WA School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering has a wide range of facilities available for students, staff and researchers.

Mining engineering students

Mining Engineering and Metallurgical Engineering

Computer Lab

Mining Engineering has an interactive and sophisticated computer lab that provides:

  • I-Lecture facility
  • 60 computers
  • Exam weeks (May 30-June 24; and October 31-November 25): 24 hour accessibility for staff and students
  • During semester students have access for 20 hours a day: 6am-2am.
  • During semester break students have access from 8am-5pm.
  • Closed over Christmas break.

Various Mining software packages including:

  • Vulcan
  • Surpac
  • Datamine
  • Whittle
  • Minex
  • JKSimblast
  • Phase 2
  • Examine 2D
  • Dips
  • Ventsim
  • Talpac
  • Cat Fleet Production and Cost Analysis (FPC)

Mining Simulator

The simulator allows students, new mine workers and experienced personnel to learn how to operate mine equipment in a safe and forgiving environment. Simulators can be used for operator training, process evaluation, mine planning and risk management training.

Geomechanics Lab

The Shear Testing System SDS-150 is an electro-hydraulic closed-loop digital servo control for shear and normal loads for test automation. Loads or deformations for both the shear and normal actuators can be prescribed for automatically performing conventional direct shear tests as well as more advanced tests. This system can be easily programmed to perform tests such as the constant normal stiffness test where the normal load is a function of a prescribed stiffness for simulating actual compressibility of a ground shear plane (e.g. soil-pile interaction).

The Shear Test System is especially well suited to test coarse granular materials and/or simulate interface materials because of its large sample size and high load capacity. A major advantage of this electro-hydraulic system over conventional motorized system is that this system eliminates vibrations that can disturb or compact granular specimens.

The RDS-100 is a Direct Shear System for Testing Rocks, used for shear testing on a wide range of rock specimen configurations including cylindrical cores, cubes, prisms, and rock fragments, to determine shear strength.

This system features electronic sensors and digital displays to monitor the loads and deformations. A standard A/D automatic data acquisition with USB interface is included to automatically log and reduces the test data. The software accepts inputs from the shear and normal load sensors, the shear deformation, and up to four normal deformations.

The STX100 triaxial testing system is used to perform dynamic tests for liquefaction, resilient modulus, cyclic strength, complex modulus, and other dynamic triaxial tests including synchronized cyclic axial and confining stress loading. This system also provides the necessary versatility to automatically perform conventional triaxial tests as well as advanced procedures such as stress or strain path.

The STX-100 can be programmed to automatically perform all triaxial stages including saturation, consolidation, and easily created cyclic and static customized test procedures, including an unlimited variety of waveforms including user-generated profiles such as a digitized earthquake records. It may also be used in conjunction with the ULT 100 for laboratory ultrasonic velocity measurements used to study the elastic behaviour of geological materials at simulated in situ stress conditions. Ultrasonic testing is non-destructive and provides compression (P) wave and shear (S) wave velocity information which can be used in calculating dynamic elastic constants such as Poisson’s Ratio (u), Young’s Modulus (E), Bulk Modulus (K), and Shear Modulus (G).

The system uses a fast-acting pulse that provides excitation to the ultrasonic sensor and an ultra high speed analog-to-digital converter for storing the resulting waveforms signals. The sampling rate can be selected from 20 MHz to a sampling rate as low as 156 Hz allowing the capture of a wide range of ultrasonic signals. Also included within the ULT-100 is an 8 channel general purpose data logging device that accepts ±10 VDC signals for recording parameters such as load and displacement.

The UCT1000 GCTS Uniaxial Testing System is capable of performing static and dynamic closed-loop load, deformation, strain or any other measured or calculated parameter. Automatic “bump-less” or smooth control transfer can be programmed at any test stage. The system performs compression and tension loading with an electro-hydraulic closed-loop control system and is ideal for performing unconfined compression, bending, indirect tension, fracture, creep, and other material tests up to 1000kN compression and 800kN tension.

