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PhD Studentship: Potential environmental impacts of shallow aquifer geothermal systems in urban areas

   School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

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  Prof Yit Arn Teh  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Heating and cooling of buildings in the UK currently depend on carbon-intensive technologies, and account for 37% of the UK’s carbon footprint. Shifts towards low carbon technologies, such as the use of shallow geothermal energy sources, have proven to be an effective means of decarbonising the heating and cooling of the built environment. However, the wider environmental impacts and potential trade-offs of these emerging technologies are still poorly understood.

Changes in soil and subsurface temperature regimes could critically alter key biogeochemical processes such as evapotranspiration, carbon sequestration, pollutant biodegradation, surface chemical reactions and mineral weathering. Research so far has focused on the impacts of geothermal energy use on groundwater temperatures or bioavailability of redox-sensitive elements (e.g. arsenic); less is known about the impacts on biogeochemical processes in soil or the vadose zone. Improving our understanding of how temperature perturbations will alter subsurface processes is critical for understanding the overall environmental impact of geothermal energy use, given the acknowledged importance of soils as a carbon sink or locus for pollutant removal; e.g. destabilisation of soil carbon stores could offset the climate benefits of shallow geothermal energy use.

This project will investigate the impact of geothermal energy use on subsurface temperatures and how this influences biogeochemical processes in different aquifer types. This work will combine data from existing water abstraction wells and onshore oil and gas wells, together with experimental work in the laboratory and the field. Modelling of heat perturbations will link the experimental and observational work. The project will develop a process-based understanding of how temperature perturbations, arising from geothermal energy use, influence biogeochemical systems.

Number Of Awards


Start Date

October 2022 or January 2023

Award Duration

4 years


GeoNetZero CDT


Professor Yit Arn Teh, Dr Cees van der Land, Dr Ross Stirling and Professor David Manning

Eligibility Criteria

Minimum Second Class Upper Honours degree or MSc in Earth Sciences, Geology, Geophysics or related subject

Applicants with International fee status will be required to provide the difference between Home and International fees.

How To Apply

You must apply through the University's Apply to Newcastle Portal

The following information will help us to process your application:

  • programme code 8314F
  • select ‘PhD Geoscience’ as the programme of study
  • insert the studentship code GEON101
  • attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code GEON101 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
  • attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications

Funding Notes

100% of Home tuition fees paid and an annual living allowance of £17,668. Plus, a generous £20,000 individual research award to cover associated project costs.
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