Meet the Team


Professor Hywel Thomas

Cardiff University, Principal Investigator

Professor Hywel R Thomas is FLEXIS Lead Principal Investigator and Principal Investigator of the Smart Thermal Energy Systems work package. He is a Professor of Civil Engineering, the founder Director of the Geoenvironmental Research Centre (GRC) at Cardiff University and a UNESCO Professor in the Development of a Sustainable Geoenvironment.

Dr Manju

Cardiff University, Research Associate

T: 029 2087 0497

As lead on the Smart Thermal Energy Systems Work Package, Dr Manju is responsible for the overall delivery of its technical and administrative tasks, addressing the two core stages of the transformation of Wales’s heating energy systems - the Transition to the Low Carbon Future and Low Carbon Future itself.

Dr Peter Brabham

Senior Lecturer in Applied Geology & Geophysics

T: 029 2087 4334

Based in Cardiff University's School of Earth & Ocean Sciences, Dr Peter Brabham is currently on part-time secondment to the FLEXIS project to provide his geological and geophysical expertise in support of FLEXIS project areas.

Dr Renato Zagorscak

Cardiff University, Research Associate

Renato is a Research Associate and Work Package Leader in “Unconventional Gas” aiming to make significant advances beyond “state of the art” and evaluate the potential of deep lying coal seams for the development of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) and Coal Bed Methane (CBM). He holds a PhD in Geoenvironmental Engineering, MSc in Mining Engineering and BSc in Geoengineering with over 4 years of experience in various working environment.
Renato joined GRC in 2013 as a member of the ERDF funded £10.1 million SEREN project to study the THM behaviour of porous media in response to geo-energy applications. Shortly after joining the GRC, he has started to read for a PhD in relation to reactive high pressure gas transport in coal. Following on from the SEREN Project in 2015, he has been employed to continue both experimental and computational research as a member of the newly appointed £24.5 million FLEXIS project as a part of the carbon sequestration work package. From December 2016, Renato has been appointed a role of “Unconventional Gas” Work Package Leader to coordinate work on UCG and CBM related research activities.

Dr Lee Hosking

Cardiff University, Research Associate

My research interests lie in the computational modelling of coupled thermal, hydraulic, chemical and mechanical (THCM) behaviour in the geoenvironment. I am particularly experienced in the study of reactive transport processes in fractured rock in response to high pressure gas injection and displacement. It was in this area that I developed a theoretical and computational modelling platform as part of my doctoral research at Cardiff University’s Geoenvironmental Research Centre.
Throughout my PhD and into my current post, I have applied the developed model in the study of geological carbon sequestration, a technology involving the isolation of carbon dioxide in the geoenvironment that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere. As part of an integrated energy system, carbon sequestration is widely regarded as a key part of strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
As leader of the FLEXIS work package on Carbon Sequestration in Coal and Soil, my ambition is to help coordinate work in this area to ultimately enhance our understanding of the geoenvironment’s role in carbon management. This work is being undertaken alongside partners at Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, and Tata Steel, with the overarching aim of participating in the development of energy systems technologies at the FLEXIS demonstration site centred on Tata Steel’s Port Talbot Works.

Dr Muhammad Irfan

Cardiff University, Research Associate

Dr Muhammad Irfan is leading the Geoinformatics and Environmental Monitoring work package of the FLEXIS project. His core areas of research are Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS), Web-GIS, GeoApps, Geodatabase and spatial analysis. He has recently developed an integrated, multicriteria, spatial decision support system, incorporating environmental, social and public health perspectives, for use in geoenergy and geoenvironmental applications. This system utilises a number of artificial intelligence and multi criteria decision analysis techniques to enhance the effectiveness of the spatial decision making process.
His current research involves Public Participatory Web GIS platforms to incorporate local spatial knowledge into the decision making process and for conflict resolution in spatial planning. He is also working at active remote sensing techniques, e.g. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) for different geoenergy and geoenvironmental applications. Irfan is also working on the local energy demand & supply mapping to support initiatives towards sustainable off grid local communities.

