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The University of Texas at Austin

Research Topics

Computational geosciences, multiphase geosystems, flow and transport in porous media

Porous media in the geosciences

Most geological materials are porous and the dynamics of flow, deformation, and reactions in porous media control energy and mass transport in many geological and environmental processes. The fundamental scientific questions posed by pore fluids in shallow environments and in deeper-Earth processes are quite similar, and therefore the focus of our group is on the dynamics of porous media processes as a unifying concept in the geological and environmental sciences. Our group addresses the following central challenges: the successful integration of physical and chemical processes into mathematical models of porous media processes, the theoretical analysis and numerical simulation of these models, and the assimilation of multiple disparate observational data sets into models of flow in porous media.

Fundamental geological processes strongly influenced by porous media include: melt migration in the Earth’s mantle, metasomatism during regional metmorphism, hydrothermal alteration of the oceanic lithosphere, the diagenesis of sedimentary basins, and mass and energy fluxes in the critical zone.

Porous media are also central to applied problems including: contaminant migration, the utilization of geothermal energy, geological carbon dioxide storage, secondary hydrocarbon migration, reservoir engineering, and salt-water intrusion into coastal aquifers.

Mathematical and computational modeling

The geosciences are changing rapidly due to confluence of advances in numerical methods, the availability of ever larger computing resources, and rapidly increasing amounts of observational data. This confluence promises new discoveries and advances in our understanding of complex geosystems that are required to explore real world problems. Capitalizing on these recent development requires mathematical modeling and numerical simulation. Therefore, our research centers on mathematical modeling and numerical simulation of flow in porous media in the Earth and Environmental sciences. The group is strongly involved in the development of Graduate Portfolio Program in Computation Geosciences at the Jackson School of Geosciences (start date fall 2013) and we work with mathematicians in the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences to develop new numerical methods and algorithms for the Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Research collaboration

Due to the broad nature of our research in porous media we collaborate actively with many different groups at UT Austin and at other Universities. Here at UT Austin, we work regularly with the Center for Subsurface Modeling, the Center for Computational Geosciences and Optimization, and the Department for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering. We have recently joined the Center for Frontiers in Subsurface Energy Security (CFSES), a large DOE funded collaboration between UT Austin and Sandia National Laboratories to study geological CO2 and nuclear waste storage. We are collaborating with the Soil Mechanics and Transport Processes Lab at Stevens Institute of Technology on radionuclide transport. Internationally, we work with the BP-Institute for Multiphase Flow and the Institute for Theoretical Geophysics at the University of Cambridge and the Porous Media Flow Group in the Applied Mathematics Department at SINTEF in Oslo.

Contact Information

Marc Hesse
Phone: 512-471-0768
Office: JGB 4.216G
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