Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

Many of the world’s top scientists conducting research on an array of energy issues shared their views on the latest research findings, emerging trends and new technologies during the inaugural UT Energy Week, at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center.

Originally a two-day event, called UT Energy Forum, the conference expanded to a more in-depth format. The five-day program, hosted Feb. 16-20, is designed to stimulate debate among experts from academia, industry, government and non-profit organizations on a wide variety of energy issues.

Aerial photo of UT's campus with energy week logo superimposed in upper left.

The event, co-hosted by the university’s Energy Institute and student-led Longhorn Energy Club, showcased the work of scientists, engineers and others engaged in energy research across the UT Austin campus. Topics related to oil and gas included: “Arctic/Frontier Drilling – Technical Issues,” “Arctic/Frontier Drilling – Safety, Regulations and Environmental Issues,” and “Natural Gas: King for a Day or Here to Stay.”

UT PGE played a significant role in the program between our faculty and students.

The Petroleum Graduate Student Association was one of the five advisory board groups contributing to Energy Week through the Longhorn Energy Club.

“The concept of UT Energy Week is to showcase an amalgamation of all the energy events happening around campus in one grand event for the world to see,” said UT PGE Graduate Student and Energy Week Co-Chair Prachi Mehta. “We want everyone to recognize Texas as the energy capital.”

Our very own hydraulic fracturing expert, Dr. Mukul Sharma, participated in a town hall meeting panel on the first night of the conference titled, “The Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing.” Hosted by the AAPG Student Chapter of the Jackson School of Geosciences, the meeting featured a panel of specialists to field questions from the audience for a conversation about the energy, economic and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

Wall Street Journal Senior Energy Reporter Russell Gold moderated the meeting, and panelists included:

  • Scott W. Tinker, State Geologist of Texas and Director, Bureau of Economic Geology
  • Ian Duncan, Senior Research Scientist, Bureau of Economic Geology
  • Julia Gale, Structural Geologist, Bureau of Economic Geology
  • Peter Hennings, ConocoPhillips
  • Mukul Sharma, Professor, Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering

The department’s External Advisory Committee Member, Jose Bravo, who is a chief scientist at Shell, was the event's first keynote speaker and addressed the continued role of oil and gas in a changing global energy market.

Bravo’s presentation showcased the industry’s goals for a low carbon, high energy future, with efficiency, affordability and carbon capture and storage as its main challenges. He concluded by emphasizing the critical role technology will play in our ability to improve oil and gas recovery.

Outside of the panels, Energy Week also hosted Longhorn Energy Club Startup Competition, for students, faculty and community start-ups, with more than $100,000 in cash and prizes being awarded to the winners of the UT Energy Technology Open Competition. The competition sought out the best new energy ideas for startups across four categories: Oil and Gas, Cleantech, Water / Resources, and Software. In addition, Energy Week had a research poster competition for UT Austin students involved in energy research.

Two UT PGE graduate students placed in the poster competition. Wei Yu earned second place in the fossil fuels and byproducts category for his poster researching the simulation of gas transport in shale formations using complex hydraulic fracture geometry. Bo Ren earned third place in the environment and sustainability category for his poster analyzing energy use and CO2 emissions in petroleum production. Other poster categories included energy storage and efficiency, generation, distribution and markets, and renewable and clean energy.

“It was very inspiring to listen to young and bright minds come up with innovative ideas,” Mehta said. “All in all, UT Energy Week was an excellent platform to learn and broaden one's horizon about the energy landscape.”