For the first time in a generation, oil and gas doctoral programs in the United Kingdom have received a surge of financial support from the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), the main governmental funding body for academic research and training in geosciences in the United Kingdom.
The funding will support a new Centre of Doctoral Training (CDT), which will allow 31 new doctorate students to begin research at 17 different universities this year.
The $4.5 million investment, which was offered to a consortium led by Heriot-Watt University (HWU) in Edinburgh, Scotland, marks NERC’s increased commitment to applied geosciences in hydrocarbon-related fields.
“The NERC Centre for Doctoral Training is a truly game-changing initiative and represents the most exciting development in the provision of training for the energy industry in the UK that has occurred during my career,” said AAPG member Keith Gerdes, chair of the CDT’s Industrial Advisory Board.
Gerdes, a global exploration adviser at Shell International, also serves as AAPG’s European Region president.
The NERC funds will directly support 10 doctorate students, while HWU and its partners will contribute an additional $9.5 million to enable a total of 93 new doctorate students to begin their work over the next three years.
The HWU group competed against three other university groups for the CDT funding – an effort led by AAPG member John Underhill, chair of exploration geoscience at HWU.
A call for funding from the industry remains open, Gerdes stressed.
“Never before has NERC invested so heavily in this area,” said Underhill, who also is a past AAPG Distinguished Lecturer, Matson Award Winner and the 2013 recipient of the AAPG Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award.
“We look forward to working directly with those in the industry who will place students’ interests at heart and serve the best interests and all aspects of the oil and gas research and training in the United Kingdom and beyond,” he added.
Primary areas of research will include:
- Effective Production of Unconventional Hydrocarbons.
- Extending the Life of Mature Basins.
- Exploitation in Challenging Environments.
- Environmental Impact and Regulation.
The CDT will include a training academy, funded to date by BP and Shell (funding opportunities remain open). The academy will be geared toward primary areas of oil and gas research so that individual doctorate projects can be properly contextualized to address today’s issues of energy demand and environmental responsibility.
Students will have regular access to academic, governmental and industry experts to ultimately produce innovative ideas for the future, Underhill said.
Each year, top students will have a chance to showcase their research and findings to sponsors in the oil and gas industry as part of an annual conference, where they will meet with industry professionals, identify research links and new projects, and possibly pave a path for recruitment, he added.
“The inclusive nature that is at the heart of this collegiate construct is extremely attractive to many members of the industry and will create a ’one stop shop’ for industry and academic engagement for both research and recruitment,” Gerdes said.
“I am delighted to be involved in such an innovative, student-centric project designed to attract and train top postgraduate talent for the future energy industry.”
The HWU group consists of six core partners (the British Geological Survey and the universities of Aberdeen, Durham, Manchester, Oxford and Imperial College) and 12 associate partners (the universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Dundee, Exeter’s Camborne School of Mines, Glasgow, Keele, Newcastle, Nottingham, Royal Holloway, Southampton and Strathclyde, as well as National Oceanographic Centre).
Details on the CDT can be found at www.pet.hw.ac.uk/research/nerc-cdt-oil-gas-academic-partnership.htm and www.pet.hw.ac.uk/research/nerc-cdt-oil-gas-studentships.htm, or by contacting John.Underhill@pet.hw.ac.uk.