The Applied Petroleum Geoscience programme is a unique programme in subsurface geoscience and exploration at Heriot-Watt University. The programme mainly focuses on exploration petroleum geoscience, but it is closely linked with other MSc programmes and research groups in petroleum engineering and reservoir geology at the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering, Heriot-Watt University. The programme is also applicable to non-petroleum subsurface geoscience subjects, such as CO2 storage and groundwater flow.
The Applied Petroleum Geoscience degree provides participants with a thorough training in aspects of subsurface geology, geophysics and geo-engineering, relating to the exploration, appraisal and development of subsurface resources. Although the programme mainly concentrates on exploration for hydrocarbon resources, and delineation of hydrocarbon reservoirs in the subsurface, the skills gained in this subject are applicable to all subsurface geoscience areas, including groundwater exploration, waste disposal or CO2 sequestration.
The programme is deliberately intensive, typically consisting of working a full 5 days per week of lectures and practical work, including labs or tutorial exercises designed to teach practical skills in addition to learning theory. Project work, both as groups and individually, forms part of the assessment for the programme.
Two fieldtrips are a permanent part of the course, the second as part of the Wessex Basin Team Project which aims to integrate basin scale and reservoir scale exploration tasks, similar to those that students will encounter working in Oil and Gas employment. Other fieldtrips and visits to local core viewing facilities (hosted in the neighbouring British Geological Survey facilities) will be arranged on a more ad hoc basis.
Students on the Applied Petroleum Geoscience programme come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Our online students come to us from all parts of the world, in the last few years the students in all three MSc programmes within the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering have come from over 30 different nations. To read about what our students think about studying online visit the Meet our students pages.
Our current students have formed a student chapter of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), which offers talks and other events throughout the year.
Students on the Applied Petroleum Geoscience MSc will benefit from the excellent links with industry and research activities by the staff at the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering. The Institute has an industry based Strategic Advisory Board who monitors activities in the wider context of the needs of the industry, and in addition some classes and also extra tutorial sessions are conducted by both retired and active staff from a variety of petroleum companies.
Flexible study options
This course can be studied via Online Learning, ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family. View our How online learning works pages to find out more. It can also be studied on-campus full-time or part-time.
3 - 8 years.
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The course consists of a variety of geosciences and engineering courses addressing the concepts of petroleum exploration and appraisal. There are 8 taught courses, a team project and an individual project. The taught courses are worth 150 hours of work each, the projects are each worth 300 hours.
In Semester 1 the taught courses include background on how oilfields develop in various stratigraphic and structural settings using the north sea as an example, how basin development influences exploration success and what exploration methods are used, the basic methods of formation evaluation from wireline logs, and detailed sedimentology of reservoirs.
- Reservoir Concepts
- Petroleum Basins
- Formation Evaluation
- Reservoir Sedimentology
In Semester 2 the courses include geophysical interpretation and methods, seismic and sequence stratigraphy of clastic and carbonate reservoirs, biostratigraphy, and reservoir quality issues connected with diagenesis, basin flow systems and petroleum geochemistry and geomechanics and engineering aspects of flow in the subsurface.
- Geomechanics and Flow Mechanics
- Petroleum Systems Analysis
- Applied Petroleum Geophysics
- Applied Stratigraphy
After the taught components are completed there are two research projects. Firstly is a group project designed to simulate working in an exploration section of a major oil company, including both fieldwork to the basin in question and also working on historical data to identify likely prospects for further exploration work. The second project is an individual project on any aspect of geology and geophysics related to the subjects covered during the program and can be undertaken through Heriot-Watt or at an outside company, subject to approval of the project as suitable.
There are 2 set fieldtrips in the program, although other day trips may take place as part of the courses detailed above.
Introduction to the Forth Basin
This 2 day fieldtrip takes place within the first few weeks Semester 1, and is set up as an introduction to the course, the students, staff and the local area. The students visit local outcrops around Edinburgh city, and also several excellently exposed outcrops on the north coast of the Firth of Forth, discussing basin scale, type, exploration potential, source rocks and reservoir rocks, with illustrations of reservoir heterogeneity, reservoir scale, reservoir engineering issues and modelling challenges. This fieldtrip is assessed as part of the Petroleum Basins course.
Wessex Basin Fieldtrip
This week-long fieldtrip to the Wessex Basin is part of the Team Exploration Project at the beginning of summer. The aim of the fieldtrip is to introduce the students to the geology of the Jurassic Coast area, and to provide them with examples of source rocks, seal rocks, reservoir rocks, and structural features that may form traps within the Wessex Basin. Various exercises in logging, description and calculation of hydrocarbon produced are undertaken in the field, these are then used in the Group Project to identify likely locations for prospects and leads.
Past students on the Applied Petroleum Geoscience MSc have gone into further research (PhD programmes in the UK and overseas). Others have gone on to work in geoscience departments of major Oil and Gas companies as well as industry service organisations, contractors and small local companies. Companies who have employed our past students include Shell and Petroceltic here in the UK, and a number of other companies worldwide including Tullow, GNPC, and Total.
For MSc level entry, students must hold: a good honours or BSc degree in a relevant Geoscience discipline such as Geology or Geophysics from a UK or Overseas University. We look specifically for proven ability in basic geology or petroleum geology courses, as well as credits in maths courses. Parts of the courses listed above require higher or university level mathematics backgrounds.
In addition to the academic qualifications, motivation, industrial experience and personality are taken into consideration.
How to apply
You can apply for this course online. The course director will sometimes wish to contact students by telephone to check details of your application. Please provide a valid contact telephone number in your online application.
Recognition of Prior Learning
We are committed to providing study opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). For more information on RPL, please contact the Online Admissions Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study.
English language requirements
If your first language is not English, or your first degree was not taught in English, we’ll need to see evidence of your English language ability. The minimum requirement for English language is IELTS 6.5 or equivalent. We offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your masters course:
- 14 weeks English for IELTS 5.5 (with no more than one skill at 4.5);
- 12 weeks English for IELTS 5.5 (with minimum of 5.0 in all skills);
- 6 weeks English for IELTS 5.5 (with minimum 5.5 in reading and writing, and minimum 5.0 in listening and speaking).
Online learning students
Please note that Online Learning students who access their studies online will be expected to have access to a PC/laptop and internet.
|Status||Per course||Per research project|
|UK / EU / Overseas||£1220||£1090|
Additional fees information
IDL Students pay £1220 per course and £1090 for each research project. This programme consists of 8 courses (modules) and 2 research projects (MSc only). For the MSc in Applied Petroleum Geoscience, the Exploration Project will include a 2 week full time residential field course, which will be charged for separately.
Tuition fee loans of £5,500 are available to Scottish distance learning students on taught postgraduate courses. Full-time distance learning postgraduate students can also access a £4,500 living cost loan. Find out more from the Students Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)
Scholarships and bursaries
We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.
View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.
Additional scholarship information
Many of our past students have gained funding from industry sources, both those companies involved in oil exploration and production in their home countries or larger international companies that offer scholarship programs. For example:
- Nigerian Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF)
- Bolahak, Kazakhstan
- Commonwealth Scholarships
- Chevening scholarships
There are also a number of Industrial sponsorships available every year to UK and EU students. All eligible applicants (generally EU/UK students) automatically have their CVs or applications sent to participating petroleum companies, who offer a limited number of sponsorships each year to our students, across all three courses. The number of sponsorships offered will vary depending on the companies’ needs and situations, and the quality of the student applicants and are given our after an interview event that takes place during the summer before the course starts.