News

UT Engineering Professor Gary Pope Elected to National Academy of Engineering

     Dr. Gary A. Pope, a petroleum engineering professor at The University of Texas at Austin and director of UT's Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the engineering profession's highest honor. He joins 38 other University professors who have received the honor, placing UT's engineering college second among public universities in faculty membership numbers.

     Academy membership honors those who have made “important contributions to engineering theory and practice, including significant contributions to the literature of engineering theory and practice” and those who have demonstrated “unusual accomplishment in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology.”

     Dr. Pope received the award for his contributions to understanding multiphase flow and transport in porous media and for applications of these principles to improved oil recovery and aquifer remediation.

     One of Dr. Pope's biggest research breakthroughs occurred in 1996 when he and other researchers at UT developed a soil flushing process using detergent for removing toxic chlorinated solvents from contaminated groundwater. These solvents were used by the U.S. Air Force and many others as a degreaser and later found to contaminate the groundwater. This breakthrough was based upon many years of research on how to tailor effective detergents for improved oil recovery and on the development of a computer program called UTCHEM used to model both oil recovery and cleanup processes. More than 100 UT students have contributed to this and related research while working with Dr. Pope to complete their M.S. or Ph.D. degrees.

     Intera (now DE&S) and Radian, two Austin environmental engineering companies, used the UT detergent process at Hill Air Force Base in Utah to show that 99 percent of the contaminant could be removed in only two weeks. Prior to this demonstration, the best previous cleanup of chlorinated solvents and other similar toxic chemicals found in numerous Superfund sites across the country was only 85 percent; at the time it was widely considered infeasible to do much better than this. However, as Dr. Pope notes, “If even 10 percent of the solvent remains after remediation, it will continue to dissolve in water for a very long time and pollute large amounts of groundwater. So 85 percent removal is not good enough.”

     Dr. Pope has been on the UT faculty since 1977, serving as director of the Center for Enhanced Oil and Gas Recovery Research (1982-85) and as chairman of the Petroleum Engineering Department (1985-89). He currently holds the Texaco Centennial Chair in Petroleum Engineering.