The PLT100 Point Load Test equipment is used in conjunction with core rock specimens or irregular rock fragments to obtain the point load strength index and unconfined compressive strength. Using the computer control and acquisition software, a correction is applied to account for the specimen size and shape, and the unconfined compressive strength is obtained from a correlation equation. Three types of tests can be performed: diametral, axial, and irregular lump and axial loads of up to 100 kN can be developed.

Metallurgy Facilities

Chemistry Laboratories

  • Standard undergraduate chemical laboratory, atomic absorption spectrophotometers, UV spectrophotometer, zeta potential unit, surface tension meter, carbon and sulphur analyser.

Mineral Processing Laboratories

  • Crushers (jaw, cone, roll), Grinding (rod, ball, tower mills), ring pulverizers, screens and screen shakers, riffle and rotary samplers, jig, spirals, shaking table, flotation cells, cyclone circuit, sieve bend, vibrating screens, Knelson concentrator, Falcon concentrator, Davis tube magnetic separator, laser sizer, cyclosizer, induced roll magnetic separator, disc magnetic separator, pressure filtration.

Hydrometallurgy Laboratories

  • Pilot scale mixer settler circuit, pilot pulse column, pilot electrostatic SX column, autoclave, bottle rolls, column leaching, continuous and batch tank leaching.

Pyrometallurgy Laboratories

  • Induction furnace, mass transport gas controllers, muffle furnaces, tube furnaces, fire assay furnaces.

Computer Laboratory

  • Metallurgical software available in the computer laboratories includes: Loop-Pro, JKSimMet, Limn, Metsim, and SysCAD.

Petroleum Engineering

Petroleum Engineering

Core flooding laboratory

Petroleum Engineering is equipped with a unique Core flooding equipment which is used for advanced research studies as well as providing services to the industry. The system is capable of applying overburden pressures up to 13,000 psi and at a temperature of up to 250OC. A new unique core holder has been recently built which is equipped with sonic and resistivity transducers.

Some of the advanced experiments that can be carried out with the Core flood system are:

  • Overburden PHI and K (stress sensitivity)
  • Whole core analysis
  • Relative permeability
  • Formation Resistivity Factor
  • Capillary pressure
  • Acoustic wave velocity
  • Wettability
  • Compressibility
  • Geomechanical properties
  • NMR measurements
  • Thin section/SEM examinations
  • Core description
  • Formation damage tests
  • Proppant performance analysis
  • Ultrasonic testing of cores

True triaxial stress cell

Petroleum Engineering equipped its Geomechanics lab with a unique True Triaxial Stress Cell (TTSC) which is mainly used for advanced research studies in the field of Petroleum Geomechanics but could also offer commercial services to the industry.

External pressures and pore pressure ranges in the TTSC
Using the TTSC a cub-shaped rock sample with a maximum side of 30 cm in size is compressed using one vertical and two independent horizontal stresses up to 50 MPa (8000 psi). This is while the pore pressure is increased within the sample up to 21 MPa (3000 psi).

Hydraulic Fracturing using the TTSC
Using a small hole drilled in the centre of the sample, the fluid is injected under reservoir conditions into the sample to simulate hydraulic fracturing.

Increasing pore pressure inside the isolated cell causes the fluid to travel towards the hole in the centre of the sample and allows sanding simulation for unconsolidated samples.

Fracturing and sanding events or rock instability around the wellbore can be monitored using a number of seismic transducers attached to the sample.

The vertical stress and both horizontal stresses applied to the sample, plus the fluid injection pressure and pore pressure are continuously recorded during the experiment and are transferred to ta PC to plot different diagrams.

The vertical and horizontal displacements are measured using LVDTs installed on each ram, the data of which can be transferred to the PC.

Reservoir wettability laboratory

Rock wettability is one of the fundamental parameters determining dynamic and static fluid behaviour in a reservoir. Wettability therefore directly impacts on hydrocarbon production and CO2 geo-sequestration (CCS) efficiency. We study this parameter using a combination of experimental and computational methods. For the experimental arm of our investigations we commissioned the reservoir wettability laboratory, which includes following facilities:

1. Core-flood apparatus (centimetre scale)

We have commissioned a core-flood apparatus, which was specifically designed for capillary pressure measurements at reservoir conditions. Our studies currently focus on CO2 behaviour, as the static behaviour of CO2 in rock at CCS conditions is not well understood. Here we investigate core plugs with typical dimensions (38mm diameter, 50-300mm length). Check our publication lists for results.

