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Research@Mines - by Subject
Geological Engineering

First Ph.D. in New Mining Engineering Program Builds Computer Program to Improve Underground Mine Safety

Ankit Jha is the first graduate of South Dakota Mines’ new doctoral program specializing in mining engineering.

Ankit Jha, Ph.D., is the first graduate of South Dakota Mines’ new doctoral program in Mining Engineering. 

Dr. Jha’s research, conducted under Associate Professor Purushotham Tukkaraja, Ph.D., included a new computer system that integrates and enhances underground mine ventilation, safety, communication and rescue operations. The concept involves developing a command center with software that allows for real-time tracking of individuals on digital maps inside a mine. It also records real-time sensor data from the atmospheric monitoring system within the mine. The data collected with specific algorithms from mine ventilation engineering and computer science were utilized in developing the software. 

When the system alerts operators of danger, it highlights the fastest and safest path for a mine rescue and recovery operation. Jha’s research also examined the flammability of ventilation ducts in underground mines and made recommendations for improvements.  Furthermore, Jha investigated efficient ventilation designs to mitigate radon emission in underground metal mines by using experiments and computational fluid dynamics simulations. 

In his dissertation, Jha writes, “As mine rescue operations are stressful because human lives are at stake, it is not surprising that pertinent information could be missed, which could adversely affect the rescue operati...

Last Edited 12/1/2020 03:39:02 PM [Comments (0)]

Monitoring the Deep–Arrays of Seismometers Give Geoscientists New Insights into Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions

A team of student researchers from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and the University of Alaska Fairbanks heads into the Alaskan wilderness to place a series of seismometers along the Denali Fault.

On a cold February morning, just off the only highway adjacent to Alaska’s Denali National Park, Kevin Ward, Ph.D., and a group of students dig into the snow with shovels and ice axes. Once they reach the ground, the team places a small instrument into the frozen tundra. The sensor is about the size of a coffee can – but with a spike poking out of the bottom. After the sensor is set and covered with snow, the team drives about a half-mile and repeats the process. These researchers will place 400 of these devices over the next several days.

The array of seismometers they’re deploying along about 190 miles of the Denali Fault will detect tiny movements in the earth’s crust. By analyzing the seismic waves captured by these devices, the scientists can map the underground structure of this area. The data this team recovers will give a more detailed view than ever before of what’s happening along this section of the Denali Fault.

“People have done this in the past with earlier generation seismometers. But these new instruments give much higher resolution of what’s going on underground,” says Ward, an assistant professor of geology and geological engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

The kind of detailed analysis can be very useful for those who want to understand earthquakes. The Denali Fault is among the most active in the United States. In 2002, this fault...

Last Edited 9/9/2019 03:34:59 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Seismometer Upgrade Allows Geologists to Detect Earthquakes Around the World

Kevin Ward, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology and geological engineering at Mines points to a small seismograph that replaces all the older instruments inside the seismograph station on campus

On the afternoon of Jan. 5, 2019, the remote jungle of Acre, Brazil began to shake. The trees swayed, the ground moved up and down and animals scurried for cover. At 2:25 p.m. local time, the Seismological Observatory of the University of Brasilia registered a magnitude 6.8 (Mww) quake with an epicenter 55 miles west of Tarauaca, Brazil, and 204 miles east of Pucallpa, Peru with depth of 575 kilometers.

Minutes later, a tiny device, inside a concrete bunker at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology registered the same earthquake–and an email alert is sent to the phone of Kevin Ward, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology and geological engineering at Mines. “I can see earthquakes around the world,” says Ward.

The Mines seismographic bunker was built into the side of a hill behind campus in 1960. It includes a pillar of concrete that extends 25 feet into the ground the connects the bunker with the earth. For decades the seismometers in this bunker were part of the USGS Global Seismographic Network. But, as the university and the town of Rapid City grew–the level of local noise and vibrations interfered with the older mechanical seismometers. These instruments are so sensitive to vibration they can pick up trains, cars, and even footsteps near...

Last Edited 3/11/2019 05:42:49 PM [Comments (0)]

Dinosaurs: A Catalyst for Critical Thought

Darrin Pagnac, Ph.D., holds a model of a Triceratops skull.

Since the mid-1800s dinosaurs have been a source of fascination and inspiration — from children’s coloring books to Hollywood blockbusters, these extinct animals hold a unique place in the American psyche. The immense popularity of dinosaurs also makes them an excellent conduit for teaching the critical thinking skills needed in basic science and engineering literacy.

Darrin Pagnac, Ph.D., is a South Dakota School of Mines & Technology associate professor of geology specializing in paleontology. His latest work, “Dinosaurs: A Catalyst for Critical Thought,” published by Cambridge University Press, shows that passion for dinosaurs, when properly directed, can trigger interest in science and be used to develop critical thinking skills.

Each spring Pagnac teaches a course called “Dinosaurs,” which attracts a wide range of students from various fields of study. “We have a number of students who get fired up emotionally about dinosaurs,” he says. In this class, Pagnac helps students confront preconceived notions that he calls “Jurassic Park Syndrome.” This is where student’s views of paleontology and sciences are shaped...

