As the world's demand for oil and gas outstrips supply, many parts of the world - including Australia - are turning to energy sources that are more polluting than conventional oil and gas fields. Tar sands, coal-fired electricity and coal gasification are examples of this trend.
Since oil and gas are very convenient and portable fuels, it will be many decades before suitable alternatives are found in all applications.
It is therefore important to find the most efficient and cleanest methods for the extraction of oil and gas, to minimise the need for the dirtier alternatives. The industry has developed numerous sophisticated techniques that has enabled them to return to mothballed oil and gas fields and produce large amounts of relatively clean energy. One important modern technique is the injection of carbon dioxide to maintain pressures and force the oil out, which has the additional benefit of reducing carbon emissions.
The Department of Applied Mathematics, Research School of Physics and Engineering, at ANU has been working for a decade with many of the largest petroleum companies in the world to better understand the underlying science and help in the development of new techniques for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of oil and gas extraction.