Centre for Petroleum, Fuels & Energy
FLUID SCIENCE DIVISION
The following projects are offered in 2009 to undergraduate and postgraduate students
in the School of Mechanical Engineering by the Fluid Science Division of the Centre
for Petroleum, Fuels & Energy. The name of the coordinating supervisor for each
project is underlined for each project.
Project allocation will be based on a student’s academic record and the relevance of
any prior study.
FSD-1: Measurements of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane adsorption
equilibria at cryogenic conditions for enhanced LNG production efficiency.
FSD-2: Measurements of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane adsorption
kinetics at cryogenic conditions for enhanced LNG production efficiency.
Supervisors: Dr Eric May, Dr Guillaume Watson, Mr Paul Hofman
Natural gas should be the primary energy source of the near future. It is the most
environmentally benign of the hydrocarbon fuels and, in contrast to alternative energy
sources, there is sufficient existing infrastructure for its immediate widespread use.
However, compared to oil and coal, natural gas is a difficult resource to harness. It is
only through the development of technologies like liquefied natural gas (LNG)
production that natural gas can effectively assume the dominant role in global energy
supply. This research will help to promote and facilitate the use of natural gas because
it will increase the energy efficiency, and thus reduce the costs, of LNG production.
These projects will investigate new methods of removing and capturing nitrogen and
carbon dioxide from natural gas streams to improve the efficiency and decrease the
cost of LNG production. Novel adsorbent materials will be tested at cryogenic
conditions in high-pressure adsorption experiments on a scale that reflects industrial
practice. The results of these experiments will improve thermodynamic and kinetic
models of sorption processes at conditions for which little data exists. The research
outcomes will be used to improve the design of LNG production trains and to treat
contaminated gas reserves.
FSD-3: Measurement of Vapour-Liquid Equilibria in Cryogenic LNG Fluids to
Improve Process Design, Simulation and Operation.
FSD-4: Calorimetry of Cryogenic LNG Fluids to Improve Process Design,
Simulation and Operation.
Supervisors: Dr Eric May, Dr Mohamed Kandil, Mr Yagan Williams
The production of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is crucial to Australia as it is the only
way we can participate in the global gas trade. Currently, LNG production systems are
over-engineered because the predictions of process simulators are unreliable. This
research will improve the reliability of such simulators by anchoring their underlying
thermodynamic models to data characteristic of realistic LNG fluids and conditions.
The primary aim is to measure a core set of vapour-liquid-equilibria, volumetric and
calorific data for multi-component LNG fluids at cryogenic temperatures and high-
pressures. Subsequently, these data will be used to develop more accurate equations
of state to be incorporated into the process simulators used to test design
improvements for LNG production.
FSD-5: Supercritical CO2–CH4 Displacement in Tight Gas Reservoirs.
Supervisors: Dr Eric May, Dr Brendan Graham
Western Australia has several major offshore gas assets containing significant
quantities of carbon dioxide. Scenarios for dealing with this CO2 must be developed
before these gas fields can be produced. One scenario involves the re-injection of
carbon dioxide produced from one reservoir into the extremities of a different ‘tight
gas’ reservoir for the purpose of both CO2 disposal and enhanced gas recovery.
However, such a strategy is only viable if the probability of breakthrough by the re-
injected CO2 to the producing wells is small. Estimating this breakthrough probability
requires an improvement in our fundamental understanding of the thermophysical and
hydrodynamic behaviour of supercritical CO2 in gas and water-saturated reservoir
The aim of this project is to establish whether the CO2 displacement of the gas occurs
by miscible plug-flow and, if so, to quantify the diffusivity of supercritical CO2 into
CH4 when confined in a saturated porous media. In this project an experiment in
which supercritical CO2 is pumped through a core sample will be designed and
constructed. The composition of the exit stream will be monitored using an online gas
chromatograph – mass spectrometer system (GC-MS), and the data obtained will be
analysed with the objective of converting the laboratory results to the field scale with
FSD-6: Interactions between Binding Resin and Asphaltene Fractions of Crude
Supervisors: Dr Brendan Graham and Dr Eric May
Asphaltene deposition can be a serious problem in oil production whether it occurs at
the well face, during production or in storage facilities. Asphaltenes can also help
stabilise water-in-oil emulsions which require expensive physical or chemical
treatments to break. Naturally occurring resins (polar species) in crude oil have long
been believed to interact with the asphaltenes in the crude oil and may play a role in
the asphaltene solubility and stability. Recent work has indicated that a subset of the
resins do in fact interact with asphaltenes and there is a correlation between the mass
ratio of these special resins to the asphaltenes and the emulsion behaviour of oils.
This project would involve the study of the interactions of various resin classes with
asphaltenes and whole crude oils. The primary tool for these investigations will be a
calorimeter. The calorimeter allows for the measurement of the heats of interactions
(bonding) between the resins and other classes of compounds in crude oils so the
strength of interaction can be measured. Also the kinetics of the interactions at
different temperatures will be determined. This will lead to a better understanding of
asphaltene solubility in crude oils and may lead to a novel emulsion breaking systems.
FSD-7: Development of an Automated System for Extended SARA analysis of
Supervisors: Dr Brendan Graham and Dr Eric May
Due to their complexity, crude oils are usually categorised into simple solubility
classes through the SARA scheme (Saturates, Aromatics, Resins, Asphaltenes). This
approach, whist useful, is limited to the bulk classes only. The current SARA
technique is time consuming, labour intensive and limited in the information that can
be derived from the results.
This project would look at the use of modified liquid chromatography equipment to
automate the SARA process. Not only will this reduce time and the labour required
for the class separation of crude oils but the automated system allows for much finer
separation of the different classes of compounds in crude oils. This increased
information about the compound classes present in crude oil will allow for better
understanding of crude oil behaviour.
FSD-8 - Measurements of the Thermophysical Properties of New Industrial
Supervisors: Dr Eric May and Dr Mohamed Kandil
The thermophysical properties of solvents provide direct insight into the fundamental
molecular processes which govern the design of industrially important processes that
aim to make use of the solvent. However, even for common solvents such as toluene,
little data exists for the dependence of some of its thermophysical properties,
particularly at conditions far from ambient. A new class of environmentally friendly
solvents known as ionic liquids has recently been developed and show great promise
for increasing the ‘greenness’ of many applications. The nature of ionic liquids is
poorly understood and accurate measurements of their thermophysical properties as a
function of temperature and pressure would greatly benefit people’s understanding of
In this project, microwave re-entrant resonators, vibrating tube densimeters and a
cryogenic calorimeter will be used to measure certain thermophysical properties of
liquid solvents such as toluene and ionic liquids over a range of temperature and
pressure. The resulting data will then be used to improve models of these industrially