School of Mechanical & Mining Engineering

31/07/2020 - 14:03

As the world transitions to low-carbon energy production methods, with natural gas as a key player, researchers from the University of Queensland are working to understand the complex processes associated with the extraction of this critical resource.

Dr Christopher Leonardi and Dr Travis Mitchell have used computational simulations of multiphase fluid systems to develop improved models, in a move that could increase both efficiency and sustainability of the production of natural gas.

The new models show how bubbles move around the pipes used in natural gas wells, providing new insight on the complex fluid mechanics at play.

Dr Mitchell said multiphase flows (where more than one fluid passes through a region of flow) were found everywhere in nature, like in the formation of clouds in the sky or waves in the ocean, and are of critical importance in many engineering applications ranging from biomedical flows, like in the spread of droplets from a sneeze, through to the efficient recovery of natural resources.

Travis Mitchell

“By having a better understanding of how these multiphase flows work, we can improve the monitoring and management of natural gas production for coals seams, and in the future, this will assist with modelling of the reservoir and gathering network, as well,” said Dr Mitchell.

Dr Leonardi said the most exciting thing about this research is that it opens up broader possibilities for future research in the field.

“Experimental investigation of wellbore flows is expensive, time-consuming and inflexible,” said Dr Leonardi.

“The development of a robust computational alternative means we can investigate flow conditions that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

“This allows us to rapidly prototype predictive numerical models, and quickly translate our findings to decision making in the field.”

This research was recently published in the prestigious journal Physics of Fluids and acknowledged as a significant contribution to the field by the journal’s editor.

Pictured: An elongated (Taylor) bubble rising through a simplified natural gas well with the development of a trailing liquid slug.