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Scholarship details

2023 HDR Curtin round - Analysis of the Mechanism of the CO2-Injection Induced Seismicity through Theoretical Modelling and Laboratory Measurements

Status: Closed

Applications open: 8/07/2022
Applications close: 18/08/2022

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About this scholarship

The rapid rise in greenhouse gases (i.e., CO2) from burning hydrocarbons is a global problem resulting in rising average temperatures and extreme weather events. Therefore, it is of vital importance to mitigate the CO2 emission in the coming years to support the energy transition. One option to reduce the parasitic CO2 emissions from hydrocarbon production is to inject significant quantities of CO2 into the subsurface, reducing overall CO2 emissions.  

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in academia and industry in CO2 offset into saline aquifers as supercritical CO2. However, one of the main concerns is the storage integrity after CO2 is injected into saline aquifers. To address this concern, the fundamental question we ask is that: when CO2 plume approaches the faults and fractures, can CO2-brine-rock interactions reactivate the factures and/or faults without much impact from pressure variation? 

Recent published work (by Centre for Exploration Geophysics at Curtin University) detected small seismic events at one of the faults in Otway Project (Victoria, Australia) after 15,000 tonnes of CO2 was injected with 0.15Mpa pressure. This so-called microseismic activity appears to be associated with the arrival of the CO2 saturation front to the fault location. We hypothesize that CO2-brine-rock interactions likely decrease the surface energy of the micro-features/fractures (i.e., cracks and flaws), which are distributed at the fault surfaces, and thus leads to reduction of the critical energy release rate of these micro-features. Consequently, this process causes the reactivation of a small fault patch where CO2 flowed through the fault. 
This project aims to test this hypothesis through a combination of experimental, analytical and numerical approaches with the focus on reservoir rock-fluids interactions on micro-scale fracture mechanics during CO2 plume migration. To test the hypothesis, the project aims to achieve the following three objectives:

i. Characterization of CO2-brine-rock geochemical processes, and development of a mathematical model to relate the surface potential with surface energy, and critical energy release rate of cracks with various minerals (i.e., edge-charged and basal-charged minerals).
ii. Quantification of the reservoir rock-fluids interactions with CO2 on fracture mechanics through nano-indentation and triaxial stress tests with micro-seismic monitoring. 
iii. Development of a framework/roadmap to quantify the reservoir rock-fluids interactions on fracture mechanics for the risk assessment of CO2 storage integrity. 

To achieve the above-mentioned objectives, a combination of the experimental, analytical and numerical modelling will be carried out. Geological screening will be conducted by using extensive public domain seismic and well data bases available from the North West Shelf and Otway Project (Victoria, Australia).  The outcomes of this project will be new theory and methods for de-risk the CO2 geological storage. This project will contribute to global efforts on carbon dioxide offset in the subsurface by developing a first principles-based hydro-, chemo- and mechanical-physics models. This project will enable geo-energy companies to lock CO2 permanently in subsurface. 

An Internship opportunity may also be available with this project.

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Science & Engineering
    • Science courses
    • Engineering courses
    • Western Australian School of Mines (WASM)
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • International Student
  • Merit Based

The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.


Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships, valued at approx. $28,800 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years, are determined via a competitive selection process. Applicants will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2022. 


For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

• Applicants from top universities with very high GPA.
• Have publication track-record in peer-reviewed Q1 journals.
• Have valid TOEFL or IELTS certificates.
• First degree in Petroleum Engineering/Chemical Engineering/Mechanical Engineering/Mining Engineering. 

Application process

If this project excites you, and your research skills and experience are a good fit for this specific project, you should contact the Project Lead (listed below in the enquires section) via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2023


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead, Dr Sam Xie via the EOI form above.

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