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PhD Studentship - The geomicrobiology of hydrogen storage in geological materials

   School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Mark Ireland, Dr C van der Land  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Number of awards


Start date and duration

October 2021 (4 years).


Hydrogen is proposed as key fuel for the decarbonisation of energy systems, where it could be a low-carbon alternative to natural gas. Suitable large-scale storage could be required to help overcome the intermittency and seasonal variations in supply. The geological storage of hydrogen involves the injection into the subsurface, either into engineered salt caverns or porous geological formations. Existing studies have explored some mineral-hydrogen interactions, but how these vary with different mineralogical compositions and the effects of microbial respiration is not well described. This project will investigate the potential reactivity of hydrogen with naturally occurring mineral and biological components in the subsurface. It will consider the impact of residence time and cyclic loading and unloading on reactions during the storage of hydrogen.

This project will take an integrated approach by utilising petrophysical and geochemical characterisation of rock types to inform the design of microbial community experiments.

  1. Characterise the mineralogical and biological components present. This will include determining the mineralogical composition and heterogeneity of geological materials and draw together findings of previous subsurface biosphere studies to characterise the presence and abundance of different microbial species. This will help parametrise the analytical experiments.
  2.  Effect of mineralogy and microbial communities on hydrogen reactivity. Non-uniform distribution of water and hydrogen will affect effective kinetics of hydrogen consumption and it is likely that sites of activity will be at the interface between rock and the water. Lab based experiments will use 16S rRNA sequencing to identify if different rock types influence the growth of groups and their associated functions.
  3.  Implications for hydrogen storage site selection. The results of both the geological characterisation and the reactivity experiments will be considered in the context of the impact on long term storage.

The findings from the PhD will provide an improved understanding of some geochemical aspects of the geological storage of hydrogen in the subsurface. ay 2021.


EPSRC Industrial Case Studentship

Name of supervisor(s)

Dr Mark Ireland, Dr Cees van der Land, Professor Neil Gray, Dr Annabel Dale (bp)

Eligibility Criteria

Degree in Earth Sciences, Geology, Geochemistry or related subject.

The award is available to home and international applicants (including EU).

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please ‘Create a new account’. 

All relevant fields should be completed, but fields marked with a red asterisk in the application portal must be completed. You will need to:  

  • Insert the programme code 8314F in the programme of study section,
  • Select ‘PhD Geoscience (FT)’ as the programme of study.
  • Insert the studentship code CASE2109 in the studentship/partnership reference field, attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code CASE2109 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.


For further information please contact Dr Mark Ireland ([Email Address Removed]) or Dr Cees van der Land ([Email Address Removed]).

Funding Notes

100% of home tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £17,500 (full award)