We conduct research on the mechanics and physics of solid earth processes on all scales (from nanometres to kilometres) using supercomputer simulations.
Our research cluster has four main research themes:
This theme aims to couple the computation of several physical processes in a coherent way.
This theme investigates geophysics and rock physics to analyse the subsurface response to seismic or electromagnetic signals
This project focuses on understanding the behaviour of fluids and particles in the region close to an oil, gas or coal-seam gas well.
This theme looks at the appropriate use and configuration of supercomputers, parallel systems and graphics processing unit (GPU) programming to improve our capabilities in solving geoscience problems.
The high-performance supercomputer Savanna is used by up to 100 scientists from within the UQ community and externally, with the following specifications:
Within this research theme, we are also developing state-of-the art software for solving complex and large numerical simulations on highly parallel supercomputers and modern distributed user environments. Through AuScope MNRF funding, the software packages have been made available for our school community under an Open Source licence. The advanced computational technologies and simulation software under development is applicable to a wide range of industrial and environmental domains and provide a driver for innovation in the general area of simulation-assisted design, specifically in the sustainable energy, earth resources, mass mining and geotechnical sectors.
|Escript: A python-based programming tool for mathematical modelling based on non-linear, time-dependent partial differential equations. It has been designed to give modellers an easy-to-use environment for developing and running complex and coupled models without accessing the underlying data structures directly. This approach leads to highly portable codes allowing the user to run a simulation on her/his desktop computer as well as highly parallel supercomputers with no changes to the program. Escript is suitable for rapid prototyping (e.g for a student project or thesis) as well as for large software projects. It has successfully been used in a broad spectrum of applications including Earth mantel convection, earthquakes, porous media flow, reactive transport, plate subduction, and tsunamis. Escript uses the finite element method (FEM). The code has been parallelized efficiently with MPI, OpenMP and hybrid mode. The Escript download page can be found at https://launchpad.net/escript-finley.|
|ESyS-Crustal: Software infrastructure for a deeper understanding and better description of interacting fault systems with potential applications in natural hazard forecasting and risk evaluation (e.g. earthquakes and tsunami generation forecasting), green energy exploitation (e.g. geothermal reservoir modelling), deep geological disposal (e.g. radioactive waste treatment and CO2 geological storage), groundwater modelling, minerals exploration, and related environmental problems. ESyS-Crustal is designed for modern supercomputers and Linux-based multi-core desktop PCs.|
|The downunder tool-kit: An extention of the escript software environment for building software for large-scale geophyscial inversion of potential field, seismic and MT data. It makes use of the parallelization provide by escript and therefore is particularly suitable for regional and continental scale inversion and joint inversion of data sets. The software is part of the escript distribution: see https://launchpad.net/escript-finley. Development is funded by the Australian Geophysical Observation System (AGOS). The Virtual Geophysical Laboratory is providing a portal for applying Escript-downunder on-line data sets.|
|ESyS-Particle: A software package for particle-based numerical modelling. The software implements the Discrete Element Method (DEM), a widely used technique for modelling processes involving large deformations, granular flow and/or fragmentation. ESyS-Particle is designed for execution on parallel supercomputers, clusters or multicore PCs running a Linux-based OS. The C++ simulation engine implements spatial domain decomposition via the Message Passing Interface (MPI). A Python wrapper API provides flexibility in the design of numerical models, specification of modelling parameters and contact logic, and analysis of simulation data. ESyS-Particle has been utilised to simulate earthquake nucleation, comminution in shear cells, silo flow, rock fragmentation, and fault gouge evolution, to name but a few applications.|
|Advancing the ability to detect subsurface groundwater movements in coal seam gas operations using the self-potential method to help quantify and mitigate contamination of groundwater aquifers: Removal of large amounts of formation water from coal seams is required in CSG production, reducing the pressure and allowing methane to be desorbed from the coal matrix. This dewatering could deplete groundwater resources, drawdown and depressure aquifers, and possibly contaminate aquifers due to high salt concentrations present in the coal water and the usage of stimulating chemicals to accelerate dewatering. To mitigate contamination it is necessary to identify the flow path of water through the subsurface. Jahangir Alam's PhD research will utilise the Self Potential (SP) remote sensing method to measure fluid flow paths and will help develop an alternative, low-cost method to measure the orientation and time-dependence of subsurface fluid flow without the need to drill expensive observation wells.|
|Numerical simulation and evaluation of rock mass response in fault zones of deep mines: The mining industry is rapidly moving into new and potentially much higher risk environments. For example, deep mining is expected to occur at much greater depths than present i.e. >1000 m and even approaching 5000 m. During the underground excavation at such depths, more and more geological disasters may occur more easily because the resource body characteristics and rock mass response are much more complicated in higher stress regimes and/or fractured/fault zones. Zhiting Han's research project aims to apply and continue developing the existing PANDAS computational model and software platform to provide a numerical understanding of the issues related to deep mining, especially in fault zones.|
|Integrated Investigation of Pressure Transient Testing in Coal Seam Gas Reservoirs: Qin Li's PhD project aims to characterise coal seam gas reservoirs effectively and economically by using pressure transient testing techniques. Taking into account the special geological structures and reservoir properties of coal seams (e.g. easily deformable and fractured coal seams with extremely low permeability and anisotropy), the application and interpretation of pressure transient testing in single and multiple wells in coal seam gas reservoirs will be investigated by using finite element computational code PANDAS. This project will provide a more reliable pressure transient testing for better understanding and characterising coal seam gas reservoirs.|
