Skip to main content

This Years Julian Smith Lecture

in this section

2016 Julian C. Smith Lecturer: David Allen; University of Texas at Austin

Monday, April 18 and Tuesday, April 19
4:00 pm
155 Olin Hall

David T. Allen 
Melvin H. Gertz Regents Chair in Chemical Engineering
University of Texas at Austin

Emissions from oil and gas operations in the United States

The energy supply infrastructure in the United States has been changing dramatically over the past decade. Increased production of oil and natural gas, particularly from shale resources using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, made the United States the world's largest producer of oil in 2014. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has projected that increased domestic production of oil and gas will persist for decades and that the United States may become a net energy exporter over the next two decades. While the availability of abundant, lower cost, and domestically sourced oil and natural gas has had significant economic benefits, the environmental impacts associated with "fracking" for oil and gas have made it controversial.

The production and utilization of oil and gas from shale resources has multiple environmental impacts, including impacts on land, water, and air. This presentation will examine air quality impacts, specifically, changes in greenhouse gas, criteria air pollutant and air toxic emissions from oil and gas production activities that are a result of changes in energy supplies and use. National emission inventories indicate that VOC and NOx emissions from oil and gas supply chains in the United States have been increasing significantly, while emission inventories for greenhouse gases have seen slight declines over the past decade. These emission inventories are based on counts of equipment and operational activities (activity factors), multiplied by average emission factors, and therefore are subject to uncertainties in these factors. While uncertainties associated with activity data and missing emission source types can be significant, multiple recent measurement studies indicate that the greatest uncertainties are associated with emission factors. In many source categories, small groups of devices or sites, referred to as super-emitters, contribute a large fraction of emissions. Work done to date suggests that both equipment malfunction and operational practices can be important in causing super-emitters. Finally, while most of this presentation will focus on emissions from energy supply infrastructures,, the regional air quality implications of some couple energy production and use scenarios will be examined. These case studies suggest that both energy production and use should be considered in assessing air quality implications of changes in energy infrastructures, and that impacts are likely to vary among regions.

High School Engineering Courses: Content, Structure and Implications 

High school engineering education is growing and evolving rapidly in the United States. In 2009, 3.3 percent of American high school students had completed an engineering course upon graduation, up from just 1.5 percent of students four years earlier. At current enrollment rates, American high schools graduate approximately 110,000 students per year with engineering credits. In contrast, in 2013 American colleges and schools of engineering conferred a total of 93,360 baccalaureate degrees across all engineering disciplines. Given the inclusion of engineering in national and state learning standards, engineering education in American high schools is only expected to increase. Today, for the first time in history, most young men and women are first learning about the processes, practices, and professions of engineering not in universities, but in high schools. In parallel, Colleges of Engineering in the United States are increasingly introducing freshman engineering experiences into their curricula. This seminar will describe the current heterogeneous landscape of high school engineering programs, with a detailed description of the content of Engineer Your World, a year-long curriculum developed at the University of Texas at Austin and currently completed by thousands of high school students annually. Methods for preparing high school teachers to deliver engineering curricula, methods for integrating high school engineering with University curricula, and other future developments will be described.