Emmanuel Detournay named to the National Academy of Engineering

Professor Emmanuel Detournay has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions awarded to an engineer. Only 80 new members nationwide and 22 foreign associates received the honor this year (as a citizen of Belgium, Detournay was elected as a foreign member of the NAE).

Detournay received the honor for major advances in hydraulic fracturing and drilling dynamics. Detournay has been a faculty member at the University of Minnesota since 1993. He holds the Theodore W. Bennett Chair in Mining Engineering and Rock Mechanics.

A major impact of Detournay’s work is found in the analysis of poroelastic effects in various geomechanical problems, such as borehole stability, reservoir mechanics, and material characterization. His research in coupled thermo-chemo-hydro-mechanical processes led to the development of a new technique for measuring thermo-hydraulic rock properties in their original location.

Detournay also spearheaded a research program to develop the Portable Rock Strength Device, with U.S. patent 5,670,711, and a methodology to infer the strength of porous rock from this “scratch” test. This technique is now recognized as a standard in the petroleum industry, providing reliable logs of strength at the centimeter-length scale. To date, tens of kilometers of core from oil and gas reservoirs have been tested with this methodology.

Detournay directs a comprehensive research program aimed at developing rigorous reference solutions and robust numerical methods for hydraulic fracturing. Another current research focus is drilling mechanics (bit-rock interaction, self-excited drilling vibrations, directional drilling). For example, directional drilling is the key enabling technology to realize curved boreholes. Such complex boreholes are needed for a variety of reasons such as drilling multiple wells from a single rig location, thereby minimizing environmental impact.

Detournay was honored when he heard of his election. “I am truly overwhelmed by this wonderful news, which is first and foremost a recognition of the exceptional contributions of my graduate students and post-docs at the University of Minnesota. I am also fortunate to be part of a vibrant geomechanics group with a 50-year tradition of excellence, and to be surrounded by outstanding colleagues in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering and in the College of Science and Engineering with whom I have been able to interact. Numerous graduate student fellowships from the Department and the University, for which I am grateful, made it also possible to explore topics that eventually led to key advances in research.”

Joe Labuz, department head,spoke with pride about Detournay's accomplishments. “Emmanuel’s trademark is his ability to develop creative answers to practical engineering problems using rigorous mathematical tools and well-conceived physical concepts, and perhaps even more important, is his ability to instill in his students this first-principled approach to solving applied problems. Because of their outstanding contributions, Emmanuel and his students are recognized as the Minnesota Group.”

Detournay has published about 200 papers and has been invited to present numerous lectures around the world. He has received several awards, including the Biot Medal, American Society of Civil Engineers; Corresponding Member, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences; Basic Research Award, U.S. National Committee for Rock Mechanics, National Academy of Sciences; Technical Achievement Award, Dowell-Schlumberger; Fellow, American Rock Mechanics Association.

Detournay joins Steven Crouch (Professor and Dean), Peter Cundall (Adjunct Professor), Charles Fairhurst (Professor Emeritus), and Ted Galambos (Professor Emeritus) as NAE members from the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering.

A list of the newly elected members and foreign associates, is available on the National Academy of Engineering website.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) was founded in 1964. NAE is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. The mission of the National Academy of Engineering is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.