Advancing energy production, geologic waste storage, and environmental remediation
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s TOUGH software suite uses numerical models to simulate liquid, gas, and heat flow through porous materials and wells beneath the earth’s surface. TOUGH – for Transport of Unsaturated Groundwater and Heat – supports enhanced geothermal energy, oil, and gas production, improved security for geologic storage of carbon dioxide or nuclear waste, and optimized handling of underground environmental contaminants.
TOUGH software is available at little or no cost to government and academic researchers while commercial users have the option to license source code or a more affordable executable code package. With over 1,000 users in 70 countries, TOUGH has the largest user community among simulation codes and the only web-based public user forum to facilitate scientific interactions and collaboration.
Using a LBNL Innovation Grant for technology maturation, TOUGH improved usability and ability to handle large-scale simulations for a 2011 update. The TOUGH research team participated in DOE’s Energy I-Corps Cohort 2 (2016) to identify the best positioning for its 2017 TOUGH3 code release.
To date, TOUGH has earned nearly $3 million in software licensing fees. The TOUGH research team members dedicate their share of annual royalties (35%) to ongoing improvements. The latest update – TOUGH3 – runs complex simulations tens to hundreds of times larger than earlier codes by incorporating parallel servers, enabling software to leverage multiprocessor computers. TOUGH3 was made available with click-to-agree licensing terms on the Berkeley Lab Marketplace, a public-facing website offering select LBNL-developed open source and commercial software products.
In 2010, TOUGH estimated the quantity of oil and gas leaking into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon incident. In 2017, the simulator determined why initial attempts to stem methane flow from the damaged Aliso Canyon underground storage facility had not worked and simulated a relief well the ultimately stopped the blowout. TOUGH researchers on a national task force drafted recommendations to avoid similar incidents.