The role of the Nuclear Energy and Waste Program is to perform fundamental and applied Earth-sciences-related research concerning the safe, secure, and responsible use of nuclear energy, as well as the safe storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel and waste.
Scientists in the Energy Resources Program Domain advance the knowledge and technology needed to develop and utilize subsurface systems for clean, secure, cost-effective, and sustainable energy production, energy storage, and disposal of energy-related wastes.
The Hydrocarbon Resources Program focuses on developing an understanding of the basic concepts and processes governing the storage and nonisothermal flow of hydrocarbons in porous media during production, as well as an understanding of associated coupled processes and phenomena involved in resource development and production.
The Geothermal Systems Program is focused on 1) Developing innovative technologies for identifying and characterizing conventional and hidden natural hydrothermal systems; and 2) Characterizing, developing, and sustaining enhanced geothermal systems, through the use of coupled process models, geophysical monitoring techniques, and laboratory studies.
The Geological Carbon Sequestration Program uses theory along with lab, field, and simulation approaches to investigate processes needed to inform and guide the safe and effective implementation of geologic carbon sequestration.
Subsurface energy resources currently provide or enable >80% of U.S. primary energy, and the trend of relying on the subsurface to meet U.S. energy needs is expected to increase. The subsurface is also a vast reservoir that can be used for the transient storage of energy and for the permanent disposal of energy waste streams (such as CO2 and nuclear waste). However, the complexity and difficulty in characterizing subsurface reservoirs hinder our ability to use the full potential of these systems, and thus to deliver critical subsurface energy solutions.
To tackle this complexity, projects in this Program Domain require integration across a wide range of EESA expertise, including multiphase flow, reactive geochemistry, imaging of the subsurface, and geomechanics. Capabilities developed in association with one energy strategy often transfer to another. For example, multiphase flow is important in geologic carbon sequestration, geothermal energy, hydrocarbon extraction, nuclear waste isolation, and vadose zone-atmospheric interactions in climate modeling. Similarly, geomechanics and geochemistry coupled with hydrology find application across a wide range of projects within this Program Domain.
In contrast to other Program Domains within EESA, the Energy Resources Program Domain conducts primarily applied research to solve challenges of practical concern to increase the U.S. energy supply and secure its environmental assets. Going beyond the traditional research model of small targeted R&D projects, the Energy Resources Program Domain has been very successful in developing new working models for research partnerships, including DOE geothermal and carbon sequestration “partnership programs” between DOE and industry, and hydrocarbon industry-sponsored “Centers of Excellence,” where investigators from EESA work closely with industry scientists on a common problem. Scientists working within this Program Domain value coordination and integration with governmental and industrial institutions, and focus on urgent and critical topics to ensure rapid deployment of promising new technologies.
Research in this Program Domain aligns with the work done in the Sustainable Energy Systems Program Domain. With the need to consider environmental aspects as a critical component of all energy strategies, our research also aligns with the Environmental and Biological Systems Science Program Domain. This program domain is part of EESA’s Energy Geosciences Division.