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22-8. Addressing emerging energy challenges by linking geologic and engineering properties to understand fluid injection and production

New energy strategies and the need to understand relationships between subsurface resources increases demand for improved technologies to characterize and model fluid behavior in the subsurface. The injection of gases, and the production of natural gas from gas hydrates, present opportunities for improved numerical modeling approaches to facilitate a better understanding of these complex systems.

Description of the Research Opportunity

The energy landscape is in transition at the local, national, and global scales, bringing new challenges and new opportunities relating to the processes that govern the relationships between resources.  The USGS is uniquely able to address these challenges with its breadth of expertise and research and its role as provider of decision-ready science on surface and subsurface resources.  One significant emerging opportunity is the development of improved approaches for modeling and monitoring subsurface processes during the injection and production of gases and fluids.  These approaches are necessary for the understanding of the production of natural gas from gas hydrate resources as well as long-term geologic carbon storage, short-term hydrogen storage, and geothermal system dynamics.  

The relationships between resources in the subsurface, and the exchange of one pore-filling material for another, are at the core of many of the solutions proposed for addressing current energy and environmental concerns.  These are complex dynamic systems offering many opportunities for advances in physical modeling and in monitoring techniques.  Numerical modeling approaches exist for quantifying the thermodynamics of multi-phase fluid flow systems, but current and evolving problems require adaptation of these approaches.  Examples include the depressurization of gas hydrate systems to produce natural gas and water (with considerable thermal changes, and possibly including injection of CO2) and the injection of gases and possible production of water.  A related need is for geophysical monitoring of these processes, potentially requiring the linkage of reservoir simulation algorithms with geophysical forward modeling.  Geophysical monitoring is highly valuable toward observation of subsurface dynamics and understanding the fate of injected gases and the source of produced gases and fluids.  Advances along these lines will be important toward addressing societal priorities of safely and effectively embracing the energy transition, and USGS goals of better quantifying energy resources and energy storage potential.

We seek a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellow who will develop advanced approaches for modeling and/or monitoring the processes associated with exchanging fluids and gases in subsurface geologic systems.  The successful applicant will have broad latitude to focus on production from gas hydrate and other hydrocarbon sources, gas injection, fluid production, or multiple of these areas.  We will provide a computing environment that includes leading numerical reservoir modeling software options including the TOUGH+HYDRATE and STOMP-HYDT-KE codes, along with the E3D elastic wave propagation system, and the USGS’ world-class high-performance computing systems.  Further, we can provide field data from current cutting edge research programs such as the ongoing Alaska Gas Hydrate production test that provides a wealth of characterization and monitoring data including surface 3D seismic data, four research boreholes with extensive log data, fiber optic distributed acoustic sensor (DAS), distributed temperature sensor, and distributed strain sensors, conventional and pressurized cores, a 3D DAS vertical seismic profile dataset, and planned cross-well tomographic monitoring data.  These data are suitable not just for studying gas hydrate system dynamics but also broader reservoir response simulation and monitoring questions.  We welcome applications that address the physical and chemical processes and dynamics within porous media, the monitoring of these processes with geophysical techniques, other aspects of these systems, or a combination of multiple elements. 

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Proposed Duty Station(s)

Denver, Colorado


Areas of PhD

Geology, geophysics, hydrology, petroleum engineering, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).



Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications: Research Geologist, Research Geophysicist, Research Engineer, Research Petroleum Engineer, Research Hydrologist

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)