Postgraduate research opportunities

From fines migration to filter cake formation and back again

The evolution of permeability is a key challenge in the subsurface, especially when many of the natural and man-made fluids flowing through rock and soils are reactive and carry a suspected particle load.

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


20 February 2020


31 May 2020


42 months


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

Desirable: Additional experience or skills relevant to geoscience such as structural geology, hydrogeology, petroleum geoscience, modelling or image analysis

 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. Candidates with some prior research and/or work experience in relevant to geoscience such as structural geology, hydrogeology, petroleum geoscience, modelling or image analysis will be given priority.

Project Details

The project will use the latest 4D (3D + time) imaging methods to capture the porosity networks within the geological samples, and then track flow, and the transport of the suspended fine particles through that pore network. It uses the latest in situ experimental flow cells to enable experiments at a range of flow rates, fluid compositions, particle volume fractions and size distributions, and under different reservoir conditions (confining pressure and temperature). Combining these experimental flow cells with in situ x-ray tomography allows this project to capture the behaviour and evolution of the flow inside the samples, as it happens; allowing the location of fluid and the suspended particles to be observed in real time.

The key project aims are to:

  • Optimise the in situ x-ray tomography compatible flow cell apparatus to capture transport processes in reservoir lithologies
  • Perform X-ray tomography experiments to image flow and transport in multiphase systems
  • map aggregate formation in terms of flow, fluid chemistry and changing pore network characteristics
  • develop an understanding of flow localisation processes in evolving pore networks
  • improve and control the formation of aggregates and precipitates within the porous media using mechanical and chemical controls

By applying the latest 4D x-ray tomography and associated image analysis methods, the student will perform textural analysis to track the mobilisation, transport and deposition of the suspended load.  Then through the relationships between how parameters such as particle concentration, size distribution and fluid rheology and the invasion, transport and deposition of fine particulate material the student will develop understanding of fines migration, and the mechanisms in a range of geological and engineering settings feeding into flow simulations and industry practice.

 For further information on the studentship, including details of how to apply, please contact Dr Kate Dobson

Funding Details

Fees and stipend can only be awarded to UK students or and EU students.  EU students are only eligible for UKRI stipend if they have been resident in the UK for 3 years, including for study purposes, immediately prior to starting their PhD. If an EU student cannot fulfil this condition then they are eligible for a fees only studentship. Students with full Refugee status are eligible for fees and stipend.

Other international students cannot be funded from UKRI funds unless they are ‘settled’ in the UK. ‘Settled’ means being ordinarily resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of stay in the UK. To be ‘settled’ a student must either have the Right to Abode or Indefinite leave to remain in the UK or have the right of permanent residence in the UK under EC law. If the student’s passport describes them as a British citizen, they have the Right of Abode.

 It is important to note that residential eligibility is based on a physical presence in the UK. British citizenship in itself does not satisfy the residential eligibility requirement.


Dr Kate Dobson is a Chancellor’s Fellow and lecturer in Energy at the University of Strathclyde. She is an interdisciplinary scientist focussing on the interfaces between geosciences, engineering and materials, and expertise in x-ray imaging for geoscience applications.

Dr. Grainne El Mountassir is a lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, with expertise in experimental investigation of hydraulic and mechanical behaviour of soils and rocks, and the use of biological processes in geotechnical engineering.

Prof Chris Greenwell (Durham University) is a leading researcher in the surface chemistry, structure and properties of layered minerals; and his work spans catalysis, oil and gas exploration and production, and composite materials. In particular, the Greenwell group bridges across the computer simulation and experimental study of layered mineral systems.

Further information

The project will suit a student with a broad interest in addressing major geoscience questions using experimental, quantitative and numerical methods. The supervisory team has expertise in geology, geochemistry, x-ray tomography, and fluid flow analysis (experimental and modelling). You will learn how to use a range of high-level analytical methods, how to integrate different data types and to understand their significance from both scientific and industrial perspectives.

The candidate will take part in the University of Strathclyde’s postgraduate training programme leading to the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Professional Development, and will have the opportunity to present posters and talks at conferences. There may also be the opportunity to spend time away from the host universities

More information can be found here: Dobson_Fines.pdf

For further information on the studentship, including details of how to apply, please contact Dr Kate Dobson