2. Contact angle and interfacial tension measurement apparatus

We have commissioned an apparatus with which we can measure interfacial tensions between reservoir fluids and contact angles such fluids form with a rock surface. These measurements are also conducted at reservoir conditions (i.e. high pressure, elevated temperature) to mimic true engineering conditions. It is important to match real conditions as that can have a profound impact on the physico-chemical behaviour of the fluid-fluid and fluid-fluid-rock systems as we have shown theoretically using a Molecular Dynamics approach.

3. A micro-computed tomograph (nanometre to centimetre scale)

The Micro CT scanner forms part of the National Geosequestration Laboratory (NGL), a research and development facility established to develop innovative solutions to minimise risk and uncertainty associated with the geological storage of carbon dioxide. The facility is a collaboration between Curtin, CSIRO and UWA, and build on the successes of the Western Australian Energy Research Alliance (WA:ERA). The NGL is funded by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, to the value of $48.4 million.

We investigate wettability characteristics of different rock-fluid-fluid systems by imaging their distribution in the pore space of the rock. The detailed configuration of the fluids is a function of the rock’s wettability and therefore a measure of wettability.

Micro-computed tomography laboratory

The Micro-computed tomograph forms part of the National Geosequestration Laboratory (NGL), a research and development facility established to develop innovative solutions to minimise risk and uncertainty associated with the geological storage of carbon dioxide. The facility is a collaboration between Curtin, CSIRO and UWA, and build on the successes of the Western Australian Energy Research Alliance (WA:ERA). The NGL is funded by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, to the value of $48.4 million.

With the micro-computed tomograph we can acquire 3D x-ray mass attenuation maps of core plugs and fluids contained in the rock. These images have a high 3D resolution (up to (700nm)3). At such a high resolution the pore morphology of sandstones and carbonates can be imaged, and the distribution and behaviour of multiple fluids in the rock can be observed and quantified. Please refer to our publication lists for more details or contact us.

Chemical Engineering teaching laboratory

Chemical Engineering

Process Intensification and Multiphase Characterisation Laboratory

Process Intensification and Multiphase Characterisation Laboratory

Chemical Engineering at Curtin University has a state of the art laboratory that is capable of conducting a range of experimental testing and analysis of the novel equipment and techniques. The laboratory has fully instrumented systems for electrical capacitance tomography, particle image velocimetry, and gamma-ray tomography.

The laboratory houses, packed columns, fluidised beds, heat exchangers, bubble column, liquid-liquid extraction devices and fluid flow distributers. The laboratory also has a state of the art sensors for measuring flow, pressure, temperature and composition. The laboratory has prototyping tools such as polymer-based 3D printers that are used for industrial and fundamental demand-driven research.




Teaching Laboratory

The Chemical Engineering teaching laboratory at Curtin offers a teaching experience with top of the range equipment – from bench, scale to pilot scale giving students hands-on experience.

The laboratory rooms are designed specifically to facilitate the services that are required for all of the equipment that is used in Process Instrumentation Control, Mass Transfer,  and Reaction.

High-Performance Computational Facilities

Process Intensification and Multiphase Characterisation Laboratory

High-Performance Computing (HPC) facilities at Curtin involve an in-house parallel computing cluster and also corporate with Pawsey Supercomputing Centre which is supported by the Government of Western Australia. Multiple modelling tools, such as MATLAB, CFD tools (FLUENT, CFX, OpenFOAM), ASPEC, etc., can be implemented in HPC. HPC provides a stable and reliable performance of the computing environment for supporting the research at Curtin. The HPC service is available for heavy computing duties of industrial projects, PhD studies and research projects for final-year undergraduates. Some of the projects which are carried out with the cluster are:

  • Ambient air vaporizer
  • LNG process safety
  • 3D printed packing internals
  • Vapour-liquid separator
  • Multi-phase research