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RESEARCH

My research lies at the interface of occupational health and safety, economics and regulatory policies with a focus on addressing:​​

(1) health impacts of exposure to fine and ultrafine particulates using a combination of field and experimental data, and data analysis tools, and
(2) impacts and life-cycle analysis of policies and regulatory reforms related to health and safety using advance machine learning tools, and development of an effective safety management system designed for mining industry.
(3) ground control - hazards and safety

Common to these themes is the observation that mining often creates health and safety concerns and complex environmental challenges. This conflict is central to my research focus and motivates me to find and disseminate pragmatic solutions.

Occupational Health and Safety

Hydraulic fracturing proppant selection decision analysis and particulate exposure risk
My research on determining the risks associated with use of various chemicals like silica, alumina, and ceramic in proppants ascertains the health impacts from a review of toxicological and epidemiological studies on exposure to fine and ultrafine particulates and recommended exposure limits for these chemicals. I work with Dr. Jeremy Gernand to develop a multi-attribute decision model to ascertain the effect of these chemicals on human health and determine the risks associated to it using data analysis and modelling tools. Further, I conduct cost-benefit analysis to determine the economic implications of use of such chemicals.

Abstract: Selection of the best proppant for hydraulic fracturing is an important parameter to achieve higher production. Some of these proppants are made up of chemicals like silica (quartz sand), alumina, resin coated silica, titanium dioxide, iron-titanium oxide, kaolinite, iron oxide, boron oxide, phenol formaldehyde resin, and others. These materials and chemicals can be toxic to varying degrees and lead to health problems in the employees handling them. Factors affecting the selection of proppants are closure stress of reservoir, bottom hole temperature, permeability contrast between pay zone and infilled fracture and composition of formation fluid in the wells. With increased depth of wells, several types of proppants have been developed to meet the formation characteristics for achieving higher production. Substantial research has been conducted to determine the effect of silica on human health related to hydraulic fracturing and similar processes but very little research has been done to determine the risk associated with using these alternative proppants. This study focuses on the risks or benifits to human health by these proppants through a multi-criteria decision analysis proppant selection taking the health hazards into consideration as well as functional attributes. Different commercially available proppants were surveyed for content, functional properties, and cost. The health impacts were ascertained from a review of toxicological and epidemiological studies on exposure to fine and ultra fine particulates and recommended exposure limits for chemicals. The multi-attribute decision model including effects on production, cost, and risk tolerance for health impacts reveals optimal proppant selection strategy for different geological conditions. Results show that the most commonly used proppant, silica, should more often be replaced by less toxic, more expensive alternatives for organizations with a range of risk tolerance and cost tolerance characteristics.

  • Agrawal S. and Gernand J. “Risk Based Decision Making for Fracturing Proppant Selection.” Poster. Energy Days 2016. University Park, PA. May. 2016. Poster can be found here.
  • Agrawal S. and Gernand J. “Risk Based Decision Making for Fracturing Proppant Selection.” Presentation. SRA Annual Meeting. Arlington, VA. Dec. 2015.​
  • Agrawal S. and Gernand J. “Hydraulic fracturing proppant selection decision analysis and particulate exposure risk.” In Preparation.​​

Advances in Prediction and Control of Air Quality for Surface Mine Operations
I jointly worked with researchers from University of Kentucky on prediction and control of air quality, analysing advances on different modelling methods, control strategies and technologies that have enabled an improved capability to predict the source and health impacts of emissions in a surface mine operation. The research presents a review of the accuracy of these advances in assessing the source and risks of emissions, so as to address significant threats to reduce environmental, health and safety impacts. The results of this research are submitted to the International Journal of Mining, Reclamation, and Environment for review.

Abstract: In recent years, advancements in modeling, control strategies and technologies, and increasing knowledge of the actual health risks of different types of emissions have enabled an improved capability to predict where emissions are most likely to occur and why, to what extent, and what they will be composed of, how they will disperse over the area, and how toxic those emissions may be for workers or adjacent populations. These advances make assessments of the sources and effects of mine emissions and the risk of those emissions much more accurate, so that the most significant effects can be more quickly identified and mitigated saving time, resources, and reducing impacts on the environment and the health of workers and local populations.

  • Gernand J., Silva-Castro J., Agrawal S. and Nieto A. “Advances in Prediction and Control of Air Quality for Surface Mine Operations.” In Review​

Investigation of the use of quarry dust as construction material
My research on addressing the problem of exposure to limestone and granite dust during my sophomore year gave me a first-hand experience on the graveness of the issue of health and safety in mining industry. The utilization of the generated dust as construction material displayed great potential in secondary construction work which was presented at a seminar at Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore.


Health and Safety Policy Analysis

Policy changes in coal mining: Comparison and effectiveness on reducing accidents in United States and Australia

Abstract: Ascertaining the effectiveness of policy changes is difficult because no control group exists to compare against, so any effects that do occur may be due to the change or to the natural course of events. In recent years, jurisdictions in both the United States and Australia have made changes in policy to regulate mining operations with the intent of reducing accidents and worker injuries. This study was conducted to analyze the effect of policy changes on incidences of fatalities and lost-time injuries (LTI) for coal mines in United States (US), Queensland (QLD) and New South Wales (NSW), Australia. A select population of similar mines in US, QLD and NSW with respect to production quantities, geology, methods of mining, and other factors were grouped together to serve as control groups for one another’s’ policy changes. Then, trends in accidents, fatalities, and LTI before and after regulatory changes were examined. Fatalities and LTI in US mines were higher as compared to QLD and NSW though the group of similar mines displayed much more similar outcomes. Some small trend changes in both locations appear to be policy related based on timing.

  • Agrawal S. and Gernand J. “Identification and Grouping of Similar Mines in United States and Queensland for Analyzing Safety Performance.” Presentation. SME Annual Conference. Phoenix, AZ. Feb. 2016​.
  • Agrawal S. and Gernand J. “Policy changes in coal mining: Comparison and effectiveness on reducing accidents in United States and Australia.” In Preparation.

Investigation of the cause of natural deaths at work place in coal mining industry
My research on identifying the causes of natural deaths at workplace in Indian coal mining industry during my senior year focused on studying several cases of deaths in Indian coal mines including the medical history of the deceased. As a way to further understand the inbound intricacies over this scenario, my research also included interviewing the families of the deceased. The results showed that people with very little to no training were more prone to fatal injuries, pressing the need to mandate training through policy changes.

Ground Control - Hazards and Safety


Estimation of Coal Mine Roof Rating by using the data from a Specialized Probe in Drilled Holes and its visualization.
During the International Conference on Ground Control in Mining 2015, I got to know the work of
 Dr. Jamal Rostami's team and started working on developing a stand-alone program to calculate CMRR and ARBS from the data collected from the specialized probe in drill holes.

Abstract: Rock characterization is important for optimization of ground support and safety in underground opening. The structural discontinuities, joints and rock characteristics can be determines using a borehole probe and borehole camera within the holes drilled for roof bolts. But it is important to determine the roof rating for any underground opening to optimize its roof support system to ensure safety. The research is focused on addressing this problem and developing a stand-alone program to determine the CMRR and ARBS using the data from the holes drilled for roof bolts.

  • Agrawal S. and Rostami J. "Borehole Data Processing and Visualization using Carlson." Presentation. Annual Project Progress Report. NIOSH Ground Control Capacity Building, Morgantown, WV. July. 2016.
  • Agrawal S., Rostami J. and Gernand J. “Estimation of Coal Mine Roof Rating by using the data from a Specialized Probe in Drilled Holes for Installation of Roof Bolt and its visualization using Carlson.” In Preparation.​​