Mining, Environment and Society

As demands for raw resources grow, so do demands for development practices that provide net positive impacts on environments and communities. We are presently conducting research on:

  • Sustainable development of mineral and energy resources
  • Treatment of mine-influenced waters
  • Characterization of fugitive dusts
  • Water resource impairments in mining communities
  • Biomass-blended fuels

Faculty working in this area: Emily Sarver, Gerald Luttrell, Nino Ripepi, Michael Karmis

Health and Safety

Mine health and safety presents many challenges which can be solved via the application of innovative engineering technology and design. Funded research projects are ongoing related to:

  • Culture, leadership and risk management
  • Improved environmental monitoring and control
  • Wireless communication methods for underground mines
  • Design of underground refuge chambers
  • Non-destructive assessment of seals
  • Through-the-earth communications

Faculty working in this area: Emily SarverNino RipepiMichael KarmisKray LuxbacherErik Westman

Geoenergy Engineering

Improving the development of unconventional oil and gas resources requires better characterization of reservoir behavior. Active research areas in Geoenergy Engineering include:

  • Unconventional oil and gas production
  • Enhanced recovery techniques
  • Multi-scale reservoir characterization
  • Multi-phase fluid interactions
  • Reservoir flow and transport modeling
  • Geophysical monitoring of reservoir processes

Faculty working in this area: Nino RipepiCheng ChenBahareh NojabaeiEllen Gilliland

Mine Ventilation

Ventilation engineering of mines is evolving rapidly with improved sensing technology and powerful simulation techniques, allowing for more informed decision-making, advanced control, and improved planning. Ventilation research at VT includes:

  • Atmospheric monitoring systems
  • Novel tracer gas sensing
  • Data management solutions
  • Mine fire modeling
  • Gas and particulate responses to mine ventilation

Faculty working in this area: Emily SarverKray Luxbacher

Processing Technologies

Advances in processing technologies promise continued improvement in separation efficiency, product quality and environmental performance. Our research portfolio includes:

  • Fundamental and applied studies in advanced colloid and surface chemistry
  • Engineering development of advanced solid-solid and solid-liquid separation processes
  • Design, modeling, simulation and optimization of separation processes
  • Development of recycling technologies for recovery/reuse of secondary materials
  • Waste characterization, handling, stabilization, treatment and control

Faculty working in this area: Emily SarverGerald LuttrellAaron NobleRoe-Hoan Yoon

Enhanced Natural Gas Recovery

Injecting captured carbon dioxide into unconventional reservoirs allows for both permanent storage of carbon and enhanced recovery of natural gas and oil—but large-scale implementation requires further research. We are currently working on:

  • Coalbed methane and shale gas recovery
  • Mechanisms of carbon sequestration in geologic strata
  • Applications for mine degasification
  • Energy policy
  • Seismic responses to gas production

Faculty working in this area: Gerald LuttrellNino RipepiMichael KarmisKray Luxbacher

Geomechanical Applications

Excavation of underground openings is a difficult job in a challenging environment. Advanced instrumentation and monitoring methods allow these openings to be excavated and maintained safely and efficiently. Current research includes:

  • Digital photogrammetry and novel instrumentation for ground control monitoring
  • Time-lapse passive tomographic imaging using induced seismicity
  • Geomechanical numerical modeling
  • Ground control design and surface deformations

Faculty working in this area: Nino RipepiMichael KarmisKray LuxbacherErik WestmanMario Karfakis