An engineering PhD student from The University of Western Australia with an interest in developing environmentally friendly oil and gas drilling processes has been globally recognised as one of the top 15 young engineering professionals in the petroleum engineering industry.
Wai Li from UWA’s Department of Chemical Engineering was listed as a 2020 “Energy Influencer” in The Way Ahead published by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, an industry body that operates globally to improve the sustainability and safety of the oil and gas community.
Mr Li, who has published more than 20 technical papers and holds three Chinese patents said the Energy Influencer list represented a great way to share success stories among young engineering professionals.
“I am very proud to have been acknowledged by the TWA Editorial Committee as the only Energy Influencer recipient studying in Australia from a large number of international applicants,” Mr Li said.
“I feel honoured to be mentioned in the same publication as many other outstanding researchers, some of whom are very well known amongst industry and academic groups.”
Mr Li’s research focuses on developing environmentally friendly drilling fluids for petroleum engineering uses and creating mathematical models to describe the transport of oil and gas in reservoirs.
“The use of traditional work fluids for oil and gas well construction are becoming unsustainable as governments begin to strengthen environmental laws and regulations,” Mr Li said.
“Innovative fluids based on new chemical science are urgently needed to ensure oil and gas contractors can meet their business objectives in the most economic and efficient way possible, while remaining conscious of the environment.”
After graduating with a double degree in applied chemistry and petroleum engineering, Mr Li worked as an engineer for a year and noticed that there was a considerable gap between scientific knowledge and practical application in the field.
“A lot of theoretical concepts worked well in laboratory tests but failed to have any positive effect when put to use in real-world situations,” Mr Li said.
“When I saw the challenges that current systems of petroleum science face and the need to improve technology, this inspired me to return to university and conduct research and experimental study.
“I believe that my achievements including scientific papers and patents will help strengthen the link between petroleum science and engineering.”
After completing his PhD at UWA, Mr Li intends to pursue an academic career lecturing in petroleum engineering science.