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  Hydro Nation Scholars Programme 2024 - Harnessing hidden rivers: potential for low-carbon heat energy generation from culverted urban streams


   Hydro Nation Scholars Programme

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  Dr N Burnside, Dr D Bertram  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Historic expansion of population centres has often resulted in closing over surface watercourses. As a result, many urban environments are underlain by extensive networks of culverted streams. One such location is Glasgow, which grew from the 6th century settlement of Mellingdenor on the banks of the now culverted Molendinar Burn. Previous efforts have catalogued culverts to support flood risk management, but these hidden rivers remain underexplored assets for low-carbon energy generation in the heart of urban settings. Given their proximity to high population densities, including areas of high fuel poverty, and potential correlation of peak flowrates with periods of highest heat demand, culverted rivers could provide valuable localised resource for heat generation at the coldest times of year. However, more needs to be understood about factors which could influence on the utility and sustainability of culverts as a thermal resource, including extent of opportunity, urban heat island effect, climate change, and urban / industrial discharge.

The successful candidate, with support of an experienced supervisory team, would perform multidisciplinary research, including site investigation, digital mapping, and predictive modelling to deliver new insights into the untapped energy potential of urban watercourses in Glasgow. Project activities would include:

  • Synthesis of previous mapping efforts, historical archives, and field measurements to pinpoint culvert locations, connections, and dimensions, and make initial network-wide flow estimates.
  • Detailed investigation at selected sites to capture long-term water level and flow rate information to determine rainfall-discharge lag time and baseflow, interflow and runoff contributions and heat extraction potential.
  • Assessing role of urban heat island effect by performing measurements at rural and open urban water course control sites.
  • Combining future temperature and rainfall fluctuation ranges from UK climate projections and rainfall–runoff simulations to assess impact of different climate scenarios on culvert flowrate and heat capacity.
  • Creation of a screening tool to rank potential heat-extraction locations for greatest energy generation and socio-economic benefit, using energy demand and building stock data from e.g., Scotland Heat Map and Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.  

Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive training in a range of field (e.g., flowmeter, GPS, laser measurements), digital (e.g., ArcGIS, LowFlows2, ReFH2), and research (e.g., Strathclyde’s award-winning postgraduate certification programme) skills. They would join a thriving low-carbon energy research group within Strathclyde’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the only engineering department in the UK to hold a Gold Athena Swan Award in recognition of its demonstrable commitment to being an inclusive and supportive place of work and study. As case study locations are developed, there will be opportunities to work with external industry, community, and government partners. Upon PhD completion, the candidate would be well placed for career in the renewable energy, hydrology, engineering consultancy, regulatory agency or governance sectors.

Applicants are strongly advised to make an informal enquiry about the PhD to the primary supervisor well before the final submission deadline. 

Applicants must send a completed Hydro Nation Scholarship application form and their Curriculum Vitae to Neil Burnside ([Email Address Removed]) by the final submission deadline of 10th January 2024.

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Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. This project will be hosted by the University of Strathclyde. Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 7th or 8th February 2024

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