School of Chemical Engineering

ENtri is a Research Group associated with the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland, with a focus on developing knowledge and solutions on the often-interdependent Energy & Environment issues.

The Group pursues basic and applied engineering research to solve real industry problems, whilst developing research skills and engineering graduates with the latest knowledge & training.

Why ENtri?

ENtri seeks to engage in work at the intersection of the triad represented by ENergy ENvironment ENgineering, and in the areas of training research & industry.

The advance of civilization has been inextricably connected to the ability of people to harness and use energy. At the same time, energy production has perhaps had the greatest of all human impacts on the environment – upon which a high quality of life inextricably depends.

ENtri adopts a position that the continued provision of energy is not incompatible with a vigorous, healthy and diverse environment.

Its research activities include projects supporting the simultaneous achievement of:

  • clean, affordable, stable and secure energy;
  • continuous improvement in the quality of our air, water and soils;
  • global equality and the requirement to harmonize the interests and activities of individuals, groups and nations, and of human needs with those of nature.

Of course, this requires a multi-disciplinary, multi-national and highly inclusive approach. Projects range from highly detailed scientific discovery, practical energy or environmental applications, through global issues such as climate change.  

The energy demands of the world are increasingly rapidly as a result of burgeoning demand from vast numbers of people in newly developing countries in the short term and population growth in the longer term.  Providing this energy requirement in a sustainable and ecologically acceptable way is one of the major challenges for engineering, both technologically and also because powerful, often self-serving corporate, regional and national interests confuse and politicize the decision making processes.

Most energy currently comes from fossil fuels, but recent concerns about climate change and the affect of anthopogenic activity on global balances have directed research towards finding more sustainable 'green' alternative energy sources, and finding ways to reduce or eliminate the impact of fossil fuel use on the environment.

ENtri has three main focus areas for achieving sustainability in energy supply:

  • energy efficiency
  • renewable, low and no carbon energy sources
  • sequestration (permanent storage) of CO2

ENtri research engages in outcome focused environmental and energy related projects directed towards tangible value addition and benefits through:

  • new, commercially realizable products and processes
  • enhancing the energy and environmental efficiency of existing products and processes
  • optimisation and quality improvement
  • adding value to sponsors activities through improved insight and understanding

Research sponsors funds are extended through access to high-tech infrastructure, University wide expertise, and leveraged against R&D grants, pooling, and other research assistance mechanisms.

We have particular interests in aspects of renewable energies, extended usage of fossil energy through sequestration of CO2, energy efficiency, and the hydrogen economy.  Our work spans experimental, mathematical modeling, simulation, demonstration and practical engineering development across a wide range of areas .  A variety of projects and processes are moving towards investment ready status.

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CO2 fixing

Afforestation

Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide in Deep Coal

Coal based power, while secure in the medium term because of a lack of viable alternatives, faces a continuing defensive public relations position and long term difficulties, related primarily to environmental and climate change arguments against fossil fuels. In fact, the overwhelmingly predominant position of coal for stationary energy provision has arisen because of its preponderance of advantages over all of the alternatives. As the environmental/energy debate achieves higher levels of sophistication and broader community understanding of the negative environmental consequences of alternative (including "green") energy, it seems likely that implementation of these "alternative energy" schemes, in a broad sense, will be slowed. The resulting longer-term reliance on fossil energy mandates that methods be developed to minimize or eliminate environmental difficulties. This would also serve to secure Australia’s commercial interests in coal mining, export, established power plant and all of the associated economic and human activity.

Sequestration of CO2 provides one of the most promising opportunities to manage CO2 emissions from coal burning power stations. Costing studies [Dave et al, 1999] suggest that, even using currently available technologies, largely developed and tailored for other purposes, this will increase the cost of (electrical) power by about a factor of 3, which is still significantly better than the majority of alternative green energy sources, such as solar. Moreover, the costs of carbon management technologies are likely to fall faster than for renewables, for a number of reasons [Hertzog et al, 2000]. Thus, for example, the recent development of high permeability gas membranes, capable of very selectively sieving CO2 and N2 [Da Costa, 2000], offers the promise of significantly reducing the separation component of the added cost, cf current wet scrubbing processes.

The overall aim of this project is to characterize and model the key factors influencing the flow rates of various fluids in bulk coal under realistic deep underground conditions, determine the sequestration capacity and achievable injection rates for CO2 into various candidate coals, and elucidate the key economic issues related to large scale implementation.

The project is supported by a range of Australian and International companies.

Inorganic Carbonates

Inorganic Membranes

Sequestration of CO2 provides one of the most promising opportunities to manage CO2 emissions from coal burning power stations. Costing studies suggest that, even using currently available wet scrubbing technologies, largely developed and tailored for other purposes, this will increase the cost of (electrical) power by about a factor of 3, which (excepting wind) is still significantly better than alternative green energy sources, such as solar. Moreover, the costs of carbon management technologies are likely to fall faster than for renewables, for a number of reasons . Thus, for example, the recent development of high permeability gas membranes, capable of very selectively sieving CO2 and N2, offers the promise of significantly reducing the separation component of the added cost, compared with current wet scrubbing processes.

