Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Earth Sciences Division Staff: Eric L. Sonnenthal

Eric Sonnenthal

Eric L. Sonnenthal

Staff Geological Scientist

Geochemistry Department



Phone: 510-486-5866

Fax: 510-486-5686


Biographical Summary

Over twenty years experience in the study of coupled thermal, chemical, transport, and mechanical processes and the development of reaction-transport models and codes. Obtained a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences at the University of Oregon focused on the geochemical and physical processes associated with volatile evolution and melt segregation in basaltic lava flows/lakes and in the Skaergaard Intrusion, East Greenland. This started an interest in the coupling of geochemical reactions with fluid transport and deformation which led to postdoctoral work at Indiana University and the French Institute of Petroleum on modeling the development of overpressured compartments in sedimentary basins through coupling of sedimentation, pressure solution compaction, fluid flow, heat and chemical transport, and hydrofracturing. Since coming to Berkeley Lab in 1996, worked on modeling the geochemical and hydrological evolution of the unsaturated zone at Yucca Mountain, and led the development of coupled thermal-hydrological-chemical models for the geologic emplacement of nuclear waste and in-situ thermal experiments. Current projects involve development of coupled thermal-hydrological-mechanical-chemical (THMC) models for enhanced geothermal systems, integration of isotopic systems in reaction-transport modeling of microbially-mediated environmental remediation, and leading an NSF-supported project to design a potential coupled process experiment in the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Lab in the Homestake Mine, South Dakota. Co-developer of the widely-used reaction-transport code Toughreact, as well as author of reaction-transport codes for magmatic differentiation and sedimentary basin evolution..

Research Interests

Investigation of geochemical and isotopic processes coupled to thermal, hydrological, and mechanical effects in geological and engineered systems. Development of reaction transport models for water-gasrock interaction applied to geological emplacement of nuclear waste, environmental remediation, enhanced geothermal systems, vadose zone transport, and CO2 sequestration. Co-developer of the widely used multiphase reaction-transport code TOUGHREACT. Author of reaction-transport-mechanical codes for sedimentary basin compaction and multicomponent magma crystallization.


  • Pennsylvania State University, B.S. Geosciences, Geochemistry option, 1982
  • University of Oregon,  Ph.D. Geological Sciences, 1990
  • Indiana University, Postdoctoral Fellow, Geochemistry, 1990-1993
  • French Institute of Petroleum, Postdoctoral Scientist, Geochemistry, 1993-1994

Professional Experience

  • Staff Geological Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Sciences Division, 2004–.
  • Associate Researcher, University of California, Berkeley, Earth and Planetary Science, 2009–.
  • Geological Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Sciences Division, 1996-2004.
  • Visiting Instructor, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Oregon, 1995.

Current Projects

  • Sonnenthal E., J. Rutqvist, and S. Nakagawa. Coupled Thermal-Hydrological-Mechanical-Chemical Model And Experiments For Optimization Of Enhanced Geothermal System Development And Production.
  • Sonnenthal E., J. Christensen, S. Nakagawa, S. Brown. Integration of Nontraditional Isotopic Systems Into Reaction-­‐Transport Models of EGS For Exploration, Evaluation of Water-­Rock Interaction, and Impacts of Water Chemistry on Reservoir Sustainability.
  • Sonnenthal E., M. Kennedy, N. Spycher. Evaluation of Stimulation at the Newberry Volcano EGS Demonstration Site through Natural Isotopic Reactive Tracers.
  • Sonnenthal E., D. Elsworth, R. Lowell, K. Maher, B. Mailloux, and N. Uzunlar.  NSF: Collaborative Research: Coupled Thermal-Hydrological-Mechanical-Chemical-Biological Experimental Facility at DUSEL Homestake.
  • AltaRock Energy (Lead), E. Sonnenthal (LBNL PI), J. Rutqvist. Geochemistry and THMC Models in Support of the Newberry EGS Demonstration Project.
  • Elsworth D. (Penn State Univ), J. Taron (USGS), and E. Sonnenthal (LBNL PI). THMC Modeling of EGS Reservoirs – Continuum through Discontinuum Representations:  Capturing Reservoir Stimulation, Evolution and Induced Seismicity.
  • Spycher N., M. Kennedy, E. Sonnenthal. Integrated Chemical Geothermometry System for Geothermal Exploration.
  • Simmons S. (Colorado School of Mines), N. Spycher, E. Sonnenthal, P. Dobson. Advances in Hydrogeochemical Indicators for the Discovery of New Geothermal Resources in the Great Basin, USA.
  • Pau, G. S. Finsterle, E. Sonnenthal. LBNL Innovation Grant: New Parallel Software Framework For TOUGH Suite of Codes.

Synergistic Activities

  • TOUGH Symposium 2009, 2012 co-organizer
  • Recent Invited Presentations: Virginia Tech Geosciences Lecturer Series April, 2013, UC Berkeley Earth and Planetary Science Dept. Fall Colloquim, Fall 2008; International Workshop on Modelling Reactive Transport in Porous Media, Strasbourg, France, Jan. 21-24, 2008; Global Nuclear Energy Partnership: Waste Form S&T and Modeling & Simulation Workshop, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Jan. 29-31, 2008.
  • TOUGHREACT Training Course Development and Instruction (courses in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2012).
  • TOUGHREACT Reaction-transport code co-developer (Xu, T., E. Sonnenthal, N. Spycher, and K. Pruess). Available from Dept. of Energy Software Center, and widely used internationally in universities, national laboratories, and industry.
  • Working Group Leader – Deep Underground Science and Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) Induced Flow, Transport, and Activity, (2004-2006, 2008)
  • International DECOVALEX-THMC Project: Coupled Thermal-Hydrological-Mechanical-Chemical processes, Lead for THC tasks, 2005-2007.

Collaborators and Other Affiliations

Collaborators and Co-authors: J. Birkholzer (LBNL), Z. Chengyuan (Chinese Acad. Sci.), M. Chijimatsu (JAEA, Japan), M. Conrad (LBNL), D. DePaolo (UC Berkeley/LBNL), P. Dobson (LBNL), D. Elsworth (Penn State Univ.), B. Faybishenko (LBNL), S. Finsterle (LBNL), K. Fujisaki (Quintessa, Japan), T. Fujita (JAEA, Japan), I. Gaus (NAGRA, Switzerland), E. Hardin (Sandia Nat. Lab, NM), J. Houseworth (LBNL), S. Hubbard (LBNL), G. Jones (Chevron), M. Kennedy (LBNL), O. Kolditz (Tech. Univ. Dresden), G. Lu (unaffiliated), A.R. McBirney (Univ. of Oregon), C. McDermott (Univ. Edinburgh, S. Mukhopadhyay (LBNL), Y. Oda (JAEA, Japan), Scotland), L. Quansheng (Chinese Acad. Sci.), J. Rutqvist (LBNL), H. Shao (BGR, Hannover), N. Spycher (LBNL), C. Steefel (LBNL), W. Wang (UFZ, Leipzig), M. Xie (GRS, Braunschweig), L. Xiaoyan (Chinese Acad. Sci.), T. Xu (LBNL), G. Zhang (LBNL).

Recent Student Mentoring

  • Amelia Paukert, 2012-current. Ph.D. student, Columbia University.
  • Edda Aradottir, 2007-2011. Ph.D. dissertation committee. University of Iceland.