Postgraduate research opportunities

Modelling uncertainties in fracture models: From micro to field scale

This is an exciting opportunity to engage in highly cross-disciplinary research. The PhD will explore the role of fracture representation in geological models and how uncertainties in fracture data affect model outcomes.

Number of places

1

Funding

Home fee, Stipend

Opens

26 February 2020

Deadline

22 May 2020

Duration

48 months

Eligibility

Essential: The applicant should hold a minimum of an upper second class BSc Honours degree (or equivalent) in subjects relevant to Physical Sciences.

Desirable: Additional experience or skills development relevant to geoscience such as modelling, structural geology, hydrogeology, subsurface fluid storage, or relevant to cognitive psychology and data representation.

 The ideal candidate should have a desire to work in an interdisciplinary, applications-focused field of recognised international importance in geoscience. They will be a practical self-motivated person who will lead the development and direction of their project. Applicants should hold (or expect to get) a minimum of an upper second-class honours degree or an MSc with distinction in physical sciences, maths, or a related field. They would preferably have some programming experience (for example in analytical languages such as MATLAB or R) and an interest in developing these skills further. 

Project Details

Fracture data are used to populate geological models which can inform decision making on reservoir properties, rock strength, seal integrity, and anticipated fluid flow. Failure to recognise and account for uncertainties in fracture data can limit model outcomes, with significant ramifications for the management of the environment. Despite this, current approaches to fracture data collection and interpretation rarely account appropriately for the multiple sources of uncertainties such as the resolution of the tools that we use to capture the presence and geometry of faults and fractures, to the range of cognitive and physical biases that affect and limit the data we collect (Andrews et al. 2019; Shipton et al. 2019). Such uncertainties affect fracture data observed using lab and field approaches, and at a range of scales of enquiry.

 3 students mapping an outcrop feature on beach

Figure 1. Fieldwork mapping an outcrop fracture network

The PhD student will collect and interpret field data to investigate how approaches in capturing, modelling, and mitigating uncertainties in fracture data representation influence uncertainties in models derived from those data. Specifically, the student will:

a)            collect and interpret new fracture datasets from outcrop field sites and tunnels (dm- to m-scale), remote sensing (km-scale), and X-CT scans (micron- to mm-scale);

b)            design and conduct group workshops to collect empirical data on the interpretation of the same datasets by a wide range of geoscientists;

c)            explore the consequences of these uncertainties in the resulting fluid flow model outcomes and their applications;

d)            explore the sources of uncertainty in fracture data collection, and approaches to mitigate biases and reduce uncertainties, including protocols for ‘crowdsourcing’ data collection/interpretation within teams.

(Left) x-ray ct image of fractured concrete; (right) fracture probability map derived from user trained machine learning

Figure 2. Left: X-ray CT image of fractured concrete. Right: fracture probability map derived from user-trained machine learning

Field sites will be selected to inform geoenergy applications, for example, granites or sedimentary aquifers to inform geothermal systems or in caprock/overburden units to inform geological storage of hydrogen and CO2. Workshop participants will include geoscientists from both academia and industry (we will approach the CDT’s industry partners), and at least one of these workshops will be delivered as part of a short course for the CDT on bias in geological data collection and interpretation.

This studentship is part of the GeoNetZero CDT - the Centre for Doctoral Training in Geoscience and the Low Carbon Energy. For more about the CDT, or to see the advert for this PhD on the CDT webpages see: https://geo-net-zero.hw.ac.uk/phd-opportunities/   

 The ideal candidate should have a desire to work in an interdisciplinary, applications-focused field of recognised international importance in geoscience. They will be a practical self-motivated person who will lead the development and direction of their project. Applicants should hold (or expect to get) a minimum of an upper second-class honours degree or an MSc with distinction in physical sciences, maths, or a related field. They should have some programming experience (for example in analytical languages such as MATLAB or R) and an interest in developing these skills further.

 This PhD comes with a UKRI level fully-funded studentship, including fees and stipend. The studentship is due to commence 01 October 2020. The fees and stipend can only be awarded to UK and EU students (and not to EEA or International students).

For further information on the studentship, including details of how to apply, please contact Dr Jen Roberts.

References:

Andrews, B. J., Roberts, J. J., Shipton, Z. K., Bigi, S., Tartarello, M. C., and Johnson, G. (2019) How do we see fractures? Quantifying subjective bias in fracture data collection, Solid Earth, 10, 487–516, https://doi.org/10.5194/se-10-487-2019.

Z. K. Shipton, J. J. Roberts, E. L. Comrie, Y. Kremer, R. J. Lunn and J. S. Caine. (2019) Fault fictions: systematic biases in the conceptualization of fault-zone architecture, Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 496, https://doi.org/10.1144/SP496-2018-161.

Funding Details

Home Fees (covered for individuals who meet UKRI British residence requirements), a UKRI level stipend.

The studentship  includes a £5K per annum Research and Training Support Grant to maximise the student’s technical development. This will support research outputs, training and development opportunities, and includes conference/workshop participation.

Supervisor

The student will benefit from a great and varied supervision team who enjoy working together. All are based in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde.

Dr Jen Roberts is a Chancellors Fellow in Energy. She is an interdisciplinary scientist with expertise on socio-technical risks of environmental engineering, particularly around CO2 leakage from geological stores. Jen will be the primary supervisor and main point of contact for this studentship.

Dr James Minto is a Chancellors Fellow in the Centre for Ground Engineering and Energy Geosciences. His research covers fundamental processes governing reactive transport in porous media and engineering applications of microbially induced carbonate precipitation. 

Prof Zoe Shipton is Professor of Geological Engineering. She has world-leading expertise in fault zones and fluid flow.

Dr Gareth Johnson is a Research Fellow with expertise in geochemistry and structural geology applied to energy geosciences.

Billy Andrews is a structural geologist with extensive field experience, and who has explored bias in geological data collection.

Further information

The student will join the active and growing multidisciplinary Faults and Fluid Flow (FAFF) research group within the Centre for Ground Engineering & Energy Geosciences, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. They will be supported attend and present at conferences, and to undertake research placements if desired.

In addition to the CDT’s Training Academy, they will join the University of Strathclyde’s 60-credit postgraduate training programme leading to the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Professional Development.

This PhD will equip the student with multidisciplinary skills including field skills, data processing and modelling, and understanding of psychology and decision sciences. These skills would make them suitable for a range of employment options, such as working in conventional and emerging geoenergy, geological risk, resource extraction, environmental engineering, policy, or academia.

How to apply

For further information on the studentship, including details of how to apply, please contact Dr Jen Roberts.