Graduate Student Richard Pattison Wins Texas Energy Research Challenge Award

Richard Pattison with his research poster

Richard Pattison with his research poster

Graduate student Richard Pattison recently won second place in the engineering category of the Texas Energy Research Challenge organized by the UT Energy Forum. His poster, “Accessing Distributed Natural Gas: A Systems Approach,” was selected from more than 80 entries from engineering, science and social-science students from universities across Texas.

Pattison is advised by Professor Michael Baldea and researches novel modeling approaches and optimization algorithms for process design under uncertain operating conditions. He uses process intensification as a means to reduce the size and cost of resulting plants.

“Since starting his doctoral studies a year and a half ago, Richard has made remarkable progress at the theoretical level and has identified some very exciting practical applications,” Baldea said. “His winning poster covers one of these: the development of small-scale processes that can economically process geographically distributed natural resources.”

Several industries have expressed interest in Pattison’s work because it opens new possibilities for processing. For example, accessing natural gas from remote locations- known as stranded gas-or biomass by converting them into higher-value, more energy-dense products that can be transported to consumers at lower cost.

“Energy is critical to nearly every person on Earth and an enormous factor in the world economy,” Pattison said. “With the growth of the middle class globally, energy demands continue to rise. Unfortunately, fossil fuel supplies are deteriorating and the environmental consequences of burning coal, oil, and gas are becoming ever more apparent. Energy research is critical to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels either through efficiency gains or finding alternative fuel sources.”

Baldea’s group works on both theoretical and practical problems in energy and process systems engineering. Pattison’s work showcases how new mathematical tools can be applied to improve access to energy resources.

“My training has enabled me to contribute meaningful ideas to energy research at this critical juncture, and I am excited to see what my colleagues develop in the next few decades to solve this energy crisis,” Pattison said. “I’m thankful I was given the opportunity to compete in the UT Energy Forum- the competition was very strong. I’d also like to thank Professor Baldea for his guidance and help along the way.”

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