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Bagasse Gasifier

Bagasse and harvest residues from sugar production have the potential to provide 3400MWe or about 60% of the electrical power requirement for the State of Queensland, and to deliver a reduction of 16.5Mt/y or almost 10% of the CO2 emissions from all of Australia.  Detailed economic modelling shows that BIGCC power plant is competitive with coal based power, when renewable energy credits are included.

Two major enabling technologies have been completed, namely new cane cleaning and trash separation to recover residues at the mills and an additional 10% of the cane billets currently lost in in-field harvester separation; and the development of a pressurized bagasse feeder. A commercial scale version of the cane cleaner is being built at one of the sugar mills in NSW.

The next stage is the development of a process design and specification package for a 5MWe demonstration plant, for tendering purposes, preceding a further rigorous capital cost estimate and detailed engineering design.

The project is supported through QBIG by Stanwell Corporation Ltd and by the Office of Energy of the Queensland State Government.  The research and development providers are the Sugar Research Institute and U Queensland.

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Coal Seam Methane

The ENtri Group has performed leading-edge research into the dynamic, 4-dimensional properties of underground coal's key transport property, namely permeability. Dr Paul Massarotto of ENtri developed the world's first True Triaxial Stress Coal Permeameter, capable of testing coal at in-situ conditions of pressure and stress, equal to some 1.4km of lithostatic overburden (28MPa). The recent research results have provided key insights into newly-identified behaviour of coal permeability- that directional stresses have a strong impact on directional permeability- as well as corroborating scarce research conclusions as to the anisotropic character of coal permeability and to desorption-induced permeability enhancement. Preliminary insights were also gathered in the scale-up issues of extrapolating laboratory data to field conditions.

The Group is currently focussing on deriving state-of-the-art fluid transport models for in-situ coal and deriving experimental insights into the complex multi-fluid CO2/CH4/water system for sequestration of CO2 in deep or unmineable coal seams.

A future project is planned at investigating the stress-induced extra adsorption of CH4 and how this would modify the current use of unstressed sorption isotherms.

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Biodiesel Process Development

Liquid fuels present very attractive energy resources because of the ease of handling and very high energy density.  Because of these features and the easy and cheap availability of oil, transportation and to a lesser extent power generation have a high degree of dependence on this fossil based energy.  One of the few opportunities for significant substitution of liquid fossil fuels by renewable energy resources is through biodiesel.  Its appeal lies in its environmental attraction, being renewable, biodegradable, non-toxic and having lower emission profiles than fossil diesel.

Biodiesel is a clean-burning fuel usually made from soybean, rapeseed and other vegetable oils reacted with alcohol.  In recent years it has gained widespread acceptance in many countries as a sustainable alternative transport fuel compared with fossil/mineral oil derived diesel.  In most cases it is used as a blend with conventional diesel, mainly because of insufficient supply and inherent consumer conservatism.  The major problems that continue to deter greater take-up of biodiesel relate to cost of production, quality of the fuel product and availability.  In order to keep costs competitive production has concentrated on using primitive equipment and over simplistic and poorly controlled processes  with inadequate quality control.

This project is particularly directed at using poor quality beef tallow as the feedstock with ethanol as the reactant.  The tallow is a waste material presenting a difficult disposal problem, at the same time providing a very low cost feedstock for upgrading to a valuable energy resource.  The tallow has high free fatty acids and some water, and the ethanol is most desirably 75% quality (i.e. contains 25% water) being locally the most economical.  The process will be continuous with the novel feature of using a solid catalyst contained within a plug-flow packed bed reactor.  Conceptually, this form of reactor is well known and widely deployed in the chemical process industries, but is not reported as applied to biodiesel production. 

The project is supported by Stanwell Corporation Ltd.

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Mini-Methanol Plant

The project has been supported by the Queensland Energy Innovation Fund (QSIEF)

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Sludge

Drying of waste materials

CONFIDENTIAL - Patents pending

The project is in collaboration with Ecole de Mines d'Albi, Energy-Environment Center and Unicamp

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Academic International Collaborations
  • CRIEPI collaboration relates to remediation of sodic/saline land using FGD gypsum combined with afforestation for CO2 sequestration.
  • The Energy-Environment Centre at EMAC is pre-eminent in sludge research, and it is in the area of sludge and waste drying that we collaborate.  
  • The Illinois State Geological Survey and ENtri have joint research activities in the area of enhanced csm combined with CO2 sequestration in deep coal.
  • Collaboration with TUAT includes the applications, benefits and limitations of using Discrete Element Modelling of particulate system behaviour.  

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Industry Collaborations

ENtri seeks to add value to the sponsors activities commercial by provision of strategically and tactically directed RD&C.

Through access to the very substantial research, analytical and other infrastructure of a major research  University, funding leverage through grants and other schemes, tax concessions, and pooling, ENtri provides highly cost effective and focused, expert RD&C. 

ENtri accepts contract or commissioned research, testing, process and product development, and consulting on long or short term basis, confidential or highly visible.

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Associated Groups

ENtri is associated with:

Postdoc Fellowships
  • There are currently no positions available.
PhD Scholarships
  • There are currently no open PhD scholarships.