undergraduate degree from University of A Coruña (Spain) and graduate degrees from UC Berkeley, all in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Fall 2022 Semester Speakers

November 21 - Eric van Oort, UT Austin

Avoiding well leakage and guaranteeing long-term well integrity using shale/salt as a barrier


A picture of Dr. van Oort

Millions of wells will need to be abandoned in the coming decades, at a phenomenal expense to the oil & gas industry with zero return on investment (ROI). A sizeable portion of these wells is already leaking primarily methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, and more wells are expected to do so at some point in the future. In this presentation, Dr. van Oort will discuss the main risk factors associated with well leakage as a result of compromised well integrity. In addition, he will present his own R&D work on using shale and salt formations to create and remedy annular barriers to prevent and eliminate gas migration, surface vent flows and sustained casing pressures. Given the many drawbacks associated with the long-term reliance globally on Portland cement as a preferred barrier and P&A material, it will be shown that low-permeability shale and salt formations can generate highly competent barriers through the creep deformation mechanism. Such barriers can significantly reduce the likelihood and risks of well leakage and methane venting in the future, while at the same time reducing well abandonment complexity and costs by allowing rigless well abandonments. Results from creep barrier formation, induced by artificial temperature/pressure/chemical activation, in the North Sea offshore environment will be shared.


Dr. Eric van Oort became Professor in Petroleum Engineering and J.J. King Chair in Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012, after a 20-year industry career with Shell Oil Company. He holds a PhD degree in Chemical Physics from the University of Amsterdam. He has (co-)authored more than 200 technical papers, holds 15 patents, is a former SPE Distinguished Lecturer, a SPE Distinguished Member, and the 2017 winner of the prestigious international SPE Drilling Engineering Award. At UT Austin, he directs drilling-related R&D in two industry consortia (RAPID and CODA) with over 20+ industry company sponsors, covering drilling automation & control, sensor design, big data analytics, complex well construction challenges, and well abandonment & decommissioning. More recently, he has become involved in geothermal drilling, well repurposing and well integrity of CCUS and other wells. In addition, he is the co-founder of 3 start-up companies, including SPYDR Automation dedicated to drilling automation, and is the CEO of his own consulting company, EVO Energy Consulting.

October 24 - Masha Prodanovic, University of Texas Austin

Predicting porous media flow and transport coefficients: open data, simulation, and machine learning


Computing properties such as (relative) permeability, diffusion coefficients or electrical resistivity of rocks based on images (e.g. X-ray or scanning electron microscopy) of their microstructure has recently been a popular, alas computationally intensive, framework for data-based upscaling of such properties that complement and explain lab results. However, employing them efficiently on a large number of samples, such as those acquired in an exploration well, and in sufficient number of scenarios, in order to assess uncertainty or explore parameter space, depends on the ability to cut down the computational time. We have made a significant progress in employing scientific machine/deep learning algorithms and have cut down permeability estimation from 8+ hours down to seconds. We further present the latest work on estimating electrical properties as well as diffusion coefficients in reactive flow (Marcato et al. submitted) using similar approaches. In combination with data hosted in Digital Rocks Portal and open source code, this research paves the way to an environment that directly links data (often indeed big data on small scales), high performance computing simulation, deep learning prediction as well as automated collection of the data into a searchable library. Last but not the least, the concepts are applicable beyond rocks to estimating properties of other complex/porous structures such as foams, batteries or fuel cells, and micro-vascular networks.


Maša Prodanović is a Frank W. Jessen Professor in Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (PGE), The University of Texas at Austin. She is an applied mathematician-turned-engineer and has expertise in direct simulation of flow and particulate transport in porous and fractured media, porous media characterization especially based on 2D and 3D images of rock microstructure, unconventional resources and data curation. She is a recipient of multiple awards such as InterPore Medal for Porous Media Research in 2022, SPE Distinguished Member Award in 2021, EAGE Alfred Wegener Award in 2021, SPE Formation Evaluation regional award for development of Digital Rocks Portal in 2019, Texas 10 (top faculty) and Stony Brook 40 Under Forty awards in 2017, SPE Faculty Innovative Teaching Award in 2014 and Interpore Procter & Gamble Research Award for Porous Media Research in 2014. She was elected Interpore Society Council member & SIAM Geosciences Program Director 2021-23.


October 10 - George Moridis, Texas A&M

Numerical Simulations: Support of a Long-Term Test of Gas Production From Hydrate Accumulations on Alaska North Slope


We investigate by means of numerical simulation a planned year-long field test of depressurization-induced production from a permafrost-associated hydrate reservoir on the Alaska North Slope at the site of the recently-drilled Hydrate-01 Stratigraphic Test Well. The main objectives of this study are (a) to assess quantitatively the impact of temporary interruptions (well shut-ins) on the expected fluid production performance from the B1 Sand of the stratigraphic Unit B during controlled depressurization over different time scales, as well as on other relevant aspects of the system response that have the potential to significantly affect the design of the field test, and (b) to investigate possible methods to control water production. The study confirmed the superiority of multi-step depressurization methods as the most effective strategies for hydrate dissociation and gas production, and showed that two observation wells (located at distances of 30 m and 50 m from the production well) are appropriately positioned and both able to capture the P, T and SG behavior during the fluid production and shut-ins in any of the eight cases we investigated.