CO2 Concentration

Graduate student Annie Shillaber
collecting soil gas CO
tration and surface flux data.

Malad Gorge

Dr. Pollyea at the Malad Gorge, east Snake River Plain, Idaho.

HP ProLiant 64

Dr. Pollyea’s lab comprises an HP ProLiant 64-core workstation for numerical modeling and high performance computing.

Fun Fair

From left to right: Graduate students Liz Olson and Ellen Raimondi, Dr. Ladue, and Dr. Pollyea promoting the Geology
Dept. at the CLAS Fun Fair.

CO2 gas saturation over a 10-year injection scenario in heterogeneous basalt reservoir.

Ryan M. Pollyea

Ryan M. Pollyea

Assistant Professor
Hydrogeology, Geostatistics
Office: 417-B1 Davis Hall
Phone: 815.753.7851
E-mail:   Linked In

Educational Background

Ph.D., University of Idaho, 2012
B.S., University of Dayton, 1999

Research Interests

  • Geologic carbon sequestration
  • Continental-scale fluid flow
  • Reservoir heterogeneity
  • High performance computing
  • Geostatistical reservoir modeling

Research Activities >

Selected Publications >

Teaching >

Research Activities

My research interests are at the intersection of groundwater and energy resources, including geologic CO2 sequestration, geothermal energy systems, and continental-scale fluid regimes. This work combines numerical models of heat and mass transport with principles from geomechanics, stochastic hydrogeology, and multi-phase, multi-component fluid flow in porous and fractured media. Students in my research program are currently investigating geologic carbon sequestration in flood basalt reservoirs and aquifer recharge mechanisms in the Pampa del Tamarugal Basin, northern Chile.

Geologic CO2 Sequestration

I am currently ramping up a project to investigate reservoir geomechanics during CO2 injections at the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) Wallula Basalt Sequestration Pilot Project. This project will use principles of stochastic hydrogeology to develop Monte Carlo numerical models of CO2 injections in a flood basalt reservoir, and simulation results will be used to assess the probability of reservoir failure. I am particularly interested in identifying injection scenarios with >99% probability of CO2 confinement. This work is funded by a three-year grant (Oct. 2014 – Dec. 2017) from the USDOE National Energy Technology Laboratory, and I am currently recruiting graduate students to participate in this effort.

In her recently completed MS thesis, Ann Shillaber developed surface-based method for quantifying CO2 reservoir leakage within the vadose zone overlying a CO2 disposal reservoir. This method uses high-resolution CO2 soil gas concentration data collected with a portable laser absorption gas analyzer to investigate changes in CO2 gradients during reservoir leakage. Future work in this area will be the application of our gradient-based method to other geological environments.

Continental-Scale Fluid Flow

The Atacama Desert ranks among the driest places on Earth, receiving less than 10 mm of precipitation per year on average. As a result, groundwater is the sole source of municipal, industrial, and agricultural in the region; however, recharge systems for basin aquifers are poorly understood. In collaboration with Dr. Justin Dodd, we are combining isotopic tracers and a numerical model of groundwater and heat flow from the Chilean Altiplano through the Pampa del Tamarugal (PdT) Basin to gain a first-order understanding of the mechanics governing recharge to the PdT Aquifer. We are travelling to Chile with graduate students Rick Jayne and Liz Olson in November 2014 to obtain groundwater samples and conduct surface-based temperature surveys around springs and salars along the Andean range front.

Additionally, I am collaborating with Dr. Mark Fischer to investigate groundwater flow within sub-aerially exposed orogenic wedge environments. This work focuses on kilometer-scale fluid system evolution under variable topographic slope and depth-decaying permeability. There are opportunities in this area for graduate students interested in basin-scale hydrogeology and numerical modeling.

Graduate Students

Graduate students in my research group learn traditional methods for groundwater investigations and gain exposure to new and exciting techniques for hydrogeologic site characterization. In addition to these skills, students in my group become functional in a Unix/Linux environment, and may learn a computer programming language, if needed for their research. I encourage applications from students with broad scientific interests in groundwater and energy resources, modeling and simulation, applied mathematics, and a fair dose of fieldwork to keep us all honest!

Please contact me if you would like more information about my research program or current student opportunities.

Selected Publications

Pollyea, R.M., Fairley, J.P., Podgorney, R.K., and McLing, T.L. 2014. Physical constraints on geologic CO2 sequestration in low-volume basalt formations. GSA Bulletin. Vol. 126, No. 3/4, p. 344-351, March/April. doi:10.1130/B30874.1.

Pollyea, R.M., Fairley, J.P., Podgorney, R.K., and McLing, T.L. 2013. A field sampling strategy for semivariogram inference of fractures in rock outcrops.  Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment, Vol. 27, No. 7, p. 1735-1740, October.  doi:10.1007/s00477-013-0710-5.

Pollyea, R.M. and Fairley, J.P. 2012. Implications of spatial reservoir uncertainty for CO2 sequestration in low-volume basalt. Hydrogeology Journal, Vol. 20, No. 4, p. 689-699, April. doi:10.1007/s10040-012-0487-1

Pollyea, R.M. and Fairley, J.P. 2012. Experimental evaluation of terrestrial LiDAR- based surface roughness estimates. Geosphere, Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 1–7, February. doi:10.1130/GES00733.1

Pollyea, R.M. and Fairley, J.P. 2011. Estimating surface roughness of terrestrial laser scan data using orthogonal distance regression. Geology, Vol. 39, No. 7, p. 623–626, July. doi:10.1130/G32078.1


  • Introductory Geology (GEOL 120)
  • Introduction to Groundwater (GEOL 390)
  • Environmental Field Camp (GEOL 477)
  • Hydrogeology (GEOL 490)
  • Groundwater Modeling (GEOL 630)
  • Contaminant Hydrogeology (GEOL 637, with Dr. Melissa Lenczewski)
  • Geostatistics & Computational Geoscience (GEOL 670 - Special Topics)