Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence Geotechnical Science and Engineering

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Geotechnical Science and Engineering (CGSE) is pioneering new scientific approaches to geotechnical engineering design to underpin Australia’s energy and transport infrastructure, resulting in increased productivity and sustainability of the nation’s major export industries.

Current initiatives

Over the next five years, approximately $250 billion will be spent on Australia’s roads, railways, offshore oil and gas production facilities, renewable energy facilities, ports, pipelines, tunnels, and mining operations. To guide these billions of dollars of public and private investment, a new body, Infrastructure Australia, has been charged with developing an Infrastructure Priority List. The State and National report cards prepared by Engineers Australia show that our current infrastructure ranks poorly across most categories with the transport sector being seriously deficient (

Through advanced laboratory testing, physical modelling, full-scale field testing and cutting-edge computational simulations, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Geotechnical Science and Engineering (CGSE) is providing engineers with new science-based tools for designing safer and cheaper energy and transport infrastructure. The CGSE has four geotechnical science themes, each of which is linked to advanced computational modelling, state-of-the-art physical modelling and laboratory testing, and engineering applications. These four themes are Geomaterial Science, Multiphysics Modelling, Moving Boundary Problems and Georisk, and are described in detail in the ‘Research Projects’ section of this website.

The global expenditure on energy and transport infrastructure continues to soar as nations race to improve their economic performance. This is a long-term phenomenon which requires long-term solutions that are founded on innovative scientific and engineering research. Much of Australia’s energy and transport infrastructure is located on problematic soils, such as the soft estuarine clays that occur around the Eastern coastline of Australia and the variable seabed sediments that overlay our valuable oil and gas reserves offshore. Onshore, major problems continue to occur with the heavy-haul rail facilities that are used to transport coal and other valuable commodities, where the weight of the rolling stock frequently causes failure by liquefaction and particle crushing of the track foundations. Such failures result in serious productivity losses and extremely high ongoing maintenance costs.

Specific examples where the Centre’s research outcomes have already been applied to long-term problems include the establishment of Australia’s first National Soft Soil Field Testing Facility at Ballina NSW, the development of new guidelines for the design of offshore pipelines as a result of advanced numerical modelling and o-tube testing, and the provision of safer and cheaper rail infrastructure through an improved understanding of ballast behaviour under cyclic loading. Others examples include the design of pipelines and geo-hazard mapping for the $52B Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in WA (which is Australia’s largest resource project ever undertaken); the site characterisation and design of foundations, pipelines and anchors for the Browse Prelude and Ichthys LNG projects in WA; the use of new field track data to validate the models used by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, Railcorp and Aurizon; and the use of advanced soil testing, coupled with innovative analysis, to predict the behaviour of fill for the Port Kembla Outer Harbour Reclamation.

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