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

Earth Sciences Division Staff: Karsten Pruess

Karsten Pruess

Karsten Pruess

Senior Scientist

Research Leader:  Advanced Process Modeling

Hydrogeology Department


Phone: 510-486-6732

Fax: 510-486-5686


Biographical Summary

Karsten Pruess is a Senior Scientist in the Earth Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, which he joined in 1977. A native of Germany, he holds a Dr. phil nat. in physics from the University of Frankfurt, Germany (1972). He has conducted research in multiphase, non-isothermal, and chemically reactive flows in porous media, including mathematical modeling, analysis of field data, and laboratory experiments. His interests include geothermal energy recovery, nuclear waste isolation, oil and gas recovery and storage, environmental remediation, and geologic storage of carbon. He has published over 130 publications in peer-reviewed journals and is the chief developer of the TOUGH family of general purpose simulation codes, that are in use in approximately 300 organizations in over 30 countries. At UC Berkeley he has taught graduate courses in numerical simulation. Pruess is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), the Geothermal Resources Council (GRC), and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Geological Society of America (GSA).


  • Dr. phil. nat., 1972, University of Frankfurt, Germany; Major field: Theoretical Physics, Minor fields: General Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry.
  • Dipl. Phys., 1969, University of Frankfurt, Germany (Physics)

Professional Experience

  • Senior Scientist, Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), 1987 - present
  • Principal Investigator, mathematical modeling of flow and transport processes in geologic media, geothermal and hydrocarbon reservoir engineering, fundamental studies of multiphase flows in porous and fractured media, nuclear waste isolation, remediation and containment of subsurface contaminants, 1979 - present
  • Faculty Associate, Earth Resources Center, University of California at Berkeley, 1996 - present
  • Group Leader, Reservoir Engineering and Hydrogeology Group, 1987 - 91
  • Lecturer, Department of Materials Science and Mineral Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, 1985 - present
  • Staff Scientist, Earth Sciences Division, LBNL, 1977 - 87
  • Visiting Professor, International Institute for Geothermal Research, Pisa, Italy, 1984, 1986
  • Research Fellow, Nuclear Theory Group, LBNL, 1975 - 77
  • Instructor, Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering, University of Bremen, Germany, 1974 - 75
  • Research Associate, University of Frankfurt, Germany, 1972 - 74
  • Research and Teaching Assistant, Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of Frankfurt, Germany, 1969 - 72

Professional Activities

  • Associate Editor, Geothermics, 2006 - present
  • PhD Committee for Anozie Ebigbo, External Member, University of Stuttgart, Germany, 2007
  • PhD Committee for W. M. Kissling, External Member, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, 2004
  • Associate Editor, Vadose Zone Journal, 2001 - 2004
  • Associate Editor, Transport in Porous Media, 2000 - 2005
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 1998 - 2006
  • PhD Committee for C.C. Palliser, External Member, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand, 1998
  • Member, SITE-Committee “Seeing into the Earth,” National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, 1995 - 98
  • Convenor, TOUGH Workshop, Berkeley, CA, May 1998, March 1995, September 1990
  • Habilitation Committee, R. Helmig, External Member, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany, 1996 - 97
  • Member, U.S. DOE Unsaturated Zone Flow Model Expert Elicitation Panel, 1996 - 97
  • PhD Committee for M.M. Fourar, External Examinator, Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse, Toulouse, France, 1991 - 92
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Petroleum Technology, 1985 - 89
  • Associate Editor, Society of Petroleum Engineers Journal, 1985 - 89


  • Member, Geological Society of America
  • Member, Society of Petroleum Engineers
  • Member, American Geophysical Union
  • Member, Geothermal Resources Council
  • Member, Union of Concerned Scientists


  • Henry J. Ramey Award of the Geothermal Resources Council for outstanding achievements in geothermal reservoir engineering, 2007
  • Fellow, Geological Society of America, 2007
  • O.E. Meinzer Award of the Geological Society of America (GSA), 2006
  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union, 2004
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Texas A&M University, 2003
  • UNU Visiting Lecturer, 2002
  • FLC Award of Merit for Excellence in Technology Transfer, 1996
  • “Best of What’s New” Award, Popular Science Magazine, 1996 (with George Moridis)
  • LBL Technology Transfer Excellence Award, 1991
  • Geothermal Energy of New Zealand Travel Fellowship, 1988
  • Pergamon Geothermal Energy Award, 1988 (with Franco D’Amore)
  • NATO Research Fellowship, 1975, 1976
  • Annual Prize of the Friends and Patrons of the Goethe-University Frankfurt, for the best doctoral dissertation in the natural sciences, 1972


  • U.S. Patent No. 5,836,390 on "Method for Formation of Subsurface Barriers using Viscous Colloids" (with John Apps, Peter Persoff and George Moridis), November 17, 1998.
  • German Patent No. 19,707,096 on "Verfahren zur thermisch-unterstützten in situ Reinigung von Böden in der ungesättigten Zone ohne Verfrachtung flüssigen Schadstoffes in tiefer gelegene Bodenbereiche" ("Method for Thermally Enhanced in situ Decontamination of Unsaturated Zone Sediments without Transfer of Liquid Contaminants into Deeper Strata," with Arne Färber, Christoph Betz, Reinhard Schmidt und Helmut Kobus), May 20, 1998.
  • U.S. Patent No. 5,311,766 on "Method and Apparatus for Determining Two-Phase Flow in Rock Fracture" (with Peter Persoff and Larry Myer), May 17, 1994.

Thesis Supervision

  • J.E. García, “Fluid Dynamics of Carbon Dioxide Disposal into Saline Aquifers,” PhD Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 2003.
  • T.S. Liou, “Statistical Analysis of Liquid Seepage in Partially Saturated, Heterogeneous Fracture Systems,” PhD Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1999
  • G. Su, “Liquid Seepage, Flow Dynamics, and Solute Transport in Unsaturated Rock Fractures,” PhD Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1999
  • G. Su, “Water Infiltration and Intermittent Flow in Rough-Walled Fractures,” MS Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1995
  • A.E. Adenekan, “Numerical Modeling of Multiphase Transport of Multicomponent Organic Contaminants and Heat in the Subsurface,” PhD Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1992
  • C. Doughty, “Two-Phase Fluid and Heat Flow in Fractured/Porous Media: A Similarity Solution,” MS Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1991
  • R.W. Falta, “Multiphase Transport of Organic Chemical Contaminants in the Subsurface,” PhD Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1990
  • Y.S. Wu, “Theoretical Studies of Non-Newtonian and Newtonian Fluid Flow Through Porous Media,” PhD Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1990
  • A.K. Verma, “Effects of Phase Trasformation on Steam-Water Relative Permeabilities,” PhD Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1986