The Minerals and Energy Resources in Australia

The role of the mining and petroleum industries is as crucial as ever due to the combination of Australia’s wealth of resources and the world’s ongoing need for energy.

Australia’s energy industry is undergoing significant change, with multibillion-dollar investments designed to support domestic consumers and pioneer the development of Coal Seam Gas into Liquid Natural Gas.

Ethically and efficiently extracting resources for use is an ongoing challenge for governments and industry across the world. Producing and powering vehicles, machinery, computers and telecommunications devices is critical to society and dependent on an array of energy and minerals.

Mining engineering involves the planning, safety, design, operation, management and sustainability of mines. Mining Engineers are responsible for the safe, economic and environmentally sound extraction of minerals and resources from our precious earth.

Petroleum Engineering

The role of the Petroleum Engineer is also now more important than ever. The world's oil and gas resources provide some of the richest, densest and valuable energy sources available.

Petroleum Engineers are concerned with the exploration, discovery and production of oil and gas wherever they are found - onshore or offshore, in sandstone or limestone, coal or shale.

In addition to developing hydrocarbon energy sources, Petroleum Engineers are also developing technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the production of energy such as Carbon Capture and Storage and Geothermal energy.

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Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a means of reducing emissions from stationary sources of greenhouse gases. These sources include power stations, iron and steel mills, natural gas processing and LNG plants. We have been involved in the researching the economics of CCS and the reservoir engineering of carbon dioxide (CO2) storage sites since 2003.

The School’s CCS research focuses on a number of key areas:

  • CO2 storage as part of enhanced recovery of oil and gas
  • Modelling of CO2 storage in aquifers and depleted oil and gas reservoirs
  • Economic analyses of linking different sources and storage sites
  • The economics of different CO2 injection strategies and improving storage reservoir performance
  • The methodology for estimate CO2 storage capacity
  • Risk analysis of carbon capture and storage projects
  • Support to the CO2CRC Otway and South-West Hub storage demonstration projects.
Coal Seam Gas

Coal Seam Gas (or Coal Bed Methane) is natural gas that is trapped in coal seams by both layers of impermeable rock and pressure. When the pressure in the formation is reduced, the gas can be produced. Major developments in the production of coal seam gas are occurring in Queensland and New South Wales.

For decades, scientists have worked to develop technologies that can unlock the energy from coal while reducing the risks of digging it up and burning it. Now, entirely new industries are booming as they tap into coal seams either too gassy or deep to be mined by conventional methods.

Crude Oil

Crude oil is the general term for fossil fuels that are liquid at room temperature. There is a wide variety of oils some light and runny, while others are dark and viscous.

Oil was first developed to provide a cheaper alternative to whale oil which was used for lighting. It is the invention of the internal combustion engine that has been the greatest beneficiary of the supply of crude oil. The ease of trade and travel around today's world is built on the back of the development of crude oil.

Geothermal Energy

As the demand for energy increases globally, the need for new sources of energy becomes increasingly important. Sustainable forms of energy are a growing priority in the modern world. Geothermal energy uses the heat stored in the Earth to produce sustainable energy.

More than 90 countries in the world have proven Geothermal energy reserves including Australia and New Zealand, both of which have enormous reserves. There has been significant global investment in this resource. The use of these resources has a large overlap with Petroleum Engineering methods including reservoir characterization and drilling methods.

UNSW provides a Master’s degree in Geothermal Engineering on the extraction of geothermal energy and the development of geothermal power systems.

Learn more about the Masters of Geothermal Engineering

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a non-toxic, odourless gas. It is mainly composed of methane but can contain heavier hydrocarbon compounds and is becoming an increasingly important fuel. With high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, this gas is important as it produces less carbon dioxide than coal and oil. Natural gas is transported all over the world through pipelines and, as liquefied natural gas (LNG), in tankers.

Australia's conventional sources of natural gas are found offshore from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria, as well as in the centre of Australia – around Moomba in South Australia and Queensland. In fact, Australia has so much conventional gas that it is a major exporter of liquefied natural gas.

Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is natural gas that has been cooled to -162°C, the point at which gas condenses to a liquid. In its liquid state, LNG is clear with a density about half that of water. This volume reduction permits cost-effective transportation of LNG over long distances.

Shale Resources

Shale gas, like Coal Seam Gas, is one of the new, unconventional sources of gas. Unlike the USA, the shale gas industry in Australia is at an early stage. Australia has been estimated to possess significant quantities of shale gas and companies are currently appraising sites to see whether it can be economically produced.