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A New Reservoir Characterisation Tool: A High Resolution Study on the Effect of Increasing Burial Depth and Temperature on the Carbonate Clumped Isotope Palaeothermometer

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J MacDonald
    Dr D Koehn
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Background and Rationale: The carbonate clumped isotope palaeothermometer has great potential as a new method for understanding the thermal histories of basins. Knowledge of the absolute temperatures of different events (e.g. dolomitisation and hydrothermal activity) during basin evolution would make this novel method an important tool for the oil and gas industry for basin modelling and to reduce exploration risk. However, the effects of increasing burial depth and thermal events on clumped isotope temperatures is a key knowledge gap at present. Only a small number of studies on subsurface carbonates have been conducted so far and these have been based on small numbers of samples across a wide range of depths. What is now required is a high depth-resolution study in a well-known study area to tightly constrain clumped isotope behaviour with increasing burial depth and temperature. Only with such an enhanced understanding can this highly-promising reservoir characterisation tool become applicable.

Primary Aim: to build a high-resolution characterisation of how clumped isotope systematics change with increasing burial depth and temperature.

Project Methodology/Outline: Initially, the student will collect a suite of samples from the Benicassim area (Maestrat Basin, Eastern Spain), which is very well known to Gomez-Rivas and Koehn. A high-resolution sample suite through the stratigraphy will enable detailed characterisation of changes in clumped isotope temperatures with burial depth. The attained data will be compared with suites of samples from wells, possibly from the Midland Valley of Scotland. The analytical work will show whether clumped isotope temperatures increase in a stepwise fashion with increasing depth, thus reflecting open-system recrystallisation, or whether they increase more gradually, reflecting closed-system isotopic resetting. The complex diagenetic history of the Maestrat Basin will also enable investigation of the effect of dolomitisation and fluid flow through adjacent faults. Overall, this will create a high-resolution characterisation of how clumped isotope systematics change with increasing burial depth and temperature enabling its application as a reservoir characterisation tool.

Career routes: The student will become an expert in the basin evolution and clumped isotope palaeothermometry. Potentially the method will become a routine reservoir characterisation technique for oil & gas companies in the near future so the student will be in an ideal position to move into the specialist research teams within large E&P companies as well as consulting and service companies. Additionally, clumped isotopes has great potential in not just oil & gas research but also in other fields of Earth & Environmental Sciences.

Start Date: 01/10/2016

Duration of Studentships: The NERC CDT studentships cover a four year study period in order to accommodate the 20 weeks’ doctoral training provision while still allowing the student sufficient time to complete his or her PhD thesis. Studentships are offered on a full-time basis.

Eligibility: NERC studentships covering fees, stipend and Research Training Support Grant are available to UK citizens and to citizens of the EU who have been permanently in residence in the UK for a minimum of 3 years prior to taking up the studentship. Full details of eligibility for NERC studentships can be found in the Research Councils UK Training Grants Terms and Conditions document available at If you are an EU citizen with less than 3 years’ UK residency, or an overseas citizen, please contact any of these universities first if they are advertising projects you are interested in and ask what their funding criteria are so that you know whether it is worth you submitting an application to them.

Funding Notes

Funding is available to cover tuition fees for UK citizens and EU citizens who have been permanently in residence in the UK for a minimum of 3 years prior to taking up the studentship applicants, as well as paying a stipend at the Research Council rate (£14,057 for Session 2015-2016).

Related Subjects

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