New Energy Resources Projects Driving National Collaboration

19 April 2018


NERA (National Energy Resources Australia) has approved more than $1.8 million in new project funding that will lead industry collaboration and drive innovation across Australia’s energy resources sector.

Through the industry-led growth centre NERA, the Federal Government will provide the funding to support seven new projects that are backed by oil and gas, coal and uranium sector operators through industry-matched funding.

This latest announcement brings the number of projects NERA is delivering across Australia to 32 and the number of project partners directly involved to more than 80 – a sign of NERA’s ability to foster industry-wide collaboration.

The projects include a revolutionary metal 3D printing technology that will be adapted for remote oil and gas operating environments. The new technique can operate around 1000 times the speed of conventional 3D printing at a fraction of the cost and is an example of directly integrating new technology into the energy resources sector - a key priority area outlined in NERA's Sector Competitiveness Plan, a 10-year strategic roadmap for Australia's energy resources industries.

Other projects to receive funding were selected to deepen understanding of regions including the Great Artesian Basin – one of the world’s largest groundwater resources which stretches across more than 20 per cent of Australia. This – and an additional project centring around the northern Perth Basin - will better inform future resources activities and unlock new pathways to exploration and extraction.

NERA chief executive Miranda Taylor said the new projects support NERA’s goal to lead sector-wide transformational change across Australia’s energy resources sector by developing a smart, high-value, digital and export-focused supply chain.

“Projects that receive NERA funding are selected to deliver results on a national scale and have sector-wide impact, assisting the energy resources sector unlock a potential $10 billion in value that NERA has identified,” Ms Taylor said.

"These projects demonstrate NERA’s role to assist Australia’s energy resources sector maintain its global competitiveness by adapting to the changing global and domestic energy market and accelerating technological change by creating vital opportunities for collaboration and innovation and the improved transfer of knowledge and technology.

“By assisting new resource opportunities come online, these significant initiatives will be critical to maintaining industry productivity and meeting Australia’s future energy needs.

“We are very pleased to see the successful commercialisation of world-class research from Australian universities that is, with the combined support of industry and government, delivering real solutions to the challenges our industry operators are facing today and those they will encounter tomorrow.”

The successful projects will receive co-funding from NERA’s $15.6 million Project Fund, upon the formalising of contracts.

The full recipient list is detailed below:

New 3D printing technology to support remote operating environments (NT)

NERA is collaborating with technology developer SPEE3D, Charles Darwin University and industry partner INPEX to support the development of a new high-speed, low-cost metal 3D printing technology specifically for the oil and gas industry. The technology can operate around 1000 times the speed of conventional metal 3D printing at a fraction of the cost and has the potential to revolutionise industrial activities in remote areas by allowing onsite metal part production. The technology will enable environments to fabricate necessary parts on site and limit costly delays associated with downtimes that can be in the order of tens of millions of dollars. 

Baseline monitoring of the northern Perth Basin (WA)
In partnership with the CSIRO, University of Western Australia (UWA) and industry partners including Australian Worldwide Exploration (AWE) and Whitebark Energy, this project will develop systems to monitor water, soil, atmospheric and seismic conditions to measure the impact of past and future oil and gas activities. From this, a publicly-available scientific database will be established to provide reliable baseline methane data to enable ongoing monitoring. The project will lead to better informed decisions about the use of water resources in the area and provide the community and regulators with the means to make informed decisions about oil and gas activities in the Perth Basin.

Improving our understanding of the Great Artesian Basin (QLD)
This project will increase our understanding of the Great Artesian Basin and how it relates to resource development projects. Led by the University of Queensland, the project will bring together a team of independent reviewers and contributors including Australia Pacific LNG, Santos and Arrow Energy to document the latest work on the Basin aquifers of the Surat Basin. The delivery of an updated peer-reviewed and evidence-based report coupled with a media and public education campaign will increase knowledge of the Basin and enable more efficient and accurate decisions for proposed projects to be made.

Reducing hydrate risk in subsea jumpers (WA)
Jumpers are subsea pipe segments that connect wellheads to larger manifolds and pipelines. However, their unique shape means jumpers are at a high risk of blockage from the growth of ice-like solids (hydrates) which results in a lengthy and costly process to unblock them. Recognising this problem, a UWA-led consortium of international oil and gas partners including Chevron, Total E&P UK, Woodside and OneSubsea, will use an unique Australian test facility to undertake research to deliver the first predictive model to assess when and where hydrate blockages are likely to occur in jumpers. With this new capability, operators can remove a key dimension of uncertainty in designing deep-water subsea systems, unlocking deeper resources to support the next generation of asset development.

Virtual operating environment (WA)
The project will develop and install a novel integrated system to provide early notice of changes in plant operating conditions such as leaks or rotating equipment faults. The system will do this by measuring noise, vibration, temperature and atmospheric pressure and connect to cloud-based processing to analyse and visualise changing conditions. Operators will be alerted to potential operational issues at speed and will boost the efficiencies by transitioning to a more proactive operating environment. The development, led by Quadrant Energy, will bring together local and international technology suppliers including Curtin University Innovation Centre, Flicq, Optika and AWS.

Machine learning-based sub-surface geological model (NSW/QLD)
Together with partners Origin Energy and the University of Sydney, this project will bring together a wide range of information such as exploration, downhole geophysics, drilling, completion and production data into a data fusion model to create a more accurate and reliable information platform on subsurface resources. This will improve asset development planning and risk assessment and expand the capabilities of geologists, geotechnical engineers and field development teams. A predictive (machine-learning based) tool will also enable enhanced understanding of asset net pay, coal continuity, coal gas content and permeability.

Reference cases for seismic activities (Australia-wide)
The project will reduce the assessment burden on exploration companies in terms of cost, timeframes and uncertainty when dealing with new survey activities. It will do this through the preparation and submission of reference case Environment Plans (EPs) for regulatory approval for known petroleum provinces. The ability to leverage from an accepted EP will provide improved certainty for exploration companies to more efficiently mobilise assets and schedule activities around operator requirements. The project has the potential to open up Australia as a destination for offshore exploration activities and already includes a number of consortium members.