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D Blackwell

David D. Blackwell

Hamilton Professor
Geothermal Studies

Ph.D. Harvard

  • Geothermal Studies and Plate Tectonics
  • Energy Resource Estimates and Geothermal Exploration

Courses Taught

GEOL 3340 - Face of the Earth
GEOL 5320 - Dynamic Earth
GEOL 6341 - Basin Analysis
GEOL 6375 - Theory of Heat Flow and Diffusion

Related Links

Geothermal Group Web Page

Research Statement

David Blackwell's research involves the thermal state of the lithosphere, in all its different combinations and permutations. Current projects deal with the thermal structure of sedimentary basins, heat flow and plate tectonics, especially the temperature structure in subduction zones and its geodynamic implications, thermal regime of geothermal systems, at a local and regional focus for geothermal resource evaluation within the United States.

National Geothermal Data System: In 2010, he received a $5.25 million Department of Energy contract to collect and synthesize data for the new National Geothermal Database project. Working in partnership with SMU, as the leader, are Siemens Corporate Research, a division of Siemens Corporation, Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin, Cornell Energy Institute, Cornell University, Geothermal Resources Council, MLKay Technologies, Texas Tech University, University of North Dakota.

Geothermal Research Studies: Dave was funded by Google.org from 2008 to 2011 to improve understanding of the thermal resources, especially in the eastern U.S. and update the temperature-at-depth maps from 3 to 10 km. These are available on Google.org/egs as part of their Google Earth package. The project greatly increased the number of temperature data points, thermal conductivity values and thermal regime models for numerous sedimentary basins across the U.S. Incorporating the new data into heat flow and geothermal resource maps for the industry, thereby updating the map used for the 2004 Geothermal Map of North America and the 2006 MIT Future of Geothermal Energy report. In addition there will be an update of the AAPG Geothermal Map of North America in 2012.

Additionally, with his foresight to involve the oil and gas industry into geothermal energy production, the SMU Geothermal Laboratory is the primary researcher of the process for converting oil and gas wells into geothermal electrical projects. As part of this research they put on conferences to assist companies with networking and their understanding of resources and available technology. The fifth conference was in June, 2011, titled: Geothermal Energy Utilization Associated with Oil and Gas Development, in Dallas, on the SMU Campus. Materials from all past five conferences are available
Geothermal Group Web Page

Thermotectonics Dave has worked on the relationship between surface heat flow, crustal thermal structure, and seismicity, especially in the vicinity of subduction zones. These studies have implications for seismic risk assessment. By utilizing the surface heat flow and thermal conductivity data for subsurface rocks, the Geothermal Lab researcher have shown the temperature along major fault zones at depth relates to the potential of the crust to support brittle failure. In McKenna's work, the physical properties of the hanging wall of the subduction zone, along with the surface heat flow, determines whether blueschist or greenschist conditions occur at the plate boundary. Seismic zones appear to be correlated with greenschist conditions on the surface of the subducting slab.

Selected Publications

Blackwell, David, M. Richards, Z. Frone, J. Batir, A. Ruzo, R. Dingwall, and M. Williams 2011, Temperature at depth maps for the conterminous US and geothermal resource estimates, Geothermal Resources Council Transactions.

Blackwell, D., F. Moerchen, B.L. Cutright, W. Gosnold, M. Kay, S. Nagihara, C. Robinson, J. Tester, 2011, Data integration into the National Geothermal Data System (NGDS), Geothermal Resources Council Transactions.

Blackwell, D.D., M. Richards, and P. Stepp, Texas Geothermal Assessment for the I-35 Corridor East, Final Report for the Texas State Energy Conservation, Contract CM709, SMU Geothermal Laboratory, 88 p., 2010.

Frone, Zachary, and D.D. Blackwell, 2010, Geothermal map of the northeastern United States and the West Virginia thermal anomaly, Geothermal Resource Council Trans., v. 34, p. 339-343.

Iovenitti, J. L., I. Tibuleac, D. Hopkins, T. Cladouhos, R. Karlin, P. Wannemaker, M. Kennedy, D. Blackwell, and M. Clynne, 2010, Development of exploration methods for engineered geothermal systems through integrated geophysical, geologic and geochemical interpretation, Geothermal Resource Council Trans., v. 34, p. 363-368.

Richards, Maria , Roy Mink, Al Waibel, David Blackwell, 2010, The geothermal potential of Saipan, CNMI, Geothermal Resource Council Trans., v. 34, p. 823-826.

Erkan, K., and D.D. Blackwell, 2009, Transient thermal regimes in the Sierra Nevada and Baja California extinct outer arcs following the cessation of Farallon subduction, J. Geophys. Res., DOI:10.1029/2007JB005498.

Erkan, K., G. Holdman, W. Benoit, and D.D. Blackwell, 2008, Understanding the Chena Hot Springs, Alaska geothermal system using temperature and pressure data from exploration boreholes, Geothermics, DOI:10.1016/J.Geothermics.2008.09.001.

Erkan, K., and D.D. Blackwell, 2008, A thermal test of the post-subduction tectonic evolution along the California transform margin, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L07309, doi:10.1029/2008GL033479.

Negraru, P., D.D. Blackwell and K. Erkan, 2008, Heat flow and geothermal potential in south-central United States, Natural Resources Research, vol. 17., no. 4, 227-243, doi:10.1007/s11053-008-9081-x.

