Applications for this PhD have now closed.
Location University of Queensland, School of Chemical Engineering
App. deadline 15/11/2017
  • Scholarship available
Eligibility Australian residents only

PhD scholarships in Chemical Engineering on Coal Seam Gas

Extraction of coal seam gas (CSG) is now a multi-billion dollar export industry, providing jobs and revenue for many decades. Technologies for increasing the permeability of coal have become necessary for commercially viable CSG extraction in Australia.  Currently available methods arise from the conventional gas industry, are problematic for coal, and fail to capitalise on coal’s existing fracture network.  This project aims to develop a range of new technologies that are tailored to the properties of the coal, avoid environmental impact, and achieve enhanced and sustained gas production.  These technologies are expected to assist the growth of Australia’s CSG industry into a reliable and cost-competitive supplier. 

The University of Queensland (UQ) has a strong and internationally-focussed research culture, and is currently ranked in the top 1% of world universities in three widely-publicised international University ranking systems. This project will reside in the Centre for Coal Seam Gas and Schools of Chemical Engineering and Earth Sciences. The project brings together Dr Karen Steel, Prof Anh Nguyen and Prof Joan Esterle as Chief Investigators who all have extensive experience in strategic coal science research focused on gaining mechanistic understanding in a variety of coal utilisation

scenarios, and have considerable experience working with and delivering to industry partners. The industry partners for the project are QGC, Santos, Arrow Energy and APLNG.

The PhD candidates on this project will work closely with Dr Steel, Prof Nguyen, Prof Esterle and a postdoctoral research fellow, Dr Reydick Balucan. They will use our in-house permeability rigs to study a number of different stimulation treatments applied to coal cores with a view to identifying the most effective in terms of increasing permeability and developing an understanding of the fundamental physical/chemical mechanisms giving rise to permeability changes.  One project will be focused on relating those mechanisms back to the coal properties readily obtained by industry so that the new technologies being developed can be tailored to different coal types.  Another project will be focused on developing our advanced characterisation methods using micro-CT analysis to gain new insights into the properties of the coal that are dictating the permeability measures obtained.  

The PhD candidates will play an active role in the presentation and dissemination of research results to both the industry partners and the wider scientific and industrial communities both in Australia and overseas. The multi-disciplinary nature of this research means that the candidate will develop a wide variety of new skills.

These projects are suited to students with an undergraduate degree in the fields of Chemical, Petroleum or Mechanical Engineering, or related discipline, or in Geology, Earth Sciences or Chemistry. The requirements around micro-CT analysis also makes this project suitable for a student with a degree in applied Mathematics, or related discipline.  Students should have a strong interest in the development of new technologies for industry.  It is preferred that candidates have or are expected to obtain Honours class I or IIA. 

To discuss this role please contact Dr Karen Steel on +61 7 33653977 or

To submit an application for this role please send a cover letter and CV to Dr Karen Steel via email ( with “CSG PhD Scholarship” in the subject box.

Domestic applicants are encouraged to apply by September 8 to allow additional consideration for a UQ Graduate School Scholarship.  Beyond this, submissions from both domestic and international students should be made no later than November 15, 2017.

Please Note: Should this listing mention details of an available scholarship, it is your responsibility to confirm the specifics with the university / institute prior to applyiing. Terms and conditions are in some cases subject to change and are not always reflected immediately within listings.

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Further Information / Application Enquiries

Dr Karen Steel