Dr. Kam Ng's KAUST sabbatical with EGEL

06 May, 2020

My name is Kam Ng and I recently spent four months on sabbatical with the Energy GeoEngineering Laboratory at KAUST. After obtaining my Master’s from Iowa State University, USA in 1997, I returned to Malaysia and worked as a civil engineer for ten years. During this time, I became involved in civil engineering designs mostly related to buildings and some civil infrastructure. This led to my work as a site engineer and then building contractor. I learned a lot about construction management, but I found this field stressful as I had to contend with issues such as labor shortages, cash flow, and project-lobbying. Because of my original interest in teaching and research, I returned to Iowa State University in 2008 and obtained my PhD in geotechnical engineering in 2011. I started my tenure-track faculty position at University of Wyoming, USA in 2012, and I was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018.

The State of Wyoming is similar to Saudi Arabia in a number of respects. It is an energy state and revenue relies mostly on mineral taxes. However, the global concern of CO2 emissions and the impact of burning fossil fuels on climate change has created great pressures on the state economy. Hence, the state is very interested in carbon sequestration technology as a strategy to mitigate CO2 emissions while maintaining its revenues from coal, oil and gas production.

Since joining the University of Wyoming, my research has evolved from soil mechanics to include rock mechanics as both share common fundamentals. Rock mechanics is very important for understanding problems associated with carbon capture and sequestration as well as ground water, mineral extraction, and geothermal energy. One of the aims of my research is to understand the effect of CO2 on the mechanical behavior of Madison Limestone which has been identified as a potential rock formation for carbon sequestration in Wyoming.

I am currently collaborating with Dr. Carlos Santamarina to understand the chemical reactivity and mechanical behavior of carbonate rocks that store most of the World’s oil reserves, especially in Saudi Arabia. KAUST and in particular the Energy GeoEngineering Laboratory, has excellent facilities for this study. We are combining carbonate rock data from the literature and our experimental results from Madison Limestone samples to quantitatively describe the engineering properties of these carbonate rocks. I have also been attending EGEL seminar presentations that explore some non-traditional geotechnical engineering areas in depth, such as acoustic assessment of brine pools of the Red Sea, innovative technology to classify granular materials, and sea floor monitoring.

Learning from this wonderful research group that consists of many talented researchers has really opened my research ideas to more than just soils and rock mechanics. The strong academic culture at KAUST provides ample opportunities for researchers to achieve their long-term goals in advancing research in science and engineering.