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Education: MSc Subsurface Energy Systems, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (source: flickr/ kyz, creative commons)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 10 Apr 2019

Heriot-Watt University has announced an interesting Masters program in subsurface energy studies delivering the key concepts of subsurface energy and CO2 storage, geothermal energy or transitional gas.

Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh/ Scotland has announced a Masters Program in Subsurface Energy Systems delivering the key concepts of subsurface energy and CO2storage, geothermal energy or transitional gas and integrates geoscience, engineering, political and societal aspects important for large scale implementation of these technologies. The programme is recommended for Geoscientists, Petroleum Engineers, and Governmental Stakeholders and beyond such that they can participate in the management of subsurface reservoirs used to switch from a fossil fuel driven to a decarbonised economy.

This degree is delivered by The Lyell Centre and the Institute of Petroleum Engineering committed to delivering research and training courses that meet the needs of the international subsurface energy industry.

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts serious consequences from further emitting CO2 into the atmosphere, thereby accelerating man-made climate change. A maximum of 2°C of global temperature increase is targeted, with a strong ambition to not exceed an increase of 1.5°C. This requires drastic reductions in our CO2 emissions. Part of this decrease in emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other sources comes from promoting other energy sources, like renewable energies (i.e. wind, solar, hydro, geothermal energies) or from an increase in the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS). Surface renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydro can readily be used in the form of electrical power if sufficient capacities are installed and natural conditions are favourable enough to be economic. Installed capacities within the UK increased from about 5 GW in 2005 to about 30 GW in 2015 with an outlook of further drastic increase in capacities. In case of overproduction, electricity can be stored in grids or batteries at limited capacity. As part of a Geoenergy application, these energies will be stored in the subsurface after conversion to e.g. hydrogen, thermal energy, or compressed air until needed, allowing for back-production within short and longer time scales of hours to years.

CCS overlaps with such storage sites, but with the aim of permanent storage. The UK, especially Scotland, is an attractive target for CCS implementation and is considered to significantly extend the lifetime of oil and gas reservoirs, thereby strengthening the related industrial sectors. The combined technologies of geothermal energy production, subsurface energy storage or CCS refer to the geoengineering aspects of Subsurface Energy Systems (SES). In this context, SES rather refers to the integration of Geoenergy applications with energy production at the surface as well as economic, societal and policy aspects.

There is a significant demand globally for research and training in these technologies, given that many small and large integrated oil and gas companies are decarbonising their assets which, at the same time, needs to be monitored and regulated by governmental bodies. Councils across the UK and Europe are increasingly looking at the subsurface for storing or producing energy.

Programme duration – 1 year (full time)

Industry links

A number of courses are related to the application of learning in the upstream petroleum industry. Other courses specifically address aspects not currently covered in the petroleum industry in great detail (e.g. geothermal, energy storage). The aims of the Programme are to make aware and enhance the skills related to professional engineering and geoscience and related scientific methods.

Students on the Subsurface Energy Systems MSc will benefit from the excellent links with industry and research activities by staff at the Institute of Petroleum Engineering and The Lyell Centre. The Institute also has an industry-based Strategic Advisory Board who monitors activities in the wider context of the needs of the industry and offer guidance on the course ensuring content is up to date and relevant to current industry needs. Seminar sessions are also conducted by staff from a variety of petroleum engineering companies.

Source: Heriot-Watt University