Course available:

The course

Full-time, Distance learning
Course type
Edinburgh, Online
Entry date
September, January (DL only)



The MSc in Petroleum Engineering is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills to tackle the oil and gas industry’s most challenging problems. Upon graduating students will be able to understand, frame and solve the most complex of upstream problems in today’s petroleum industry.

These courses provide specialist education tailored to the requirements of the upstream petroleum industry. The relevance of this education, combined with careful selection of candidates, has encouraged oil and oilfield service companies to target Heriot-Watt for recruitment of graduates since 1976.

The Petroleum Engineering degree is delivered by the Institute of Petroleum Engineering, a world-leading Institute committed to delivering research and training courses that meet the needs of the international petroleum industry. Students have been attending the Institute of Petroleum Engineering at Heriot-Watt University to study for the MSc course in Petroleum Engineering since 1975.

Programme content

The MSc in Petroleum Engineering is a course of lectures and project work, encompassing a wide range of petroleum engineering fundamentals, relevant to the current petroleum engineering industry.

Project work provides an opportunity for ideas and methods, assimilated through lectures and tutorials, to be applied to real field evaluation and development design problems. The courses on this course are applied in nature and have been specifically designed so that our students are technically well prepared for, and have a sound knowledge of, the industry.

Our students

Students on the Petroleum Engineering course come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including directly from undergraduate degrees such as chemical, mechanical, mining and petroleum engineering as well as geology and applied chemistry. Others are oil and gas industry professionals looking to broaden their knowledge and extend their technical expertise.

Our students come to us from all parts of the world, in the last few years the students in all three MSc courses within the Institute of Petroleum Engineering have come from over 30 different nations.

Graduate profiles

Read our graduate profiles to find out what some of our recent graduates said about their experiences studying Petroleum Engineering at Heriot-Watt.

Industry links

Students on the Petroleum Engineering MSc will benefit from the excellent links with industry and research activities by staff at the Institute of Petroleum Engineering. The Institute also has an industry-based Strategic Advisory Board who monitors activities in the wider context of the needs of the industry and offer guidance on the course ensuring content is up to date and relevant to current industry needs. Seminar sessions are also conducted by staff from a variety of petroleum engineering companies.

Career opportunities

Graduates of our Petroleum Engineering course are much sought after by oil operating and oilfield service companies both in the UK and worldwide. Graduates go on to work for major global oil and gas operating companies, service companies as well as smaller consultancies in petroleum engineering. The course also provides an excellent springboard for graduates wishing to pursue a career in research.

Flexible study options

This course can be studied full-time, part-time or via Independent Distance Learning (IDL), ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family.

Those studying by IDL may choose to benefit from a range of intensive classroom based Continual Profession Development (CPD) workshops offered by NExT at locations worldwide and led by Heriot-Watt University academic staff or approved NExT instructors.  There is one 5-day instructor-led workshop for each of the eight MSc Petroleum Engineering courses.

Programme duration

Mode of study Duration
Full-time 1 year
Part-time 2 years
Independent Distance Learning (IDL) 3-7 years*

*Students studying the Petroleum Engineering MSc via Independent Distance Learning are expected to spend 12-15 study hours per week and should therefore be able to complete the course within about three years.

How do I apply?

You can apply via the online application system.

It will tell you which information you'll need to provide, including financial and English language documents.

The Programme Director may arrange to hold a telephone interview with you.

Course content

Detailed course guide

Students on the Petroleum Engineering MSc undertake eight taught courses and two research projects.

Please find below the course descriptions.

Reservoir engineering

Students will gain an understanding of the rock and fluid properties of a hydrocarbon reservoir. They will also learn to describe the nature of the fluid flow and pressure distribution in a reservoir as well as develop an understanding of the effects of production/ injection on recovery of reserves.

Petroleum geoscience

Concerns the origin, structure and internal geometry of reservoirs and the creation, migration and entrapment of hydrocarbons. Geological models form the basis for reserve estimation and development planning.

Drilling engineering

Involves a range of engineering disciplines in the design and safe construction of exploration and development wells. These wells are required either to gather information from or to drain oil and gas reservoirs.

Formation evaluation

Students will gain an understanding of the concept of formation evaluation and well logging as well as the physical principles of the tools used in logging.  They will also learn to characterise the formation based on interpretation of well logs.

Reservoir simulation

Students will develop an understanding of the role of simulation in reservoir engineering. The provides students with an insight into the value of simulation and the appropriate numerical techniques to enhance hydrocarbon recovery.

Petroleum economics

This course provides an understanding of the economic concepts involved in project evaluation as well as the value of investments. Students will also learn to evaluate risks associated with economic decisions.

Production Technology

Concerns the productivity of oil and gas wells. It includes the design, installation and operation of down-hole and surface systems, to optimise the controlled recovery of pipeline quality crude oil and gas. Safety and the ability to respond to changing situations are important considerations.

Well test analysis

This course provides an understanding of the fundamentals of well testing to derive reservoir properties and its integration with geology. The first five chapters discuss the classical well test theory (i.e. pressure versus time) whereas the next three chapters present the principles and applications of distributed surveys (i.e. pressure versus depth) for improved reservoir description.


Group design project

Groups of about 10 students are provided with real data from a field, similar to that which would be available to an Operator prior to a development decision. Analysis of this data results in an assessment of the reservoir and leads to the design of an appropriate production system. Through this exercise, students gain valuable insight into the use of imperfect and incomplete data, to the integration of the various taught components of the course and to problems of group interaction. It is also an opportunity to teach a range of transferable skills such as teamwork, presentation and negotiation.

During the project students have access to state-of-the-art computer technology and industry standard software. Assessment is by means of a written report and by group presentation.

Individual project

Students are required to carry out a detailed investigation of some topic related to petroleum geoscience or engineering. Projects are offered both by the Institute and by the industry, and normally include a wide choice of experimental research, computer modelling and real oilfield problems. Assessment is by means of both thesis and oral presentation.