News Release

Release Date: October 18, 2016

One for the History Books

NETL’s Barbara Kutchko Honored for Foamed Cement Research


There’s no doubt the tragedy of the Deep Water Horizon explosion and oil spill in 2010—plus the innovative science and engineering techniques that eventually stopped the leak, created ways to prevent similar events, and improved the safety of deep offshore drilling operations—will be captured in the pages of history. The Pittsburgh Business Times (PBT) believes NETL researcher Dr. Barbara Kutchko, and the important work she performed, are an integral part of that history and worthy of significant recognition.

PBT selected Kutchko to receive a 2016 Women in Energy Leadership Award. According to PBT, Kutchko’s involvement as a third-party analyst in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was key in ensuring that similar disasters never happen again. PBT officials explained that the magnitude of Kutchko’s success made her an “obvious choice.”

Kutchko’s research has dramatically increased industry’s understanding of foamed cement—a vital material and technology used for environmentally responsible natural gas and oil production. Foamed cement, which is created when gases such as nitrogen are injected into cement slurry to form microscopic bubbles, provides strength and stability to protect against leaks and spills for the life of an oil or gas well. However, foamed cement can be unstable if its bubbles interconnect in a way that allows leakage through the cement. Eliminating this instability has been a driving force behind Kutchko’s work.

Kutchko’s primary focus is on improving the integrity and longevity of foamed cements. Her work characterizing the structure of foamed cement is providing industry decision-makers with the technical knowledge to ensure the safe operation of wells in which foamed cements are used, including deep offshore environments. Her research has been so productive, it was used to update the American Petroleum Institute’s 25-year-old testing standard—an achievement that is helping to improve quality, reduce cost, decrease waste, and support safer oil and gas operations around the world.

The PBT took notice of Kutchko’s success and the critical nature of her work by awarding her the Women in Energy Leadership Award.

“Continuing research [on the environmental impacts of fossil fuels] is critical,” PBT officials noted. “Because we’re not going to solar and wind in the immediate future, her work only gets more and more important. She’s in the right place at the right time to make important energy developments.”

Kutchko will receive her award at a banquet October 20, 2016, at Meadows Casino-Event Center, Washington, Pa.