Postgraduate research opportunities

Pulsed fluid pumping for remediation of leakage from geological storage

This project will investigate the potential of using cyclic loading to aid remediation of contaminants in the subsurface.

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


20 December 2019


30 March 2020


42 months


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 or environmental engineering, such as modelling, structural geology, hydrogeology, CO2 storage.


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 or high merit in physical sciences, maths, or a related field. They should have some programming experience in analytical languages such as MATLAB or R.

Candidates with some prior research and/or work experience in the geological/structural/hydrological/modelling sciences will be given priority.

Project Details

Geological energy (geoenergy) options such as CO2, hydrogen or compressed air energy storage and hydrogen or natural gas extraction are deemed fundamental to achieving the necessary transition to a low carbon future. To be effective, risks relating to geoenergy engineering activities must be characterised and managed. To date, most geoenergy research has focussed on robust selection, operation and monitoring approaches. Relatively little attention has been paid to developing effective remediation options in the case of geofluid leakage from depth to surface away from wellbores. Further, research has tended to focus on characterising flow at depth conditions relevant to storage (which tend to be deeper than 800 m below surface). This project will address these gaps by investigating pulsed flow for leakage remediation in the shallow subsurface.

Multiple possible pathways for unintended leakage to surface (or shallow subsurface) of geofluids (and associated additives or contaminants) have been identified, such as improperly sealed boreholes, or geological heterogeneities such as fault zones. Remediation techniques for the former are well known and studied but remediating migration away from wellbores is less well constrained. Leaked fluids may migrate towards the surface, where the fluid flow and the rock properties will be different from those at depth. In order to minimise negative social and environmental risks and impacts of geofluid leakage, surface release must be minimised or avoided. Remediation approaches could include either fluid extraction from newly drilled wells or the injection of fluids to clean-up (sweep, dissolve, disperse, breakdown) leaked geofluid and associated contaminants. Such injection will be influenced by the host rock properties and the pumping capabilities. This PhD will investigate the interplay between these factors.


The key research questions to be addressed are:

  1. How does the flow behaviour of geoenergy fluids through (fractured) porous media change from depth towards the earth surface?

  2. .How is the flow of geoenergy fluids (e.g. CO2, geothermal brine) through (fractured) porous media influenced by pulsed fluid flow?

  3. Can remediation of geoenergy fluids be improved through pulsed or steady injection of fluids into shallow subsurface?

  4. How can pulsed fluid remediation technology be integrated into geoenergy site selection and monitoring programs?






Funding Details

Hone/EU fees, stipend and project expenses


The student would work with Dr Jen Roberts and Dr Gareth Johnson in the world-leading Centre for Ground Engineering and Energy Geosciences within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, and Dr Katriona Edlmann in the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh. The Applied Geoscience Laboratory lab has sophisticated state of the art laboratory facilities capable of recreating the in-situ conditions of temperature, pressure and geochemistry along with multiphase fluid flow for depths up to 4km.

Number of places


Further information

The student would join the University of Strathclyde’s 60-credit postgraduate training programme leading to the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Professional Development.

 The student would join the multidisciplinary and world leading Centre for Ground Engineering and Energy Geosciences within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, an almost equal mix of engineers and geoscientists tackling the challenges of energy and resource production. The student will benefit from interaction with other academics and PhD students within this active research community, as well as being embedded within the SMART Pumps for Subsurface Engineering EPSRC-funded multi-institutional partnership, and interacting and engaging with researchers at the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh.

The student would graduate with a skill set suitable for employment in energy, geological risk, resource extraction, environmental engineering and geothermal industries.