New funding for CSG water research

UNIVERSITY of Queensland researchers have won funding to investigate a key element that could compromise the life of LNG operators’ desalination plants, and help other related technologies globally.
New funding for CSG water research New funding for CSG water research New funding for CSG water research New funding for CSG water research New funding for CSG water research

Dr Steven Pratt.

 
The project, a collaboration with Australia Pacific LNG, Gladstone LNG operator Santos and Shell, is one of four resource sector innovation projects being backed by the Australian Research Council to the tune of $1.875 million.
 
The government changed its selection process for the Linkage Projects scheme, a key initiative of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
 
The Linkage funding was part of the federal government's response to the country's "appalling" reputation internationally for collaboration between industry and higher education research, where Australia ranks last out of all 33 OECD nations for collaboration. 
 
Under the previous selection process, researchers and their partners submitted proposals once a year then waited up to nine months for the announcement of funding outcomes. 
 
The grants announced yesterday were approved in less than half that time. 
 
"The changes we've made to the way these research projects are assessed means outcomes are announced sooner and researchers and businesses can collaborate as the opportunities arise," Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said yesterday.
 
UQ won three of four grants from the council.
It two other grants to UQ were $550,000 to achieve more efficient and economic mineral separation and metal extraction in collaboration with Newcrest Mining, Vega Industries and Sierra Gorda SCM; and $195,000 for a project with BHP Billiton to provide fundamental technical information on the behaviour of different iron ores.
 
The final grant was for $675,000 to the University of Wollongong to study rail track stability, in collaboration with Infra Tech, Geoharbour Group, Coffey Geotechnics, SMEC Australia and the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation.
 
"It's clear the projects the University of Queensland will work on with Santos, BHP, Newcrest and a range of others have enormous potential benefits for the mining industry in the Sunshine State and across the country and I'm pleased we've been able to inject funding for that research so quickly," Birmingham said.
 
UQ's Dr Steven Pratt told Energy News that his research was aimed at improving the performance of CSG desalination plants, which can be compromised by silica and other compounds.
 
"We're trying to understand how that comes out as solution and how and why it sticks to certain surfaces," he said.
 
Operators are required to remove salt from the produced CSG water, and do so through a well-understood conventional desalination process that was developed to treat seawater.
 
Dr Pratt said the desalination plants already do an excellent job in producing clean water, "but if you invest in that infrastructure you want to ensure it operates as efficiently as possible".
 
He said that while his research could result in higher recovery rates for water the focus is on improving throughput of the desalination circuit before compounds produced with the CSG-associated water clog up the membranes.
 
Improving the operation of the infrastructure in the Surat-Bowen basin fields could have flow-on benefits before the gas is compressed and sent to Curtis Island for liquefaction.
 
"This would be the case not just for CSG development, but for any kind of desalination around the world for managing sea water or groundwater where there can be a high silica content - one of the scaling compounds we're interested in - or silica-based material," Dr Pratt said.
 
"When this compound is concentrated as it would be in any desalination plant it can come out as solution and adhere to surfaces. The more we understand about that it means we can run the plant longer and more smoothly without that material coming out and needing to be removed off surfaces.
 
"This is an extra cost to the operator. The risks of not understanding this is that they run the plants conservatively to protect against this problem and then you're not treating as much water as you could if you understand the chemistry."
 
The project is also being undertaken in collaboration with a small water membrane company in Queensland called Water Futures, experts from which have PhDs from UQ.
 
Dr Pratt's team earlier won ARC for a small three-year project trying to understand the presence of silica in the water.
 
The new funding is for three years, and the project is due to start mid-2017.