|Numerical simulation of hydraulic fracturing in unconventional reservoirs: Quanshu Li's PhD research will apply the finite element method to unconventional reservoirs to better understand the hydraulic fracturing process. Reservoir properties such as Young's modulus, Poisson's ratio, permeability, porosity, tensile strength, shear strength and interburden structure will be investigated.|
|Adaptive Mesh Refinement for Geophysical Inversion: Geophysical inversion is an optimization problem subject to partial differential equation (PDE) constraints. These constraints can be efficiently approximated using standard PDE discretization methods, which in many cases, require the refinement of mesh at some locations. Usually, the locations for refinement are unknown before the inversion, or are moved during the inversion. Zhi Li's PhD research aims to develop a mechanism to determine where to carry out the refinement by automatically and independently modifying the computational mesh. In order to implement refinement adaptively, this project will design a suitable posteriori error estimation and efficient data structure to facilitate mesh refinement and mesh coarsening.|
|Quantifying the risk of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing in coal seam gas operations in Australia: Concern for impacts to groundwater resources due to coal seam gas operations has led to heated debate in the community. Sanjib Mondal's research aims to assess the risk to groundwater contamination from fracking in coal seam gas operations. It is critical that naturally occurring compounds in the coal seam and injected compounds are not mobilised to aquifers topped by water bores. This project will build accurate, site-specific, dynamic numerical models of the hydraulic-fracturing process in coal seam gas operations. This will enable prediction of the maximum vertical extent of stimulated fractures in specific coal seams and will help establish criteria for when and where fracking in coal seam gas wells is safe in relation to groundwater contamination. Image: Predicting fracture patterns using 3D simulations (Wang et al 2014 International Journal of Solids and Structures).|
|Core analysis and pulsed arc electrohydraulic discharge (PAED) of coal seam interburden: Fei Ren's PhD project will develop and validate an alternative stimulation method to replace conventional fracturing techniques (such as hydraulic fracturing) to crack the thick but malleable mudstone layers without importing any outside chemical fluids into the subsurface and improve gas recovery from the coalbed methane (CBM) wells. Considering the existing number of resources and facilities from the CBM industry, if the new technical stimulation technique is feasible, the outcomes of this project can be a promising economic and environmental achievement to unlock the added value of Australia’s coal seam basins.|
|Improvement in Pre-stack seismic data processing in Coal Seam Gas: Seismic anisotropy is a seismological term that describes how seismic wave velocity changes with distance or angle, and is a major aspect in seismic data processing. The causes of seismic anisotropy are many and complex and depend on the geology and nature of the depositional environment. Fractures (like in coal seam beds), fluid, hydrocarbon, facies or lithological changes could be one of the many causes of seismic anisotropy. Mohamed Sedek's research involves developing a new automatic method to model the various factors influencing seismic anisotropy to improve the quality of the seismic data.|
|Finite Element Modelling of Fault Friction Instability: Recent research has pointed out that earthquakes must be the result of stick–slip frictional instabilities along pre-existing fault or plate interfaces. In addition, many laboratory experiments have shown that frictional sliding between rock surfaces result in shallow depth earthquakes. Yu-Hsuan Tu's PhD research will investigate earthquake processes by applying rate- and state-dependent friction laws in an advanced finite element modelling algorithm to solve non-linear contact surface problems between two deformable bodies. Once we have a complete understanding of geometry-causing friction instability, it will help us to further investigate earthquake development.|
|Process modelling of gravity flow systems in deep water: Li (Ada) Wan's project aims to model the material transport process from the continental shelf, to slope, to abyssal plain. Factors that will be considered include turbidity currents (sediment plunging and submarine landslide), transportation (channel natural levee complex or canyon) and sedimentation at the end (submarine fan). The sequence from slide, slump, and debris flow to turbidity flow will be mimicked to show the architecture of deep water systems in 3-D models at multiple scales.|
|Estimating Thomsen Parameters from Thin Coal Seam Targets via Seismic Velocity Analysis Methods: Hamish Wilson's PhD project aims to apply a customized work flow to obtain estimates of Anisotropy from Seismic P-wave data that contains coal seam gas reserves. Anisotropy or Thomsen’s parameters serve as a key ingredient in the refinement of anisotropy models produced from anisotropic seismic data processing. Accurate models are required in seismic processing to produce a final image of the subsurface that is well focused and void of miss-ties. A poor final image can lead to the erroneous identification of well targets due to miss-guided interpretation on insufficiently processed seismic data. It is expected that implementing a customized work flow employing an array of current estimation techniques will serve to improve the robustness of estimating anisotropic parameters necessary for velocity modelling and subsequent depth imaging.|
|Supercomputer modelling of multiphase dynamics at Pore Scale for quantitatively analysing and predicting dynamic transport behaviours in Coal Seams: In coal seam gas (CSG) reservoirs, the hydraulic conductivity of the connected pore space is governed by two-phase flow patterns under the combined influence of microstructure and interfacial tension. The conventional knowledge and techniques for dual phase/multiphase flow modelling carried out at the macro-scale have significant limitations in coal seam gas flow analysis and can yield variable results for CSG process design and production. Jie Yi's PhD project aims to improve our understanding of coal gas-water two-phase flow dynamic behaviour in complex coal seams at the micro-pore scale to improve the efficiency of CSG exploitation through predictable numerical simulations on advanced supercomputers.|
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