Last Edited 1/26/2019 05:43:00 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Researchers Explore Hydraulic Fracturing to Expand Geothermal Energy

Liangping Li, Ph.D., (left) and Bill Roggenthen, Ph.D., (right) shown here in the EGS Collab at the 4850 level of the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

The use of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking as it’s commonly called in the press) has been a topic of contention in the oil and gas industry. However, researchers believe fracking can also be used at depth in hard rocks that contain no oil or gas to improve geothermal energy production. The process could enhance the use of the earth’s own heat as a source of clean energy.

Liangping Li, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, has received an award from National Science Foundation (NSF) for his research entitled “Inverse Methods of Hydraulic Fracturing for Enhanced Geothermal Systems in a Deep Mine.” Li is working alongside projects already underway at the Sanford Research Facility (SURF) including kISMET (permeability (k) and Induced Seismicity Management for Energy Technologies) and the Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) project. Hydraulic fracturing research at SURF uses no chemicals, so unlike some fossil fuel fracking operations, the fracking fluid used in these ...

Last Edited 11/5/2018 04:28:37 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Paleontologist Lands Fulbright Scholarship to Study Invasive Species Impact

SD Mines alumnus Broc Kokesh has received a Fulbright Scholarship to study invasive species impact in Jamaica.

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology alumnus Broc Kokesh has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Kokesh graduated with a master’s degree in paleontology in May. This Fulbright award takes him to Jamaica.  

Kokesh is studying how an ecosystem responds following the introduction of an invasive species. His work compares diversity between living mollusk (clams, snails, etc.) communities and co-occurring dead shells from the Kingston Harbor. His research examines the ecological effects of invasive green mussels, which were introduced in 1998 via ballast water from shipping traffic. However, since about 2010, green mussels appear to have receded in abundance for reasons unknown. Questions remain as to how the invasion affected native fauna, and Kokesh brings a paleontological perspective by focusing on dead shell diversity. Human-introduced invasive species are a global problem and this research may lend insight to invasive species management and impact in other parts of the world. 

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropri...

Last Edited 8/3/2018 09:15:52 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Energy Resources Initiative Builds Momentum as US Production Peaks

Nine SD Mines students join Energy Resources Initiative director Dan Soeder on a hydraulic fracturing operation during a visit to the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota. The trip was funded by Halliburton.

One of the primary goals of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology’s Energy Resources Initiative (ERI) is to conduct research that improves the efficiency and reduces the environmental risks of producing fossil fuels while providing energy security for America.

While the country’s oil and gas industry has been in a down cycle, recent data shows US production is reaching a peak not seen since the 1970s due to increased development of shale oil and gas.  Dan Soeder, the new ERI director, is an industry expert on development of shale resources and reserves. Soeder is less than a year into his new position at SD Mines. He has spent this time quietly putting down roots to firmly establish the program. Soeder has been developing research projects, building relationships with industry and pursuing funding. The aim is for SD Mines to grow as a valuable industry resource, both in supplying future engineers for this sector and in providing solutions for efficient and safe oil and gas production.

Soeder left the U.S. Department of Energy last spring to become Mines’ first ERI director, bringing with him 30 years of experience as a hydrologist and a geologist, with a particular focus on shale gas, water resources, and sequestration of carbon dioxid...

Last Edited 6/28/2018 07:06:39 PM [Comments (0)]

Industry Software Gift Aids in Energy Research, Student Career Preparation

From left to right, Ron Jeitz, SD Mines Foundation officer; Eric Sullivan, Baker Hughes Inc. senior technical advisor, research & development; Heather Wilson, president, SD Mines; Scott Schmidt, Mines alumnus and Baker Hughes vice president, Drill Bits; Dr. Laurie Anderson, head of SD Mines Department of Geology & Geological Engineering; Rustom Mody, Baker Hughes vice president, Technical Excellence.

 New reservoir performance software donated to train students for petroleum industry careers will also support independent research projects of geology and geological engineering faculty and students.

The gift valued at $1.8 million from international oilfield services giant Baker Hughes Incorporated includes:

  • JewelSuite™ software for geologic modeling, reservoir engineering, 3D and 4D geomechanics, and wellbore stability
  • MFrac™ and MShale™ software packages for fracture modeling and design
  • Completion ArchiTEX™ (CTX) software for completions design.

The software will be used in geology and geological engineering classes, including drilling and production engineering, petroleum geology, the petroleum field camp and a new geomechanics course to help develop Mines students as future industry leaders. In recent years, 20 percent of Mines graduates have gone on to careers in the energy industry, and Baker Hughes has been the fifth-highest employer of Mines graduates for the past five years.

South Dakota School of Mines announced its Energy Resources Initiative three years ago to leverage the university’s expertise and research in rock properties, water resources and materials development, as well as its location in an energy-rich region of the country, within 300 miles of the Williston, Denver and Powder River basins. 

Last Edited 11/3/2016 09:21:20 PM [Comments (0)]