CSEE and Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (UT PGE) Associate Professors Nicolas Espinoza and Silviu Livescu are key team members of a new $5 million grant from the Mining Innovations for Negative Emissions Resource Recovery (MINER) program run by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E).

MINER seeks to increase domestic supplies of copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt and other critical rare earth elements while reducing carbon emissions. The project is led by UT Austin Bureau of Economic Geology Research Scientist Estibalitz Ukar and is part of $39 million in DOE funding for 16 projects across 12 states.

Dr. Espinoza and Dr. Livescu will work in “Carbon Negative Reaction-Driven Cracking for Enhanced Mineral Recovery: In-Situ Test at a Ni-Co-PGE Deposit,” a methodology aimed to be scalable and combined with other processes to maximize CO2 sequestration and critical mineral yield. Strengthening the critical materials supply chain will help the U.S. secure the rare earth elements (REEs) necessary to manufacture several clean energy technologies — from electric vehicle batteries to wind turbines and solar panels.

“A reliable, sustainable domestic supply chain of critical materials that power longer-lasting batteries and other next-generation energy technologies is crucial to reaching our clean energy future,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in a media release “With these investments, DOE is helping to reinvigorate American manufacturing to reduce our overreliance on adversarial nations and position the nation as a global leader of research and innovation.”

Dr. Nicolas EspinozaEspinoza directs UT Austin’s Energy Applied Geomechanics Laboratory (EAGLe), which explores the mechanics and physics of natural porous solids for applications in the energy industry. He was elected 2023 Early Career Keynote Speaker at the 57th US Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium and named a 2022 Rising Star by the American Chemical Society’s Energy & Fuels journal. The distinction honor early- and mid-career researchers (EMCRs) who have made significant contributions their respective fields of energy research.

Dr. Silviu LivescuLivescu is one of 13 authors of “The Future of Geothermal in Texas: The Coming Century of Growth & Prosperity in the Lone Star State,” a multiyear, multidisciplinary collaboration among researchers at five Texas universities, the University Lands Office and the International Energy Agency. He is the 2020–2023 data science and engineering analytics technical director on the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) International Board of Directors, an SPE distinguished member (2019), and a former SPE distinguished lecturer (2018–2019).