Bio


I study energy, water, and climate problems using modeling and field measurement studies. I received a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) from Princeton University, a certificate from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and a M.A.Sc. and a B.A.Sc. in CEE from University of Waterloo. I also spent a semester in Applied Mathematics at the University of Bergen. Between my time at Waterloo and Princeton, I worked as a water resources engineering consultant based out of Reston, VA.

My current research focuses are methane, carbon dioxide, and water migration through geologic faults and abandoned oil and gas wells, greenhouse gas emissions, and groundwater supply and quality issues.

Honors & Awards


  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (2015-2017)
  • Conference Scholarship, Nonlinearities and Upscaling in Porous Media (NUPUS) (2013)
  • Outstanding Student Paper Award, American Geophysical Union (2013)
  • Student Travel Award, Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (2013)
  • Perkin's Fellow, Princeton Environmental Institute, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (2012-2014)
  • Princeton Energy and Climate Scholar, Princeton Environmental Institute (2011-2013)
  • Postgraduate Doctorate Scholarship, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (2010-2013)
  • Postgraduate Scholarship, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (2005-2006)
  • President’s Graduate Scholarship, University of Waterloo (2005-2006)
  • Upper Year Scholarship, University of Waterloo, Faculty of Engineering (2001-2002)

Professional Education


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Princeton University (2014)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications


  • Identification and characterization of high methane-emitting abandoned oil and gas wells PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Kang, M., Christian, S., Celia, M. A., Mauzerall, D. L., Bill, M., Miller, A. R., Chen, Y., Conrad, M. E., Darrah, T. H., Jackson, R. B. 2016; 113 (48): 13636-13641

    Abstract

    Recent measurements of methane emissions from abandoned oil/gas wells show that these wells can be a substantial source of methane to the atmosphere, particularly from a small proportion of high-emitting wells. However, identifying high emitters remains a challenge. We couple 163 well measurements of methane flow rates; ethane, propane, and n-butane concentrations; isotopes of methane; and noble gas concentrations from 88 wells in Pennsylvania with synthesized data from historical documents, field investigations, and state databases. Using our databases, we (i) improve estimates of the number of abandoned wells in Pennsylvania; (ii) characterize key attributes that accompany high emitters, including depth, type, plugging status, and coal area designation; and (iii) estimate attribute-specific and overall methane emissions from abandoned wells. High emitters are best predicted as unplugged gas wells and plugged/vented gas wells in coal areas and appear to be unrelated to the presence of underground natural gas storage areas or unconventional oil/gas production. Repeat measurements over 2 years show that flow rates of high emitters are sustained through time. Our attribute-based methane emission data and our comprehensive estimate of 470,000-750,000 abandoned wells in Pennsylvania result in estimated state-wide emissions of 0.04-0.07 Mt (10(12) g) CH4 per year. This estimate represents 5-8% of annual anthropogenic methane emissions in Pennsylvania. Our methodology combining new field measurements with data mining of previously unavailable well attributes and numbers of wells can be used to improve methane emission estimates and prioritize cost-effective mitigation strategies for Pennsylvania and beyond.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1605913113

    View details for Web of Science ID 000388835700048

    View details for PubMedID 27849603

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5137730

  • Salinity of deep groundwater in California: Water quantity, quality, and protection PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Kang, M., Jackson, R. B. 2016; 113 (28): 7768-7773

    Abstract

    Deep groundwater aquifers are poorly characterized but could yield important sources of water in California and elsewhere. Deep aquifers have been developed for oil and gas extraction, and this activity has created both valuable data and risks to groundwater quality. Assessing groundwater quantity and quality requires baseline data and a monitoring framework for evaluating impacts. We analyze 938 chemical, geological, and depth data points from 360 oil/gas fields across eight counties in California and depth data from 34,392 oil and gas wells. By expanding previous groundwater volume estimates from depths of 305 m to 3,000 m in California's Central Valley, an important agricultural region with growing groundwater demands, fresh [<3,000 ppm total dissolved solids (TDS)] groundwater volume is almost tripled to 2,700 km(3), most of it found shallower than 1,000 m. The 3,000-m depth zone also provides 3,900 km(3) of fresh and saline water, not previously estimated, that can be categorized as underground sources of drinking water (USDWs; <10,000 ppm TDS). Up to 19% and 35% of oil/gas activities have occurred directly in freshwater zones and USDWs, respectively, in the eight counties. Deeper activities, such as wastewater injection, may also pose a potential threat to groundwater, especially USDWs. Our findings indicate that California's Central Valley alone has close to three times the volume of fresh groundwater and four times the volume of USDWs than previous estimates suggest. Therefore, efforts to monitor and protect deeper, saline groundwater resources are needed in California and beyond.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1600400113

