It’s hard to ignore a MOOSE.
Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory have one that’s getting attention from scientists in a variety of disciplines, including those at major oil companies and universities.
MOOSE – Multiphysics Object Oriented Simulation Environment – is a software platform designed to make predictive modeling and simulation faster and easier, according to Rob Podgorney of IDL’s Energy Resource Recovery and Sustainability Department and director of Snake River Geothermal Consortium.
The product was one of the 2014 winners of the R&D 100 Awards, recognizing exceptional and innovative new products and processes. It has been licensed to at least seven companies, 11 labs and 29 universities.
While MOOSE has been around in various stages for several years, Podgorney and his colleagues have been involved with it about four years.
“It was born in the nuclear physics department,” Podgorney said.
“They were looking at pebble bed reactors – essentially a porous medium – (and) they were wondering about preferential flow and sought our (geologists’) expertise,” Podgorney said. “It was a perfect collaboration.”
Podgorney and his colleagues developed FALCON, an enhanced geothermal systems application for use within the MOOSE framework.
“The number of applications continues to grow,” including several in nuclear energy, carbon dioxide sequestration and superconductivity, said Keith Arterburn of IDL media relations.
“We have several collaborators still helping develop the code,” Podgorney said. “It’s a free R&D code, but they share their improvements to it.”
While the biggest MOOSE-FALCON footprint may be in geothermal work, “We’ve done a good bit of work in unconventional fossil,” Podgorney added.
“The focus really is on stimulation prediction and understanding shale resources ... shale gas and oil shale,” he said.
FALCON was funded with Department of Energy grants to research hydraulic fracturing in hard rock reservoirs.
“It’s a framework to do modeling for tightly coupled processes: fluid flow, chemical reactions and geomechanics and how they relate. How does a change in one affect the other three or four?
“It’s an easy numerical framework to solve these equations simultaneously instead of linking with other input files,” he continued. “There’s no loss of information in the transfer. You get all the physics interacting as in the real world.”
Government research support means IDL also has resources for rigorous model evaluation, he said.
“For example, we have a two-meter rock centrifuge,” he said. “You can put some pretty big blocks of rock in that ... look at fluid trapping, residuals for different compositions of fluids to validate the model.”
The Learning Curve
Podgorney said his group works with several major oil companies.
“We don’t advertise – they come to us and see our capabilities. We tackle that ‘challenge’ problem, behavior they can’t reproduce in their models,” he said.
“We can use a systems approach to look at groundwater resources like a disposal well. We can do simulations there as well as deep reservoir and run the models at the same time. We can look at it on a basin-wide scale to optimize water usage – look at the whole system, not just product recovery but all the ancillaries,” he added.
General market penetration will probably be gradual, he said. Most interest in MOOSE to date involves “the DOE complex, geothermal and from abroad,” Podgorney said.
Much of the geothermal research and application is in Australia and New Zealand, with a signature project in the United States being the Raft River project in Utah.
He said MOOSE is a programming framework, which means a learning curve.
“It’s not for dummies, you have to understand the physics. The code is pretty intuitive if you understand the equations,” he said.
“Learning new code takes effort.
“There’s a lot of interest from younger folks seeing the power of these methods,” he said. “They’re not married to one code ... they’re still learning, anyway.”