The accelerating growth of the world’s population, combined with an involving standard of living throughout the world, greatly increses demands for mineral products of all types. The U.S. economy alone requires vast amounts of metals. Despite recycling, a significant proportion of the demand for metals has to be met through mining. Easily mined ore deposits are quickly declining, requiring discovery and exploitation of new resources in the deep subsurface or in remote locations. Potential future scarcity of metals is not only limited to rare high-tech metals such as the much discussed rare earth metals, but also by more common metals such as iron, aluminum, and the base metals. The criticality of resources represents one of the largest challenges for our society.
Economic geology is a subdiscipline of the geosciences that focuses on the scientific study of the Earth’s sources of mineral raw materials and the practical application of the acquired knowledge. At Mines, ore deposit research focuses on the study of the processes resulting in the formation of mineral deposits and the creation of new knowledge required to discover, delineate, characterize, and recover metals required by our society. The research is conducted at the Center for Mineral Resources Science and the Center for Advanced Subsurface Earth Resources Modeling.
Engineering Geology and Geotechnics
The engineering geology and geotechnics specialty in the Geological Engineering program encompasses the application of geological principles to solve engineering problems. Typical work assignments might include mapping and analysis of a landslide, design of a stabilization scheme for a steep rock cliff, evaluation of gravel or crushed rock resources, siting of various components of a housing development, investigation for a foundation of a tall building or dam, assessment of the activity level of a fault trace, and use of GIS to plan communities. In industry, the engineering geologist serves as an important link between the structure designer, the builder, and the earth on which they build. Academic training in engineering geology and geotechnics encompasses geology, natural hazards, construction and site investigation, GIS, remote sensing methods, numerical techniques and engineering calculations.
Graduates of our program are employed by engineering consulting firms, state and national geological surveys, state highway departments, cement producers, quarry operators, academic teaching and research positions. Our department has one of the most widely recognized Geological Engineering programs in the world, with excellent placement records of graduates and strong external funding of research projects.
The Hydrologic Science and Engineering Program at Colorado School of Mines is an interdisciplinary graduate program designed to provide students with a solid background in quantitative hydrology and allow them to explore specialties within related fields, with particular emphasis on areas of expertise of the participating faculty. We offer programs of study in fundamental hydrologic science and applied hydrology with engineering applications.
The education of students to enter careers in the petroleum industry has been a traditional strength of the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering. The department has produced many geologists who have made important contibutions to the industry, nationally and internationally, in technical and managerial position. As the petroleum industry had changed, so have their requirements by industry for qualified graduates. The Petroleum Geoscience Group recognizes these changes and modifies its curriculum accordingly. Today, students are provided with training in geology, geophysics, petroleum engineering, petrophysics and geochemistry, built on a solid foundation in the basic sciences, computer science, and mathematics. To cope with the increasing demands of a global economy, students are encouraged to become knowlegeable in economics, political science, risk analysis, and foreign languages.
Records of student placement over the past several years indicate our graduates became employed by national and international oil and gas companies, private consulting enterprised, and government service. The annual return of many company recruiters to the department, as well as our historical record in placing graduates, speaks well for our success in educating students for employment in the petroleum industry.
Underground Construction and Tunneling
The underground community at Mines is comprised of a collaborative, interdisciplinary group of faculty and students from civil engineering, geology and geological engineering, mining engineering and mechanical engineering, as well as geophysics and computer science, with a collective interest in education and research in underground engineering.
Advanced Subsurface Earth Resource Models
The I/UCRC for Advanced Subsurface Earth Resource Models seeks to transform the way geoscience data is used to locate subsurface earth resources. The purpose of the center is directed toward research challenges in the development of 3-D subsurface geological models for mineral deposits, particularly as these models integrate diverse geoscience data to inform decision making and minimize geological risk, beginning with locating and mining subsurface earth resources and continuing through mine closure and environmental remediation.
The research center brings the innovative research capabilities of two leading universities to develop high-impact solutions helping exploration and mining companies to minimize drilling and to increase the chances of exploration success
Center for Mineral Resources Science
The Center for Mineral Resources Science (CMRS) is a collaborative venture between the Colorado School of Mines and the U.S. Geological Survey. The center brings together a world-class team of scientists conducting ore deposit research through the integration of field studies, state-of-the-art laboratory investigations, and thermodynamic and laboratory modeling. With approximately 50 graduate students, the research group is a global leader in mineral resources research.
