LSU's Ipsita Gupta is Educating Future Petroleum Engineers

February 10, 2023

Ipsita Gupta, LSU Associate Professor of Petroleum Engineering teaches undergraduate courses focused on subsurface storage, reservoir engineering and reactive transport. She hopes her students learn the technical knowledge of the courses, but also “develop an ability to think independently and solve problems in an ever-changing world, a love of learning and keep an open mind.”

Photo of Ipsita Gupta

Ipsita Gupta's research in subsurface hydrogen storage recently received funding through the Provost's Fund for Innovation in Research.

– LSU Office of Communications & University Relations

“It truly humbles me when I realize that over the past six-plus years at LSU, I have taught more than 1,000 students from sophomores to graduate students in courses and classes ranging in size from seven to more than 200,” Gupta said.

Her research in hydrogen recently received funding through the Provost's Fund for Innovation in Research. Read more about how her research impacts Louisiana and her advice for future petroleum engineers.

What do you enjoy about Baton Rouge?
I emigrated from India to the United States, and have made Baton Rouge, Louisiana my home. Baton Rouge is very similar to Kolkata (where I was born and raised) in many ways – warm weather and warm people; the Mississippi flows through Baton Rouge and the Ganges (Ganga) flows through Kolkata—both cities along major rivers. Music and art-loving Louisiana and West Bengal (home state in India) also share similar food habits: fish/seafood, rice, spices! And of course, the Bengal Tiger from the Sundarbans in Bengal has found love and a home in Louisiana.

Can you explain your research and why the community should know about it?  
As a scientist, I study how fluids like water, oil or gas move from one point to the other, thousands of feet deep in the subsurface where our energy resources lie. I investigate solid-fluid and fluid-fluid interactions, physical, chemical and biological to study how we may store hydrogen or carbon dioxide at long time-scales or produce current hydrocarbon resources in a safe and environment-friendly manner. From these studies, I can predict how long something may stay underground without leaking, how long wellbores or caprocks may hold integrity. For Louisiana, this translates to research and economic opportunities in the oil and gas sectors, including identifying leakage potentials, and researching ways to permanently store carbon dioxide or cyclically store and produce hydrogen in the subsurface.  

You worked in industry before pursuing a career in academia. Share with us how that experience has shaped your approach to teaching.  
My industry experience helps me emphasize the application of fundamentals to real life engineering solutions. I try and illustrate concepts using examples from industry projects. One of the most critical steps towards nurturing future engineers, scientists and educators begins with accessible educational opportunities that get students excited about learning. We strive to make those opportunities available to our students by inviting industry to our department to demonstrate their case studies and tools, present their research and donate state-of-the-art software for our students to use for class and senior design projects.  

Congratulations on your Provost's Fund for Innovation in Research grant! You will lead a team to investigate how hydrogen, a low-carbon alternative to oil and gas, may be stored securely in Louisiana’s subsurface formations through this project. Tell us how you developed this project and its potential impact.  
As the human population and corresponding energy demand continue to grow, adaptation to future energy alternatives is crucial in preparing today's population for the future. This is especially true in Louisiana where the oil and gas industry has been strong for many generations. One very promising, cutting-edge and innovative alternative is hydrogen. It is very efficient, but storage is a problem. Due to its low density, surface options have limited feasibility. Subsurface storage in salt caverns, depleted oil and gas fields and aquifers are attractive permitting large-scale cyclic storage and production. The Gulf Coast, and particularly Louisiana, is home to hundreds of depleted oil and gas fields and salt caverns where hydrogen can be stored and produced in large volumes to transition to a low-carbon energy era. Given our geology, existing infrastructure and in-house expertise, we plan to fundamentally investigate underground hydrogen storage potential for Louisiana formations.

What advice do you have for students pursuing careers in petroleum engineering, especially women?  
Keep learning. Change is the only thing that is constant in this world. Whether it is traditional petroleum engineering or the energy transition, technology is ever-evolving. Keeping our fundamentals strong and our minds open and agile will help us adapt to areas of interest and make us attractive to recruiters.  

Finally, to anyone who may sometimes feel a little out of place, misunderstood or unheard, do not let others define you. The world is a beautiful place, and you are a part of it. Give your best and look upward, come what may.