Hannes_Hofmann_b

Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where are you from?
Where did you do your undergraduate studies? In what field?

 I was born and raised in a small village in the former eastern part of Germany and moved to Berlin to study. I did my Bachelors and Masters degrees both in “Geotechnology” at the University of Technology in Berlin. While my BSc thesis was on a more geophysical topic (nuclear magnetic resonance tomography), my MSc thesis was already related to my PhD research (numerical simulation of the development and operation of enhanced geothermal systems and evaluation of its potential in southern Germany).

What was your PhD research on?

The title of my PhD thesis is rather generic: “Development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) in Northern Alberta”. Specifically, I performed numerical simulations (using software available at University of Alberta and at the German research Centre for Geoscience (GFZ)) and laboratory experiments (at GFZ) to investigate the question whether and how EGS can be developed in the Fort McMurray area to provide heat for oil sands processing and whether EGS development in the Edmonton area for heat provision in residential, institutional and industrial buildings would be an alternative.

How did you get involved with HAI E&E? Is that what brought you to the UofA?

I was looking for a Master thesis and supervisor in the field of geothermal energy development and found Dr. Günter Zimmermann from GFZ, who I first met as a student in one of his classes at TU Berlin. When I started my master thesis with him, Dr. Zimmermann met Dr. Tayfun Babadagli from UofA during a visit in Potsdam and they agreed to jointly supervise a PhD student. Dr. Zimmermann then asked me if I was interested since I was already working on a related topic. And since I wanted to do a PhD in a foreign country anyway and I enjoyed working on my topic, I was happy to accept this offer. So HAI is what brought me to the UofA and to Canada.

What was the best and most useful part (for you) of being in Alberta and at the UofA?

I was able to get to know a very different culture (more different than I thought). It was very interesting to get such a deep insight into the differences between studying at a German and a Canadian University and learned a lot about benefits and drawbacks from both sides. Taking graduate level petroleum engineering classes at the UofA was very beneficial for my work. Also I liked being able to choose, for example, from laboratory equipment (UofA and GFZ). I also took the chance to visit some very good conferences in the US, which was only possible due to the close proximity to Canada. Personally, I enjoyed hiking and snowboarding in the Rockies in every free minute that I could spare.

You had two PhD supervisors – one from Canada and one from Germany. What were the benefits of working as a part of a joint Canadian-German team?

The most important benefit was certainly to work together with many different people and being part of a bigger team. In my specific case I was able to learn many things related to Petroleum Engineering through Dr. Babadagli (my Canadian supervisor), his research group and the classes I took at the UofA. Through my German supervisor (Dr. Zimmermann) and other researchers at GFZ, I was able to better relate and apply this knowledge from the petroleum engineers to geothermal applications. This way I was also a link between petroleum reservoir engineers (at UofA) and geothermal reservoir engineers (at GFZ).

What are your plans for the future?

I accepted a 2-year postdoc position at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. The project is roughly about using depleted gas fields as geothermal reservoirs. I will perform numerical simulations to evaluate whether or not and how heat can be extracted from these empty gas fields and how you can, at the same time, produce the remaining gas. The position started on 1 June and I was able to negotiate to work half of the time at GFZ in Germany.

What were for you some of the most interesting aspects of being part of an initiative like HAI?
I liked the HAI meetings as a platform to meet PhD students and professors from other research fields (although I would recommend one meeting per year instead of two). I also found other parts of the HAI meetings such as panel discussions and soft skill courses for students very useful.