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Our research

This department aspires to be a leading department in petroleum engineering. The department has research as a main focus for its future, and boasts capabilities not readily available in world class departments.

The department houses a modern core flooding high pressure, high temperature laboratory which is able to obtain seismic and resistivity measurements while flooding reservoir cores with three phase fluids. Such a facility with this geophysical capability is very unique.

It also has a true triaxial stress cell pressure facility for testing what happens to the stress field in blocks of sedimentary rock when fluid pressure varies. This capability is very unique.

Experimental Research

Hydrocarbon Phase Behaviour


Pressure/Volume/Temperatures (PVT) and phase behaviour analysis of normal reservoir fluids is a routine activity. The same is true for gas-oil and water-oil relative permeability analysis, capillary pressures etc. of normal sandstone type rocks.

Special Core Analysis

Relative Permeabilities

Instead of conventional gas or water floods, an increasing number of reservoirs are coming under water alternating gas (WAG) floods. It is under these conditions the three-phase relative permeabilities assume the greatest importance. Considering the current literature, the three-phase relative permeability data appears to be scarce. Similarly, the models available to determine the three-phase relative permeabilities from two-phase data have drawbacks. Therefore, there exists a need to accurately measure and model three-phase relative permeability data for utilization in WAG applications. Similarly, the potential of X-ray CT scanning in SCAL also needs to be exploited.

There are several avenues of research in this area:

  • Three phase behaviour in thin oil rims underlying large gas caps.
  • Investigation of the build up and mobilisation of condensate banks in retrograde reservoirs.
  • Permeability reduction in oil reservoirs containing asphaltenes (what conditions cause the oil to move outside the asphaltene depositional envelope, ADE, can asphaltenes go back into solution in porous media etc).

Hydraulic Unitisation

Hydraulic unitisation is generally used to predict permeability and Sw (therefore Sh) distribution on a point-by-point basis in drilled wells using well logs as the principle correlative factor. There is scope to develop hydraulic unitisation field wide, for integration with the geological model, using other correlative parameters with larger scales of investigation – seismic attributes for example.

Drilling Research

The Department is a member of the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC). The goal of DET CRC is develop new drilling technologies to both reduce the cost of drilling and to develop new technologies to allow sensing of geological ore bodies during the drilling process- thereby optimising the data collection process.

Assoc Professsor Jorge Sampaio is working on applying oil field technologies to hard rock drilling, by reducing the diameter of the hole drilled through use of technologies such as down-hole motors, coiled tubing, and behind-the-bit sensors. Ideally the industry would like to drill deep holes, using a bit which is steerable and a drill string which sensors the changes in geology as the hole progresses. In the event that an ore body is detected, in the future it may become feasible to drill a side-track borehole and hence, multilateral drill holes into the ore body. Data would be sampled, analysed and transmitted up-hole so that the drill bit only needs to enter a hole once, to obtain a three dimensional representation of the rock properties and the ore body shape.

Formation evaluation research activities & capabilities

The Department has expertise in Formation Evaluation and is keen to develop research projects in the following subjects:

  • Petrophysical evaluation of hydrocarbon reservoirs
  • CO2 saturation monitoring from time-lapse CO2 wireline logging
  • Application of image analysis technique for pore network modelling
  • Acquisition and evaluation of Archie factors (m & a) for complex reservoirs
  • Rock mechanical properties prediction from log data using multi-regression and artificial neural networks methods
  • Application of Expert Systems (Artificial Neural Networks, Fuzzy Logic, Committee Machine) for petrophysical parameters prediction, rock type/facies identification and synthesising missing logs
  • Shear wave velocity estimation from conventional wire-line logs using artificial neural networks.

Academic Links

Curtin has established links with other universities to assist their education and research possibilities. We are negotiating to share teaching with the University of New South Wales, Adelaide University and the University of Western Australia in the future, as part of a shared teaching program through the Petroleum Engineering Australia initiative.

In addition to teaching other universities in Australia, we presently teach Masters students from the Institute of Technology, Bandung, Indonesia (ITB). These students come to Curtin to learn advanced topics in Production Technology, Drilling Engineering, Advanced Reservoir Engineering and Stimulation and Intervention Operations, as part of an agreement with Pertamina (the national oil company of Indonesia) to help train their future staff in petroleum engineering. These students attend the same class as our local students, and do all of the same assignments as M Pet Eng students. However, their projects are co-supervised with staff from ITB.