Australian Academy of Science medal for geotechnical engineer Dr Samintha Perera

5 minute read

Portrait of Samintha Perera in the lab

Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering Dr Samintha Perera has been awarded the Australian Academy of Sciences 2022 Dorothy Hill Medal for early career researchers.

Dr Perera was recognised for advancing our understanding of complications that can occur when we attempt to reduce greenhouse emissions through geo-storage of carbon dioxide in coal seams.

Watch a short video to learn more about Dr Perera's research

Australia’s per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are among the world’s highest, and the recent flood, drought and bushfire crises clearly illustrate our vulnerability to increases in greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting changes to climate.

Although carbon dioxide geo-storage in deep coal seams can play a vital role in emission reduction, at such depths (one kilometre or more underground), CO2 is converted into a highly chemically reactive “supercritical CO2 (scCO2)”. This can cause unpredictable CO2 flow behaviours in coal seams, and even cause the gases that have been stored to leak back into the atmosphere.

Dr Perera discovered the unique interaction between the coal mass and scCO2 and the resulting impacts on underground applications.

According to her findings, all these unique scCO2 behaviours in coal seams are caused by the significant coal matrix swelling, caused by the interaction of coal and scCO2.

She found that scCO2 could still be effective as a fracking fluid for coal reservoirs.

The Dorothy Hill Medal honours the contributions of the late Professor Dorothy Hill AC CBE FAA FRS to Australian Earth science and her work in opening up tertiary science education to women. Professor Hill became Australia's first woman professor in 1959 when she became Professor of Geology at the University of Queensland.

The award supports research in the Earth sciences, by women researchers up to 10 years post PhD in the calendar year of nomination.

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