Blackwell, D.D., P. Negraru, and M. Richards, 2007, Assessment of the enhanced geothermal system resource base of the United States, Natural Resources Research, DOI 10:1007/s11053-007-9028-7.

Tester, J. W., Anderson, B., Batchelor, A., Blackwell, D., DiPippo, R., Drake, E., Garnish, J., Livesay, B., Moore, M.C., Nichols, K., Petty, S., Toksoz, N., Veatch, R., Augustine, C., Baria, R., Murphy, E., Negraru, P., Richards, M. 2006. The future of geothermal energy: Impact of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) on the United States in the 21st century. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, DOE Contract DE-AC07-05ID14517, Final Report, p. 374.

Coolbaugh, M., Zehner, R., Kreemer, C., Blackwell, D., Oppliger, G., Sawatzky, D., Blewitt, G., Pancha, A., Richards, M., Helm-Clark, C., Shevenell, L., Raines, G., Johnson, G., Minor, T., and Boyd, T., 2005, Geothermal potential map of the Great Basin, western United States, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Map 151.

McKenna, J.R., and D.D. Blackwell, 2005, Geothermal electric power from Texas hydrocarbon fields, GRC Bulletin, v34, no 3, 121-128.

McKenna, Jason, David Blackwell, Christopher Moyes, and P. Dee Patterson, 2005, Geothermal electric power supply possible from Gulf Coast, Midcontinent oil field waters, Oil & Gas Journal, Sept. 5, 34-40.

Blackwell, D.D., and Richards M., 2004. Geothermal map of North America, Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologist (AAPG), 1 sheet, scale 1:6,500,000, Product code 423.

Blackwell, D.D. and Maria Richards, 2004, Calibration of the AAPG Geothermal Survey of North America BHT Data Base, AAPG Annual Meeting, Dallas, TX, Poster session, paper 87616.

McKenna, J.R., and D.D. Blackwell, 2004, Numerical modeling of transient Basin and Range extensional geothermal systems, Geothermics, 33, 457-476.

Bonner, J.L., D.D. Blackwell, and E.T. Herrin, 2003, Thermal constraints on earthquake depths in California, Bull. Seism Soc. Amer., 93, 2333-2354.

McKenna, J.R., and D.D. Blackwell, 2002, Heat sources in subduction zones: implications for slab seismicity and arc-volcanism, in The Cascadia Subduction Zone and Related Subduction Systems-Seismic Structure, Intraslab Earthquakes and Processes, and Earthquake Hazards, edited by S.H. Kirby, K. Wang, and S. Dunlop, U.S. Geo. Sur. Open-File Report 02-328, pp. 127-131.

McKenna, J.R., and D.D. Blackwell, 2002, Thermal regime of a large mid-continent oil field (Butler County, Kansas) from high-resolution temperature logs, Oklahoma Geol. Sur. Circ., 106, 151-161.

Blackwell, D.D., M. Leidig, R. Smith, S. Johnson, and K.W. Wisian, 2002, Exploration and development techniques for Basin and Range geothermal systems: examples from Dixie Valley, Nevada, Geothermal Resources Council Trans., 26, 513-518.

Richards, Maria and David Blackwell, 2002, The Forgotten Ones: Geothermal roads less traveled in Nevada, Geothermal Bulletin, v. 31, no. 2, 69-75.

Blackwell, D.D., K.W. Wisian and M. Richards, 2000, Heat flow / thermal gradient exploration in the Western United States and the evaluation of geothermal systems, Proceedings of the World Geothermal Congress 2000, CD-ROM.

Blackwell, D.D., 1999, Introduction to geothermics in basin analysis, in Geothermics in Basin Analysis, ed. D. Merriam and A. Forster, Plenum Press, New York, 241 pp.

Gallardo, J. and D.D. Blackwell, 1999, Thermal structure of the Anadarko Basin, Oklahoma, Bull. Amer. Assoc. Petrol. Geol., 83, 333-361.

Wisian, K.W., D.D. Blackwell, and M. Richards, 1999, Heat flow in the western U.S. and extensional geothermal systems, Proceedings 24th Workshop in Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, January 25-27.

Benoit, D., D.D. Blackwell, R. Norman, C. Smithpeter, and S. Thompson, 1999, Design, fabrication, installation, and testing of an advanced wellbore/reservoir monitoring system at the Dixie Valley, Nevada geothermal field, Proceedings, 24th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, January 25-27, 6 pp.

Blackwell, D. D., G. R. Beardsmore, R. K. Nishimori, and M. J. McMullen, Jr., 1999, High Resolution temperature logs in a petroleum setting, examples and applications, p. 1-34, in Geothermics in Basin Analysis, ed. D. Merriam and A. Forster, Plenum Press, New York, 241 pp.

Wisian, K.W., D.D. Blackwell, S. Bellani, J.A. Henfling, R.A. Normann, P.C. Lysne, A. Forster and J. Schrotter, 1998, Field comparison of conventional and new technology temperature logging systems, Geothermics,27, 131-141.

Carter, L.S., S.A. Kelley, D.D. Blackwell, and N.D. Naeser, 1998, Heat flow and thermal history of the Anadarko Basin, Oklahoma, American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, 82, 291-316.

Forster, A., J. Schrotter, D.R. Merriam, and D.D. Blackwell, 1997, Application of optical-fiber temperature logging -- An example in a sedimentary environment, Geophysics, 62, 1107-1113.