The Electric Power Initiative, directed by Greg Reed, PhD and related programs of the Center for Energy in the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) have been developed over the past several years in collaboration with industry, government, and other constituents to provide innovative education and collaborative research programs in the areas of electric power and energy engineering. Working together with industry partners, along with strong government sponsorship and other constituency support, Pitt is contributing to solutions that address the aging workforce issue in the electric power and energy sector through modernized educational programs, as well as to advances in technology development, basic and applied research, and outreach.
Specifically in the area of electric power engineering education, concentrations have been developed at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The curriculum consists of a strong set of courses addressing the core principals in electric power, while being augmented with new offerings in emerging technology areas. Through strong industry collaborations that contribute to course development, the program is not only educating the next generation of power engineers, but developing the future leaders of the electric power industry. The undergraduate concentration consists of a series of four elective courses within the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department - two required courses on power system analysis and controls, and two electives that can be selected among six other offerings. The graduate program curriculum is extremely robust, and covers a wide range of electric power engineering subject matter including new courses in smart grids, power electronics, renewable and alternative energy systems, and other relevant areas associated with modernized power grid and energy system development.
The initiative establishes a model program for the resurgence and sustainability of university based electric power engineering programs in the U.S.A In addition to the strong educational programs in electric power, the graduate research program has advanced significantly over the past two years, and includes research and development efforts in emerging areas such as AC and DC micro-grids, advanced power electronics and control technologies (FACTS and HVDC systems), renewable energy systems and integration, smart grid technologies and applications, energy storage, and energy efficiency.
Current industry partners providing various means of support to the initiative include the following regional, national, and international organizations: Eaton Corp., ABB Inc., Siemens Energy Inc., Mitsubishi Electric, FirstEnergy, Pitt-Ohio Express, BPL Global Ltd., ANSYS Inc., and Westinghouse Electric. Many other industry organizations are engaged with the program, as well - including local and regional utilities such as Duquesne Light, FirstEnergy, Dominion Virginia Power, PPL, and AEP - through activities such as recruiting power engineering students and participation in other power and energy initiative related events on campus, including the annual Pitt Electric Power Industry Conference. In addition to strong industry involvement and collaborations in the research programs, support is provided from several different offices of the U.S. Department of Energy (OEDER, EERE, and NETL), ARPA-e (Solar ADEPT), the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Commerce, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, and others. Key foundation constituents include the Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
Through the partnership with Eaton, A new state-of-the-art Electric Power Systems Laboratory has been constructed and was dedicated in January 2014, to further enhance both education and research programs in electric power engineering.
The Pitt Electric Power Initiative has been featured prominently in local and national media, and has become a leader in our nation's efforts towards re-engineering the electric power grid of the future. One highlight related to the program's national impact, includes a significant leadership role in the newly established Energy Ambassador Program of the National Academies of Science and Engineering.
Improving Effectiveness and Sustainability of Hydraulic Fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing has been the most important method for stimulating production of oil and gas for more than 60 years. With its critical role in the growth of shale gas/oil, hydraulic fracturing has now come to the forefront of conversations about energy and the environment as well as intensified research efforts aimed at ensuring it is done in a manner that is both effective for its purpose and sustainable for communities and the environment.
The effectiveness and sustainability of hydraulic fracturing operations go hand in hand. When the methods of hydraulic fracturing are optimal, the surface impacts and environmental risks are minimized. Similarly, poor practice that fails to minimize environmental and community impacts jeopardizes the benefits that can be achieved from responsible production of gas and oil emerging sources such as shale reservoirs.
Dr. Bunger's research aims at achieving optimality of hydraulic fracturing processes by predicting and controlling the types of growth patterns that will be generated when high pressure fluid injection is used to break reservoir rocks. Dr. Bunger uses analytical, numerical, and experimental methods to understand fundamental physical processes with an emphasis on contrasting network versus localized growth, growth that is contained to the reservoir versus growth out of zone, and practices that minimize versus exacerbate risk to well integrity and hence to groundwater resources due to the potential for contaminant migration along poorly completed or damaged wells. Dr. Bunger's additional and complimentary research interests include the mechanics of hydraulic fractures, coupled fluid-shale interaction, and the emplacement dynamics of magma-driven dykes and sills.
Experience and Facilities
Dr. Bunger has 15 years of experience in experimental, analytical, and computational investigation of hydraulic fracturing, rock mechanics, and site testing including in situ stress measurement. The University of Pittsburgh Hydraulic Fracturing Laboratory supports research into hydraulic fracture propagation. It includes: 1) a true-triaxial cell, including hydraulic pump and pressure control, capable of applying up to 20 MPa of stress independently in each of 3 direction to specimens measuring up to 300 mm on a side, 2) multi-axis video monitoring that is enabled by viewing ports in the loading platens of the triaxial cell, backlight sources built into the loading platens, and digital video cameras 3) a syringe pump used for injecting fluid for hydraulic fracturing, 4) combined acoustic emission detection and ultrasound tomography system.
The department has thermograyimetric analysis and differential thermal analysis capabilities. DTA 7, differential thermal analyzer and a Theta high speed dilatometer are housed in the MEMS department. This lab is under the direction of C. Isaac Garcia, PhD.
The Thermal Science and Imaging Laboratory directed by Minking Chyu, PhD, is equipped with advanced flow and heat transfer measurement facilities directed toward obtaining fundamental understanding and design strategies for advanced thermal control systems. Major equipment includes a subsonic wind tunnel, a particle imaging velocimetry, a computer-automated liquid crystal thermographic system, a UV-induced phosphor fluorescent thermometric imaging system, and a sublimation-based heat-mass analogous system. Specific projects currently underway include optimal endwall cooling, shaped-hole film cooling, and innovative turbulator heat transfer enhancement, advanced concepts in trailing edge cooling, and instrumentation developments for unsteady thermal and pressure sensing.