2 November 2011

The University of Queensland is establishing a centre of excellence within the Sustainable Minerals Institute for research and education focused on coal seam gas.

The Centre for Coal Seam Gas aims to be the pre-eminent global authority on vital issues relating to CSG.

“The new centre, backed by the UQ’s global research capabilities, will undertake critical research that will drive sustainable practice in this emerging industry, and bring the scientific rigour and data that have been lacking to date to the social, environmental and technical challenges the industry faces," SMI Director Professor Chris Moran said.

“The Sustainable Minerals Institute appreciates there is a degree of public anxiety around CSG, as highlighted by independent MP Tony Windsor’s call to use some proceeds from Minerals Resource Rent Tax for more research on this energy source.

“We believe the best way to address this issue is by establishing a centre that, after two years of planning, has an agreed governance structure that will facilitate strategic priority setting and cutting edge research activities that deal with the common issues across community, industry and government.”

UQ will partly fund the new centre, with the SMI actively seeking funding from industry and the Commonwealth and state governments.

“Since the institute’s inception in 2001, we have worked closely with industry, and we envisage their strong involvement in the new centre," Professor Moran said.

"Governments will benefit from having a dedicated centre on CSG offering research that will help to underpin government policy.

“This is consistent with government and societal demands since the late 1980’s on Australian researchers to produce results assisting with decisions on issues of national significance. This issue deals with Australia participating in a major way to the necessary global shift to a less carbon-intensive future without compromising our environment.

“In line with this, and at the request of the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Martin Ferguson, we are writing to the Minister stating our case for the need for more Federal Government involvement.”

Professor Moran said the Centre for Coal Seam Gas represents a fresh direction for the Sustainable Minerals Institute by focusing, for the first time, on a single commodity.

“We want to create new knowledge and capability for the growing Australian CSG sector to ensure it operates in a way that benefits all parties – the community, government and industry," he said.

"The critical mass of expertise created by the centre, and the value and relevance of the expected research outputs for the CSG industry worldwide, will help to attract high-class international expertise. This will add to the centre’s capacity to meet the rapidly increasing demand for scientific research into CSG.”

UQ is offering five new professional chairs to develop research programs and provide leadership for research staff and postgraduate students. One professor will lead the centre and the other chairs will focus on the treatment and utilisation of coal seam water, social and community performance, geoscience and petroleum engineering.

Professor Graham Schaffer, Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, said education will also play a significant role at the centre.

“There is a need for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate courses in all aspects related to the expanding CSG industry. In the technical fields there is demand for petroleum engineering courses that have a focus on the unique aspects of CSG," Professor Schaffer said.

“Such courses need to be constantly updated and informed by rigorous scientific research, and so the centre is the ideal vehicle to develop and deliver education relevant to the CSG industry.

“Education will also extend to continuing professional development. Short courses will be offered on topics required by the industry to up-skill the existing workforce and to introduce new professionals to the industry.

“The centre will also actively seek additional expertise in collaborative research and postgraduate opportunities with other Australian and international research institutions and universities. This includes a new Masters in Petroleum Engineering that will be offered in partnership with Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.”

Media: Kelly Tomlinson (07 3346 4004, 0466 746 680, k.tomlinson1@uq.edu.au)