    View details for Web of Science ID 000379694100038

    View details for PubMedID 27354527

  • The Depths of Hydraulic Fracturing and Accompanying Water Use Across the United States ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Jackson, R. B., Lowry, E. R., Pickle, A., Kang, M., DiGiulio, D., Zhao, K. 2015; 49 (15): 8969-8976

    Abstract

    Reports highlight the safety of hydraulic fracturing for drinking water if it occurs "many hundreds of meters to kilometers underground". To our knowledge, however, no comprehensive analysis of hydraulic fracturing depths exists. Based on fracturing depths and water use for ∼44 000 wells reported between 2010 and 2013, the average fracturing depth across the United States was 8300 ft (∼2500 m). Many wells (6900; 16%) were fractured less than a mile from the surface, and 2600 wells (6%) were fractured above 3000 ft (900 m), particularly in Texas (850 wells), California (720), Arkansas (310), and Wyoming (300). Average water use per well nationally was 2 400 000 gallons (9 200 000 L), led by Arkansas (5 200 000 gallons), Louisiana (5 100 000 gallons), West Virginia (5 000 000 gallons), and Pennsylvania (4 500 000 gallons). Two thousand wells (∼5%) shallower than one mile and 350 wells (∼1%) shallower than 3000 ft were hydraulically fractured with >1 million gallons of water, particularly in Arkansas, New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania, and California. Because hydraulic fractures can propagate 2000 ft upward, shallow wells may warrant special safeguards, including a mandatory registry of locations, full chemical disclosure, and, where horizontal drilling is used, predrilling water testing to a radius 1000 ft beyond the greatest lateral extent.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.est.5b01228

    View details for Web of Science ID 000359278400006

    View details for PubMedID 26196164

  • Effective permeabilities of abandoned oil and gas wells: analysis of data from pennsylvania. Environmental science & technology Kang, M., Baik, E., Miller, A. R., Bandilla, K. W., Celia, M. A. 2015; 49 (7): 4757-4764

    Abstract

    Abandoned oil and gas (AOG) wells can provide pathways for subsurface fluid migration, which can lead to groundwater contamination and gas emissions to the atmosphere. Little is known about the millions of AOG wells in the U.S. and abroad. Recently, we acquired data on methane emissions from 42 plugged and unplugged AOG wells in five different counties across western Pennsylvania. We used historical documents to estimate well depths and used these depths with the emissions data to estimate the wells' effective permeabilities, which capture the combined effects of all leakage pathways within and around the wellbores. We find effective permeabilities to range from 10(-6) to 10(2) millidarcies, which are within the range of previous estimates. The effective permeability data presented here provide perspective on older AOG wells and are valuable when considering the leakage potential of AOG wells in a wide range of applications, including geologic storage of carbon dioxide, natural gas storage, and oil and gas development.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.est.5b00132

    View details for PubMedID 25768798

  • Direct measurements of methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Kang, M., Kanno, C. M., Reid, M. C., Zhang, X., Mauzerall, D. L., Celia, M. A., Chen, Y., Onstott, T. C. 2014; 111 (51): 18173-18177

    Abstract

    Abandoned oil and gas wells provide a potential pathway for subsurface migration and emissions of methane and other fluids to the atmosphere. Little is known about methane fluxes from the millions of abandoned wells that exist in the United States. Here, we report direct measurements of methane fluxes from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, using static flux chambers. A total of 42 and 52 direct measurements were made at wells and at locations near the wells ("controls") in forested, wetland, grassland, and river areas in July, August, October 2013 and January 2014, respectively. The mean methane flow rates at these well locations were 0.27 kg/d/well, and the mean methane flow rate at the control locations was 4.5 × 10(-6) kg/d/location. Three out of the 19 measured wells were high emitters that had methane flow rates that were three orders of magnitude larger than the median flow rate of 1.3 × 10(-3) kg/d/well. Assuming the mean flow rate found here is representative of all abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, we scaled the methane emissions to be 4-7% of estimated total anthropogenic methane emissions in Pennsylvania. The presence of ethane, propane, and n-butane, along with the methane isotopic composition, indicate that the emitted methane is predominantly of thermogenic origin. These measurements show that methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells can be significant. The research required to quantify these emissions nationally should be undertaken so they can be accurately described and included in greenhouse gas emissions inventories.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1408315111

    View details for Web of Science ID 000346767200037

    View details for PubMedID 25489074

  • Analytical solutions for two- phase subsurface flow to a leaky fault considering vertical flow effects and fault properties WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH Kang, M., Nordbotten, J. M., Doster, F., Celia, M. A. 2014; 50 (4): 3536-3552
  • Methane mitigation opportunities in China. The Woodrow Wilson School Graduate Workshop Brink, S., Godfrey, H., Kang, M., Lyser, S., Majkut, J., Peng, W., Reid, M. C., Sengupta, M., Singer, L., Mauzerall, D. L. 2013