Postgraduate research opportunities

Developing an integrated geothermal resource risk assessment toolkit

Geothermal energy represents a real and exciting opportunity to decarbonise the heat sector. This PhD project will investigate existing, and develop new methodologies to optimise exploration and de-risk development of deep hot sedimentary aquifers.

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


26 October 2020


31 January 2021


36 months


Applications are invited from candidates who have achieved or will be in the process of obtaining a first or upper second class honours degree Bachelors degree or integrated Masters degree (or equivalent) in Geology, Environmental Engineering or another discipline related to the proposed research.


Project Details

Hot sedimentary aquifers (HSA) can be exploited using boreholes to displace fossil fuels and provide low-carbon heating for homes, industry and horticulture as we work towards key NetZero greenhouse gas emission targets. Groundwaters in excess of 60°C are expected at depths of ≥ 1.5 km. But finding the correct temperature is only half the battle, once encountered we must be able to economically extract geothermal waters to meet the desired end use.

The sedimentary rock dominated basins of the Midland Valley of Scotland (MVS) contain potentially significant geothermal resources.  Ongoing research at Strathclyde is revealing important insights into rock, water and structural properties within HSAs. Using the MVS as a case study, this studentship will develop a HSA resource appraisal toolkit which will integrate: (1) Learnings from existing analytical, mapping and modelling methods; (2) Critical assessment of available data sources; (3) Identification of key information gaps that must be addressed to de-risk geothermal exploitation; (4) Research to address gaps and calibrate understandings. The studentship will include training and applied use of bespoke field, lab and modelling techniques to refine the toolkit and deliver valuable outputs for multiple stakeholders across industry and governance.    

The project is linked to ongoing research at TU Delft, were a synergistic studentship which will tackle the technical challenges of geothermal fluid management during heat extraction. This ISP studentship will provide learning opportunities for TU Delft in selecting and de-risking deep HSA resources and enable testing and validation of the appraisal toolkit in Dutch geological settings. The student will have networking opportunities with TU Delft and be supported to attend academic and industry conferences, providing opportunities to develop communication skills and disseminate their research.

Funding Details

The studentship covers full UK/EU PhD tuition fees for 36 months and a tax-free stipend. International Students applying must be able to provide evidence and pay the difference between the UK Home Fee and the International Fee.


The applicant will be supervised by Dr Neil Burnside and Professor Zoe Shipton at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK.