Brian J. Anderson and Shahab D. Mohaghegh, engineering professors at West Virginia University, recently earned high achievement awards from Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. They were recognized for their efforts with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The NETL team was recognized for estimating the rate of oil flowing into the Gulf and also for developing options to cap the well. This exhausting work led to effective analyses of raw data, which guided major decisions to help reduce the environmental cost of the disaster.

During the ceremony, Chu remarked, “The employees recognized today have gone above and beyond the call of duty, demonstrating an exceptional commitment to public service. Their dedication, knowledge and skills have served to strengthen our nation’s economic and energy security and the work of the energy department.”

According to Mohaghegh, it was a heroic process, involving 15 people who work as part of his research team, known as PEARL or the Petroleum Engineering and Analytics Research Laboratory.

“We worked on it around the clock,” Mohaghegh said. “We had many facts, but there were far more uncertainties than facts that we had to deal with if we were to estimate the actual rate at which the discharge was taking place.”

Anderson and Mohaghegh worked as part of the Nodal Analysis Team, which used input from reservoir modeling and pressure and temperature conditions at the leak points on the sea floor, along with details of the geometries of the well, blowout preventer, and riser to calculate fluid compositions, properties, and fluxes from both before and after riser removal.

“It was such an honor to be recognized for our efforts in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster,” Anderson said. “The key component to our award is that it was a full-team effort and shows that across the Department of Energy, DOE labs and the university partners, we can work efficiently and effectively together.”

The award ceremony, held at Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, D.C., was actually the first time Anderson and Mohaghegh met face-to-face with the members from Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Pacific Northwest National Lab.

This fact is a “testament to how well we can utilize technology to break down geographic barriers to collaboration,” Anderson said. “My research team’s contribution was one component of a vast, coordinated effort for which the team leaders are to be commended.”

“Almost every day our calculations would go through a rigorous peer review that included first and foremost our contacts at NETL, Grant Bromhal and George Guthrie, and then the entire flow rate team,” said Mohaghegh. “Without their help and their detail scrutiny and critics of every single calculation that we were making, our work would not have the accuracy that it did.”

Mohaghegh also credited two WVU graduate students, Vida Gholami and Saeed Zargari, for their assistance in the project.



CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon

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