Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The physics of a gas-powered world

By Science in Public

Eric May has been awarded the 2012 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Fifty years ago, natural gas was usually burnt off because it was too expensive to transport it long distances to customers. Then liquefaction became practical. That made the exploitation of Western Australia’s remote gas reserves possible. The gas can be transported as liquid natural gas (LNG) at 1/600th the volume of the original gas.

Today, Australian LNG is powering the economic transformation of Asia. It’s the cleanest fossil fuel. And Professor Eric May is on a mission to make it cleaner still.

His work links the most accurate measurements of the thermodynamic properties of fluids with producing LNG from Australia’s vast offshore reserves efficiently and safely.

He has been treading the interface between physics and chemical engineering ever since his PhD studies when he invented a patented instrument that uses the techniques of experimental physics to measure the thermodynamic properties of natural gas condensates, which are critical to the engineering of extraction and production facilities.

At present Eric is heavily involved in studies to determine the feasibility of various geosequestration options—such as extracting the CO2 from raw natural gas and reinjecting it back into the gas field. This has a potential double advantage of squeezing out any residual gas and entrapping the CO2 so that it does not add to what is already in the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.