An ECR in Melbourne, Australia

This blog was written by Alexandra Maskell from the University of Cambridge who received funding from the ECR International Exchange Fund to spend 3 months in Melbourne, Australia

Now in the final year of my PhD and needing to escape the realities of thesis writing in the depths of northern hemisphere winter, I ventured to one of the world’s most liveable cities, Melbourne, to continue and make more successful collaborations that were forged from my first visit in 2013 with the ECR International Exchange Fund grant.

With a clear research plan in mind on the 2nd of February I left the cold grey skies of the UK and arrived in a blissfully sunny and warm Melbourne. My time was to be split with 2/3 spent out of the city at CSIRO and 1/3 at the centrally located University of Melbourne. After a quick back of the envelope calculation I concluded it was cheaper, healthier and took about the same time to commute by bicycle than by public transport, so my first stop in Melbourne was to acquire a trusty steed and helmet.

At the University of Melbourne I was fortunate enough to be working with Prof Ralf Haese’s group, with an expertise in geochemistry this was a fantastic opportunity to talk to them about my research on the long-term natural CO2 accumulation at Green River and learn about the interesting and innovative research they are undertaking.

At CSIRO I continued collaboration with Dr Jonathon Ennis-King and Dr Tara La Force, a collaboration which started in Dec 2013 thanks to an ECR travel grant. They are recognised for their extensive experience analysing data from the CO2CRC’s Otway project, including work on reactive transport, tracers (inert and reactive), wellbore thermal effects, field-scale residual saturation and downhole monitoring. Their guidance was invaluable, particularly in relation to the numerical modelling I was undertaking. 

As the kilometres ticked over on my bicycle so did my research. At CSIRO I was using TOUGH2, a non-isothermal numerical code for multiphase flow in fractured porous media, to model the evolution of a gravity flow with an ambient flow field in 2 and 3 dimensions. I then compared these models to tank experiments conducted at DAMTP, University of Cambridge and to the geochemistry of downhole samples collected at the Green River naturally leaking CO2 accumulation. When at the University of Melbourne I was quantifying the extent of mixing and fluid-rock reactions occurring in these downhole samples.

With a distance of 1880 km, an elevation gain of 16.7 km and a total of 88 hours on my trusty bicycle, I now end my 3 month visit in Melbourne, and what a fantastic time it has been. I have learnt so much from everyone at The University of Melbourne and CSIRO and will be continuing to collaborate with them with the ambition of publishing a few papers.

For now I am off to Perth to continue writing up my thesis and in a month I will be back in the UK to share what I have learnt while being in Melbourne.

I would like to thank UKCCSRC for this opportunity once again, and strongly encourage other ECRs to apply for the ECR International Exchange Fund.