Geothermal, reservoir engineering and environmental fluids

Research, teaching and consultation expertise in geothermal energy activities, especially the numerical simulation of geothermal reservoirs.

A major focus of this group is carrying out research, teaching and consulting activities related to geothermal energy, with a particular focus on the numerical simulation of geothermal reservoirs. We also actively research petroleum reservoir engineering, coal bed methane extraction and carbon sequestration, and our environmental fluid research activities include computer modelling of tidal flows and the dispersal of pollutants in rivers and estuaries.

Research areas

  • Geothermal modelling
    • Simulation of the Wairakei-Tauhara, Mokai, Ohaaki and Ngawha reservoirs
    • Modeling of supercritical geothermal flows
    • MCMC methods for model calibration
    • Large-scale geothermal convection
    • Subsidence in geothermal fields
  • Geothermal engineering
    • Two-phase flow in geothermal pipelines
    • Two-phase orifice plates
    • Power station design and optimisation
    • Automated analysis of geothermal well tests
    • Direct use of geothermal energy
  • Environmental fluids modelling
    • Tidal flow modelling
    • Simulation of pollutant dispersal in rivers, estuaries and coastal environments
    • Simulation of fish egg/larvae dispersal
  • Petroleum reservoir engineering
  • Coal bed methane (CBM) production

Geothermal computing tools

Our simulations are run on several geothermal packages developed at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and at the University of Auckland.

The main package used is AUTOUGH2, which is based on TOUGH2, developed by Karsten Pruess at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories. Visualisation of the results are handled by the locally developed MULGRAPH package, as well as the open-source Paraview package. Mesh generation is performed using the locally developed MULGEOM.

We also use the package AUITOUGH2 which is based on ITOUGH2 developed by Stefan Finsterle at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. ITOUGH2 performs inverse modelling, or parameter optimisation by running a series of TOUGH2 models.


AUTOUGH2 is a a modification of the TOUGH2 (Transport Of Unsaturated Groundwater and Heat) simulator developed at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories. AUTOUGH2 contains some enhanced features for modelling geothermal reservoirs.


AUITOUGH2 is an inverse modelling package for the AUTOUGH2 simulator, in the same way that ITOUGH2 carries out inverse modelling on TOUGH2 models. It is used to estimate the values of unknown parameters of AUTOUGH2 models, by matching model results with field observations using non-linear optimisation.


MULGEOM is a graphical pre-processor for the AUTOUGH2 package. It is used for preparing AUTOUGH2 model grids.

Like MULgraph, MULGEOM was originally written for a different platform and later ported to MS Windows, so its user interface is non-standard.


MULgraph is a graphical interface for viewing the results of TOUGH2 and AUTOUGH2 models. It also has tools for creating AUTOUGH2 data files.

MULgraph was originally written in the late 1980s for the DEC VAX, and was subsequently ported to MS Windows. As a result, the interface is somewhat unfamiliar and not as user-friendly as a native application.

More recently, we have also started to use the Paraview open-source 3D visualisation package for visualising AUTOUGH2 models and results.

Our people

  • Professor Mike O'Sullivan: Computer modelling of geothermal fields, environmental fluid dynamics, computational fluids dynamics
  • Dr John O'Sullivan: Computational fluid dynamics, modelling geothermal systems including inverse modelling and uncertainty quantification, turbulence modelling, modelling wind flow
  • Dr Adrian Croucher: Geothermal reservoir modelling, rivers, estuaries and coastal environments (hydrodynamic and contaminant transport modelling, simulation of egg/larvae dispersal)
  • Dr Sadiq Zarrouk: Geothermal engineering (two flow, scaling, power production & direct use), reservoir engineering (geothermal & coalbed methane), modelling reacting flows in porous and fractured media

PhD students

  • Hafeza Abu Bakar: Reservoir characterisation and computer Simulation of Wastewater reinjection with reference to coal bed methane (CBM)
  • Emily Clearwater: Interaction between the deep and shallow zones in geothermal systems
    Ariel Vidal: Geostatistical models in well testing analysis for geothermal reservoirs, a data uncertainty approach
  • Jem Austria: Dual porosity numerical models of geothermal reservoirs
  • Jongchan Kim: THM geothermal modeling to predict potential man-made disasters in geothermal field
  • Charlie Zhang: Enhanced coalbed methane (ECBM) recovery using gas injection