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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 Petroleum 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, including directly from undergraduate degrees and also from years to decades of experience in the Oil and Gas industry. Our 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 Petroleum Engineering have come from over 30 different nations.
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 Petroleum 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.
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.
Course contentDetailed course guide
The course consists of a variety of geosciences and engineering courses addressing the concepts of petroleum exploration & 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 & 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 & 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.