Program Domain

Resilient Energy, Water and Infrastructure

Gas sampling from a warm soda spring in Long Valley caldera (east moat), Mammoth Mountain, CA. (At left, D. Shuster, at right, B.M. Kennedy.)

Researchers in the Resilient Energy, Water and Infrastructure Program Domain are developing and applying scientific approaches to solving existing and emerging challenges of sustainability 'and resiliency' of subsurface energy utilization and important linkages to water, environment, energy infrastructure, and society.




Develop approaches for sustainable groundwater management and identification of new water resources including groundwater storage opportunities while reducing associated cost and energy demands and insuring water quality. Anticipate, assess, manage, and mitigate potential impacts of emerging energy technologies on water systems and quality.

Critical Infrastructure Composite

Critical Infrastructure

Develop recognized multidisciplinary science and engineering capabilities to address the Nation’s massive infrastructure challenges (energy facilities, industrial complexes, pipelines, levees, bridges, buildings). Contribute to the next generation of sustainable and resilient infrastructure with respect to natural phenomena and hazards such as earthquakes or climate change.


Risk Assessment/System Analysis/Mitigation

Develop and apply science-based methodologies for analyzing and calculating hazards and risks across different subsurface energy applications while ensuring that related uncertainties are adequately quantified, and applying science based solutions to the mitigation of hazardous events when they do occur.


Grid-Scale Subsurface Energy Storage

Understand and develop effective and affordable grid-scale energy storage in the deep subsurface, such as porous media compressed air energy storage, thermal energy storage, or hydrogen storage. Carry out research on capacity assessment, design of systems, performance analysis, assessment of risks, and specialized analysis of site-specific issues.


Energy supply and use, including subsurface energy, are closely linked to water availability and quality, spanning multiple dimensions related to environment, infrastructure, society, and policy. In collaboration with other programs within the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA), the Resilient Energy, Water and Infrastructure Program Domain explores these links in several initiatives that bring together geoscientists, environmental scientists, hydrologists, ecologists, and climate scientists.

There is a growing recognition today of the importance of the nexus between energy and water, and the need for this to be actively managed across the nation and particularly in California with its historic water distribution challenges. Resilient Energy, Water and Infrastructure scientists are leveraging unique subsurface characterization and monitoring expertise with advanced modeling capabilities to promote sustainable groundwater management and identification of new water resources and storage opportunities while reducing associated costs and energy demand and ensuring water quality. Research areas include

  1. improved groundwater recharge for enhanced storage
  2. beneficial re-use of waters that otherwise would be treated as waste
  3. environmentally sustainable subsurface utilization and its potential impacts on water

Assessment and reduction of environmental risk from subsurface energy applications are central elements of the current research portfolio (e.g., CO2 leakage to groundwater, impacts from (unconventional) oil and gas production, etc.). Capabilities include multi-scale modeling, monitoring and detection, cleanup and mitigation planning, as well as system-level risk and performance assessment tools.

Another important geoscience linkage between energy and water is the desire to develop effective and affordable grid-scale energy storage in the deep subsurface. Grid-scale energy storage is needed to accommodate increasing contributions of intermittent renewable (solar and wind) electricity. Currently, the U.S. can store about 2.3% of its total electricity production, and 95% of this is by pumped hydro. Furthermore, in October 2013, California mandated 1.3 GW of statewide energy storage by 2020, which implies a mandate to increase grid-scale energy storage in California by a factor of 37 (!) by 2020. Grid-scale storage in the deep subsurface is an intriguing option that requires further research. Current approaches include porous media compressed air energy storage, thermal energy storage, or subsurface hydrogen storage.

Our nation’s energy infrastructure is threatened by existing and emerging natural phenomena, such as earthquakes and climate change. For example, damage to power plants, the electrical grid, or natural gas storage infrastructure from natural and perhaps induced seismic events can disrupt our energy supply. In addition, the evolution of environmental conditions driven by climate change can create previously unanticipated conditions and challenges. Credible estimates of sea-level rise associated with global warming can create major challenges for critical facilities and infrastructure located in low-lying areas. Researchers work on designing and creating more resilient systems with respect to environmental conditions and upsets, for example by developing verified and validated high-performance simulation models for infrastructure systems, leveraging advanced sensor and monitoring and solutions for critical infrastructure, and using science-base capabilities for engineered systems analysis and design.

This program domain is part of EESA’s Energy Geosciences Division.