Image of a hydraulic head distribution in the Plover aquifer system of the Vulcan sub-basin

Hydraulic head distribution in the Plover aquifer system, Vulcan sub-basin

Petroleum hydrogeology reveals oil leakage from traps

CSIRO’s team of hydrogeologists have developed techniques to help solve problems in Australia’s oil industry and identify safe storage options to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

  • 30 November 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011


In the field of hydrogeology, most scientists work on shallow water resources, groundwater contamination and soil salinity problems. 

CSIRO has developed a team of hydrogeologists that have adapted special techniques for understanding hydrodynamic processes of the deep subsurface where oil and gas is generated and trapped and where CO2 can be safely stored for thousands of years.

This unique application of expertise helps geologists and engineers to understand why some hydrocarbon traps have leaked their oil while others have retained oil fields for millions of years.


When an oil company starts producing oil and gas from a deep reservoir, only a portion of the oil can be extracted, leaving the remainder in the pore space of the rocks. 

CSIRO petroleum hydrogeologists study new ways that we can improve the percentage of oil that can be extracted from a reservoir. 

CSIRO uses this knowledge to provide services to the oil and gas industry to help understand:

CSIRO has a team of hydrogeologists who have developed enabling technologies for understanding hydrodynamic processes of the deep subsurface.
  • oil migration and trapping
  • compartmentalisation of hydrocarbon deposits on production
  • the effects of aquifer pressure depletion
  • to evaluate geological sequestration of CO2.


Improvement in oil recovery could greatly reduce the need to find new hydrocarbon fields.

By understanding geological conditions that have retained hydrocarbons for millions of years we can then identify deep geological structures that are capable to safely store CO2 for long periods of time. 

Deep underground storage of CO2 in abandoned oil fields not only provides an alternative to atmospheric emission, but also provides and opportunity to increase oil production.

Learn more about CSIRO's work in Energy from Oil & Gas.