Four Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering and Center for Subsurface Energy and the Environment faculty members received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) in February as part of a $20 million effort to accelerate the natural subsurface generation of low-cost, low-emissions hydrogen. This is the first time that the U.S. government has competitively selected teams to research this kind of technology.

From UT - PGE Website:

"Assistant Professor Wen Song was awarded $1 million as principal investigator (PI) of “Foam-Assisted Enhanced Hydrogen Recovery (EHR)” with co-PI Associate Professor Hugh Daigle, and associate professors Nicolas Espinoza and John Foster are part of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s “Cyclic Injection for Commercial Seismic-Safe Geologic H2 Production (CyclicGeoH2),” which received $2 million in funding.

Dr. Song and Dr. Daigle’s EHR team will develop a foam injection approach to extract geologic hydrogen. While conventional fluids like water or steam present challenges for extracting hydrogen because of the insolubility of the hydrogen gas and bubbles being trapped, injected foam sweeps, captures and extracts clustered hydrogen bubbles from mineral surfaces to enable higher recovery efficiency and transport. The EHR team will design, synthesize and characterize foam compositions for optimal stability and hydrogen uptake behavior in the reservoir.

Dr. Espinoza, Dr. Foster and the CyclicGeoH2 team will develop a cyclic injection strategy to create fractures, stimulate geologic hydrogen production, and ultimately transport the produced hydrogen back to the surface. The approach involves multiscale numerical modeling, laboratory tests and field characterization to develop and test the proposed technology using rock samples from Montana and other sites. Through high-pressure, high-temperature testing, the system will be optimized for hydrogen flow and maximum extraction.

Song is a George H. Fancher Assistant Professor of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering in UT PGE. Her research focuses on understanding and leveraging the fundamental micro/nanoscale transport dynamics that dictate subsurface energy and environmental resources. Her recent honors include the 2023 Arie van Weelden Award from the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE), a 2022 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), and a DNI Award from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS PRF). She is also a Scialog Fellow in Negative Emissions Science.

Daigle directs the Center for Subsurface Energy and the Environment (CSEE) and coordinates the Sustainable Energy minorHis research focuses on characterizing physical and transport properties of rocks using a combination of laboratory experiments and numerical simulation. Specific areas of interest include methane hydrate formation and response to marine hydrate systems to external perturbations; petrophysical measurement and assessment techniques; applications of nanoparticles in subsurface engineering; and geohazard detection and prediction. His work is aimed at improving formation evaluation, completion design and production strategy.

Espinoza directs The University of Texas at 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.

Foster holds a George H. Fancher Professorship in Petroleum Engineering in UT PGE. His research interests are in experimental and computational mechanics and multi-scale modeling with applications to geomechanics, impact mechanics, fracture mechanics and anomalous transport processes. He is the recipient of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Regional Data Science and Engineering Analytics Award (2023); the W.A. “Tex” Moncrief Grand Challenge Award (2018); and the SPE Petroleum Engineering Innovative Teaching Award (2015).

ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. Through ARPA-E funding that empower America's energy researchers to focus on transformational projects, awardees are able to develop entirely new ways to generate, store and use energy that have the potential to radically improve U.S. economic prosperity, national security and environmental well-being."