Robert "Bob" Smith
Distinguished Professor of Subsurface Science
Department of Geological Sciences
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive, MS 3022
Moscow, ID 83844-3022
- Ph.D., Geosciences, 1984 – New Mexico Tech
- M.S., Geochemistry, 1979 – New Mexico Tech
- B.S., Geology, 1975 – Oregon State University
- Aqueous biogeochemistry
- Groundwater contamination remediation
- Nuclear waste disposal and management
- Geological Carbon Sequestration
- Geothermal Energy
- Rare Earth Elements as Tracers for Leakage in Carbon Capture and Storages Systems
Large scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a promising approach for mitigating anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. However, successful deployment of this technology requires robust monitoring, verification, and validation (MVV) strategies and techniques to assess the effectiveness of storage.Because the concentrations of rare earth elements in groundwater are up to 6 order of magnitude lower than in rocks, changes in aqueous concentrations can serve as extremely sensitive indicators of water rock reaction resulting from the injection (and potential leakage) of geologically disposed carbon dioxide.In collaboration with investigators at the Idaho National Laboratory, we are developing a detailed hydrochemical model of natural carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide seeps in the Soda Springs, Idaho region and assessing the applicability of REEs as indicators and tracers of carbon dioxide leakage.Results form this research highlight the importance of a well constrained hydrochemical model for the interpretation of tracer data in CCS MVV.
- Microbial Induced Calcite Precipitation
Calcite can serve as a geotechnical cement providing for soil improvement in poorly consolidate sediments.In addition, calcite can also serve as a sink for divalent metals and radionuclide contaminants.With collaborators from Washington State University, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, the University of Toronto, and the Idaho National Laboratory we are explore approaches to stimulate in situ microbial communities to promote the precipitation of calcite.This is being accomplished at the field scale by the injection and hydrological control of dissolved carbon sources and urea to facilitating microbial growth, increased alkalinity and release of sorbed (via cation exchange) calcium and trace metals as a result of urea hydrolysis and the subsequent precipitation of calcite.The results of this research highlight the importance of coupled hydrologic and biogeochemical processes in the design of in situ soil improvement or remediation strategies.
- Multicomponent Equilibrium Geothermometry
Geothermal energy represent an underutilized reliable renewable resources suitable for meeting base-load power demands.Greater utilization of these resources are hampered by technical and financial risks associated with prospecting and development of geothermal fields.Geothermometry is an important prospecting tool for estimating reservoir temperatures from the geochemical compositions of shallower and cooler waters.Many geothermometers used in practice are based on correlations between water temperatures and composition and a subset of the dissolved constituents. An alternative approach – Multicomponent Equilibrium Geothermometry – uses complete water compositions and inverse geochemical modeling to estimate in situ equilibrium temperatures of potential geothermal reservoirs. In collaboration with investigators at the Idaho National Laboratory, we are developing inverse multicomponent equilibrium based geothermometers and applying them to potential geothermal reservoirs in southern Idaho and elsewhere. The results of this research can facilitate increased utilization of geothermal energy by providing improved exploration and early development reservoir temperature estimates.
2015 Partnership for Science and Technology’s Energy Advocate Award
1999 Lockheed Martin Corporation’s NOVA Award for technical excellence for pioneering scientific research, which has advanced the understanding of contaminant movement in subsurface environments and the field of biogeochemistry. Read into the Congressional Record by Senator Mike Crapo, June 28, 1999 (vol. 145, no. 93, p. S7752)
1985 New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology’s Founders Award for significant contribution to the Institute through exemplary scholarship and research