James Whittaker

Cardiff University, Research Assistant

I am a Research Assistant and PhD student working on the FLEXIS project, specialising in passive seismic monitoring of unconventional gas resources. My PhD project involves calculation of fracture parameters from passive seismic datasets. These parameters are invaluable to well engineers during the process of extracting unconventional gas and ensure that the process is efficient and carried out in an environmentally safe manner. I have worked in the geophysics industry for over 6 years for companies that specialise in the geotechnical and energy sectors. This included CGG, a major service provider for the oil and gas sector, where I was processing and developing new products from legacy seismic data. Previously I was a field geophysicist working on geotechnical projects across the country including Sizewell nuclear power station and the Crossrail project working for Soil Mechanics. My academic background is in exploration geophysics which gave me an excellent grounding in seismic data analysis which I can apply to problems both in the geotechnical and energy sectors.

Hishiv Shah

Cardiff University, Research Assistant

I am a Research Assistant working on the FLEXIS project, specialising in Geographical Information Systems (GIS). My recent work at Cardiff University has included mapping the potential for water source heat energy in Wales, investigating the feasibility of a district heating network the Llynfi Valley, and developing a methodology to detect obstructions around overhead power lines. I have worked within the GIS industry for several years, having previously worked as a Research Technician at the Geodata Institute in Southampton, and prior to that worked as a GIS Analyst in local government. My academic background is in Geography and Environmental Sciences, which gives a good grounding in the concepts underpinning GIS applications.

Dr Jack Barnard

Cardiff University, Research Assistant

Jack studied for an MSci in Geoscience at Durham University from 2005-2009. This was followed by a PhD studying the development of a particle tracking model for chemical reactions and sorption behaviour and application of particle tracking methods to the simulation of soils contaminated with heavy metals in the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences, Durham University.
Jack joined the Geoenvironmental Research Centre at Cardiff University in 2014. His research interests are the effects of small scale heterogeneity on the behaviour of chemical transport and reactions in porous media and bacteria; numerical modelling of soil carbon behaviour and storage; and numerical modelling techniques including particle tracking methods and agent based modelling.

Alejandro Lopez

Cardiff University, Research Assistant

Alejandro holds a First Class MSc degree in Industrial Engineering and a BEng degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Malaga (Spain). In 2007 he joined a technical office to work as a designer of hydraulic, water heating and electricity installations. After finishing his Master Degree in 2011 he worked in an energy company as a Design Engineer, later on he was awarded a grant by the Spanish Ministry of Education to work in a Spanish company with operations in India where he was part of the operations team. In 2014, Alejandro joined Geoenvironmental Research Centre’s (GRC) as a Research Assistant after 9 month visiting period as an external member of the research group based in University of Malaga “Operations and Sustainability”. Currently he works in WP9 Smart Thermal Energy Grid of the FLEXIS project.

Min Chen

Cardiff University, PhD Candidate

PhD student, supervised by Prof H R Thomas and Dr L Hosking. His research interest involves coupled thermal, hydraulic, chemical and mechanical (THCM) behaviour of porous media in response to carbon dioxide sequestration in coal and soil. Developing a theoretical and computational modelling for high pressure gases transport in porous media is leading part of his doctoral research at the GRC.
Education 2016- : PhD Geoenvironmental Engineering, Cardiff, UK.
2014-2016: MS Mining Science, China University of Mining and Technology, China.
2010-2014: BS Mining Science, Taiyuan University of Technology, China.

Dr Ni AN

Cardiff University, Research Staff

My research activities initially focused on the area of soil-atmosphere interaction and developed a numerical approach to estimate the coupled thermal-hydro soil behaviour under the effect of various atmosphere conditions for short-term or long-term periods. Now I am involved in FLEXIS smart energy project and focus on the subproject Underground Coal Gasification, aiming to study the environmental influence of UCG process on surrounding strata region and provide feasible suggestions of environment protection in UCG commercialization.

Sivachidambaram Sadasivam

Cardiff University, Research Assistant

Sivachidambaram Sadaivam’s work focuses on geoenvironmental aspects of Coalbed methane (CBM) and Underground coal gasification (UCG). He studied PhD in Environmental Engineering, ME in Environmental Engineering and BE in Chemical Engineering. His PhD was focused on protecting nuclear wastes using clay materials. After completing the PhD, he joined the Geoenvironmental Research Centre (GRC), Cardiff University in April 2013 as a member of the SEREN project to study the environmental aspects of the unconventional energy extraction methods and continuing the work as part of the FLEXIS project under Unconventional Gas work package. He is experienced in field-scale exploration studies and passionate to conduct laboratory scale experiments to understand CBM and UCG operations.