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Analysis of microseismic data to inform the siting, construction and operation of a geological disposal facility in the UK


Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

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Prof R Lunn , Dr S Pytharouli No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Glasgow United Kingdom Applied Mathematics Civil Engineering Environmental Engineering Geology

About the Project

A fully-funded 4-year industrial CASE PhD studentship is offered by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow and RWM Ltd., a public organisation established by government and responsible for planning and delivering geological disposal in the UK.

This PhD aims to develop a tool for automated analysis of microseismic events (very tiny earthquakes so small they can’t be felt at the surface) to be used as part of the UK siting process for a geological disposal facility (GDF) for nuclear waste. The UK launched its GDF siting programme in 2020 and, to-date, RWM are consulting with two volunteer communities about the potential for hosting a GDF at their locations. One important criterion for deciding on the preferred location for a GDF will be the local geology.

Microseismic events can help us understand the locations of geological structures in the ground, without the need to drill large numbers of boreholes. Events occur naturally at construction depths for a GDF (200 m to 1 km below ground) and can also be induced by man-made activities during site investigation and construction. Each event corresponds to a rock fracturing, and hence, provides information on open fracture pathways for groundwater flow.

The research challenges in analyzing microseismic data are (1) the difficulty in detecting, locating in 3D, and then analyzing the properties of these very tiny events amongst the background noise and (2) the sheer quantity of data caused by the high sampling frequency (> 500 Hz) which necessitates full automation of all analyses. This PhD will address these challenges and develop a reliable software tool for use in the site investigation and construction phases of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). One further use for such a tool is that the frequency of tiny events at any location is related to the likelihood of larger events, thus the PhD will support larger earthquake prediction and seismic hazard assessment, feeding back into GDF design.

Candidate Profile

We are looking for candidates to apply with a background in applied mathematics/physics/computer science/engineering, or related disciplines. Ideally they will have strong computational skills and computer programming experience. Some knowledge of signal processing/Spectral Analysis (e.g. Fourier transforms) is desirable, but not essential. Candidates should have, or be expected to achieve, a Bachelors degree (2:1 or above). Masters students or those with practical experience in research or industry are also encouraged to apply. The successful candidate will benefit from both academic and industrial training (with RWM) and have the opportunity to join the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Professional Development (PG Cert RPD) at Strathclyde. The candidate will also gain industrial work experience through a funded 3-month secondment to RWM Ltd, based in Oxfordshire, as part of their PhD programme.

To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees) applicants must have:

·        Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay and

·        Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to April 2021. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences AND

·        Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (This does not apply to UK nationals).

(See: https://epsrc.ukri.org/skills/students/help/eligibility/ for more details)

·        In addition to the EPSRC requirements, please also see https://www.strath.ac.uk/studywithus/postgraduateresearch/yourapplicationoffer/ for entry requirements at Strathclyde University.

·        Full Time programme only

·        Applicant required to start by October 2021.

·        This Studentship will cover tuition fees at the UK rate and provide a generous, tax-free annual stipend (Currently set as £18,667 for 2021/22) for 4 years. In addition to the fees and stipend, a total of £38,000 is available for other research expenses such as conference participation, a workstation, other consumables, and travel and subsistence expenses incurred during the secondment to RWM Ltd.

·        If English is not your first language you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ overall with a minimum score of 6.0 in Writing and 5.5 in all sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking).

Outstanding applicants that do not meet the above eligibility criteria will be eligible for full fees and a partial stipend.


Funding Notes

Please see Project Description for additional funding notes.
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