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  Prof K Sorbie, Prof Eric Mackay  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The flow of fluids through subsurface rocks and wells can be enhanced or hindered by chemical interactions.  For example, scale deposits – such as carbonates, sulphates and silicates – restrict flow by growing on metal surfaces (such as well bores) and in porous media (such as reservoir rocks). The use of chemical scale inhibitors is widely used as a method to control scale formation. Another example is where CO2 or chemicals – such as polymers or surfactants – are injected to deliberately enhance the flow of some fluids and/or retard or trap other fluids. CO2 injection, as part of Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), is a necessary technology to accelerate the Energy Transition.

The Energi Simulation Chair in CCUS and Reactive Flow Simulation, working with the Flow Assurance and Scale Team (FAST) in the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, supports PhD research on topics where component flow and chemical reactions in porous media are important. These include precipitation of mineral scales due to water production during oilfield and geothermal operations, salt deposition and dissolution of mineral cements during CO2 storage, and the use of CO2, polymers and/or surfactants to improve reservoir sweep efficiency. FAST is a 20+ person strong team that conducts research that has been sponsored for over three decades by 20+ industrial companies; further details can be found at

Various laboratory and modelling PhD studentships are available to develop the understanding of mechanisms by which inorganic scales form, how inhibitors prevent scaling and are retained on rock surfaces, how polymers and surfactants interact with mobile fluids in reservoirs and how CO2 is used and stored in geological formations.

The successful applicants may be required to develop various skills from among the following list - scale inhibitor performance evaluation; core flooding; inhibitor/brine analysis (ICP, wet chemical); flow visualisation, recording and analysis; simulation of polymer, surfactant and/or CO2 injection and interactions with fluids in the porous medium. Although desirable, these skills are not essential prerequisites. Students will have the opportunity to present their results to funders and at international conferences, and they will be supported in writing journal publications.

Applicants should be educated to BSc or MSc level in Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering or another numerate scientific/engineering subject. Candidates for laboratory-based PhDs should preferably have some prior laboratory experience, whilst candidates for simulation-based PhDs should be familiar with developing and/or running transport models. They should demonstrate good English language skills, attention to detail, a disciplined and methodical approach to completing their workload, computer literacy, excellent communication skills and the ability to write reports and present information in a clear and engaging manner to academic and industry audiences.


This scholarship is open to UK, EU and international applicants.

We recognise that not every talented researcher will have had the same opportunities to advance their careers. We therefore will account for any particular circumstances that applicants disclose (e.g. parental leave, caring duties, part-time jobs to support studies, disabilities etc.) to ensure an inclusive and fair recruitment process.

How to Apply

To apply you must complete our online application form. Please select PhD programme Petroleum Engineering and include the full project title, reference number and supervisor on your application form. Ensure that all fields marked as ‘required’ are complete.

When you apply you will be asked to provide a supporting statement (up to four A4 pages), outlining how you would approach your research. This should be uploaded to the ‘project proposal’ section of the application form. You will also be required to upload a CV, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts. You may also upload an academic reference to support your application. You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.

Applications made after this date may be considered if further funds become available or if candidates have other sources of funding. Applicants must be available to start in September 2022.

For further details please contact Heather O'Hara at the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering, [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

The funding is for 3.5 years and covers home/international tuition fees and a tax free annual stipend of £16,000.
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