Center for Mining Sustainability
The Center for Mining Sustainability is a research partnership between Mines and the Universidad Nacional de San Agustín (UNSA) in Arequipa, Peru. We were formed in 2019 to tackle one of the most important societal and environmental issues facing southern Peru – how to manage mining of natural resources in a manner that is sustainable, supports the local economies, and minimizes environmental impacts. The vision for the Center is to provide research-driven solutions to Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining issues to benefit the Arequipa region and that will be applied at all scales of mining worldwide. Research projects are aimed at protecting water resources, improving mine safety, reducing risk from geologic hazards, and improving mining processes. The Center involves over 10% of Mines faculty, as well as research professors, post-doctoral associates, and graduate students, in addition to 25 faculty at UNSA.
Chevron Center of Research Excellence
The Chevron Center of Research Excellence (CoRE) is an innovative industry-academic partnership between Colorado School of Mines and Chevron that promotes world-class research and education; the center collaborates closely with Chevron Energy Technology Company (ETC) researchers. CoRE focuses on scientific and technical challenges faced by the energy industry, specializing in deepwater, fluvial, and shallow marine stratigraphy using a quantitative outcrop characterization research approach. The majority of CoRE’s research involves fieldwork.
Each year, CoRE supports 4-6 graduate students pursing M.S. or Ph.D. degrees which entail research in one of the center’s focus areas.
Councils, Consortia and Agencies
Mudrocks and Tight Oil Characterization Consortium
The Mudrocks and Tight Oil Characterization Consortium seeks to define the petroleum systems and the genetically related petroleum accumulations surrounding mudrock, tight oil and halo oil fields.
Petroleum Technology Transfer Council
The Petroleum Technology Transfer Council is a forum for the transfer of technology and best practices within the oil and gas community.
Potential Gas Committee
The Potential Gas Committee is the only existing group that assesses the future supply of natural gas in the U.S. The committee’s first assessment was published in 1964, and it publishes a new assessment every two years. More than 800 experienced volunteer geoscientists and engineers contributed to PGC assessments. The most recent assessment was produced by ~80 current PGC members. These assessments inform decision-making and help build compelling cases for investment in natural gas.
The committee assesses technically recoverable gas resources in conventional and unconventional (tight, shale, coalbed) reservoirs.
Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America
With the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research and Development Program was established. Under contract with the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) was selected to manage this 10-year, $375 million program designed to enable the development of new technologies necessary to produce more secure, abundant and affordable domestic energy supplies. The Program was established to help meet the nation’s growing need for hydrocarbon resources produced from reservoirs in America.
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, RPSEA manages three program areas under this contract, Ultra-Deepwater, Unconventional Resources and Small Producer. Each program’s funding is set annually to invest in oil and gas research and development projects. The Ultra-Deepwater Program is $17.5 million, the Unconventional Resources Program is $16.25 million, and the Small Producer Program is $3.75 million. The funding of projects flows through requests for proposals issued, proposals submitted and projects selected as awards.
Through these awards, RPSEA succeeds in identifying, funding and facilitating the development of the most appropriate and necessary research to maximize the value of our nation’s domestic resources. This is through increasing supply, reducing cost, increasing efficiency of production and exploration, improving safety and minimizing environmental impacts.
This industry-led cooperative research and development network of natural gas and oil experts working together in an open, innovative framework provides an effective model for advancing our nation’s capability to find and produce the energy we need. Bridging the gap between industry needs and researchers’ solutions ensures a ready market for new technology that result in better solutions for industry-wide use. RPSEA is formed by a consortium of premier U.S. energy research universities, industry, independent research organizations and state and federal agencies.
Sedimentary Analogs Database Research Program
The Sedimentary Analogs Database and Research Consortium (SAnD) carries out geologic studies of the processes, tectonics, and quantitative morphology of basins around the world. SAnD research emphasizes the use of mega-merged 3D seismic data sets for quantitative seismic geomorphologic study of the basin fill, evaluation of source-to-sink relationships between the shelf, slope and deep basin and analyses of the influence of tectonics and fluids (such as gas hydrates) on the evolution of these complex continental margin settings. The program is funded by a consortium of hydrocarbon companies and supported by numerous software vendors and foreign energy ministries. The SAnD is widely considered the world’s premier research group in the application of seismic geomorphology to reservoir characterizations.