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Hydrocarbons, scales and heavy metals intertwined in colloidal suspensions: challenges and opportunities during cleaning and waste disposal in decommissioning - National Decommissioning Centre

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Vega-Maza
    Dr W Afzal
    Prof J Anderson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project aims at developing new cleaning and waste management technologies based on the fundamental science underpinning the stability and properties of slurries containing hydrocarbons, scales and heavy metals.
‘Making safe’ activities, including cleaning, venting and purging, isolation, and waste management, together with topside preparation and onshore disposal, remediation and monitoring, account for circa 8% of the total decommissioning cost. Moreover, the management of hazardous substances and the long term liability associated with the presence of unexpected pollutants pose a serious challenge during the life cycle of every decommissioning project.
Solid hydrocarbon deposits in pipelines and facilities form a matrix of waxes and asphaltenes, becoming nucleation sites for scales precipitation and trapping pollutants such as PAH and mercury. Those scales are also a source of radioactivity (NORM). The sludge at the bottom of tanks and slurries during flushing contain hazardous substances as mentioned above. Colloidal theory offers a tool to understand these processes, of paramount importance to tackle the cleaning and disposal of waste during decommissioning.
Experiments (density, rheology, phase behaviour, interfacial tension, interfacial rheology and viscoelasticity, analytical chemistry, imaging techniques) and models will be investigated to optimise the cleaning method, waste treatment and disposal route of those complex mixtures.

The successful student will benefit from being part of a new and exciting decommissioning research centre working in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, along with other PhD students, industry and academics among others. NDC includes state-of-the-art engineering laboratories and hangar space for the design and development of decommissioning technology, as well as a suite of environmental commercial testing facilities. At the heart of the Centre is the Decommissioning Immersive Collaborative Environment (DICE), a high-tech digital visualisation suite.

The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain a UK Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Chemical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, experimental physics

Essential background and Knowledge: Experimental thermodynamics
Organic and inorganic chemistry


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Decommissioning
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘National Decommissioning Centre’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr D Vega-Maza ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ([Email Address Removed])

If a suitable candidate is identified, the studentship may be awarded before the closing date

The start date of the project is 1 April (ideally, or as arranged with supervisor)

Funding Notes

Home Tuition Fees and stipend at Research Council rates for 3.5 years.

International candidates can apply if they can meet the difference between UK/EU and International Tuition fees from their own resources.

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