Spring 2013 Clean Energy
by John R. Hellmann
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
Associate Dean, Graduate Education and Research, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Development of Proppants for Hydrofracturing in Oil and Natural Gas Bearing Shales
Stimulation of gas and oil wells is achieved via hydrofracturing the geological strata, and then propping the fractures open with ceramic aggregates to maintain high permeability paths for resource recovery.  Such aggregates, known as proppants, are derived from sintered aluminosilicates such as bauxite.  Worldwide demand is experiencing dramatic growth as new natural gas plays in the U.S. are developed, resulting in a significant shortage of raw materials available for manufacturing high performance proppants.

Development of proppants from alternative raw materials derived from industrial/domestic waste streams, and which rival the performance of commercial state of the art proppants will be presented.  Research on the use of dopants, ion exchange processing, and controlled devitrification to tailor the mechanical and physical properties of these proppants will be discussed.  Extension of these studies to well drilling cuttings containing Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMS) will be presented. 

John R. Hellmann is Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Research in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State. He earned his bachelor and doctorate degrees in Ceramic Science at Penn State, followed by a five year stint as a member of technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories Albuquerque prior to returning to the Penn State faculty in 1986.

His research interests concern the mechanical reliability and thermochemical durability of ceramics, metals, and intermetallic materials in severe thermal environments.  He has research programs in development and characterization of materials for gas turbines, advanced propulsion systems, and enhanced oil and natural gas recovery technology, as well as in the design and fabrication of laminated ceramic composites for use as armor and cutting tools.  His work has been supported by the Department of Energy, NASA, Office of Naval Research, National Science Foundation, and industry.

A Fellow of the American Ceramic Society, he has served on the Society’s Board of Directors, as President of the Ceramic Educational Council, President of the National Institute of Ceramic Engineers, President of the Keramos National Professional Ceramic Engineering Fraternity, Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society, and was honored as the Outstanding Educator by Ceramic Educational Council in 2008.