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Heriot-Watt University: Subsurface Energy Systems

Institution Heriot-Watt University View institution profile
Department Petroleum Engineering
Telephone 0131 451 3729
Study type Taught


This course delivers the key concepts of subsurface energy and CO2 storage, geothermal energy or transitional gas and integrates geoscience, engineering, political and societal aspects important for large scale implementation of these technologies. The programme is recommended for Geoscientists, Petroleum Engineers, and Governmental Stakeholders and beyond such that they can participate in the management of subsurface reservoirs used to switch from a fossil fuel driven to a decarbonised economy.

This degree is delivered by The Lyell Centre and the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering committed to delivering research and training courses that meet the needs of the international subsurface energy industry.

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts serious consequences from further emitting CO2 into the atmosphere, thereby accelerating man-made climate change. A maximum of 2°C of global temperature increase is targeted, with a strong ambition to not exceed an increase of 1.5°C. This requires drastic reductions in our CO2 emissions. Part of this decrease in emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other sources comes from promoting other energy sources, like renewable energies (i.e. wind, solar, hydro, geothermal energies) or from an increase in the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS). Surface renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydro can readily be used in the form of electrical power if sufficient capacities are installed and natural conditions are favourable enough to be economic. Installed capacities within the UK increased from about 5 GW in 2005 to about 30 GW in 2015 with an outlook of further drastic increase in capacities. In case of overproduction, electricity can be stored in grids or batteries at limited capacity. As part of a Geoenergy application, these energies will be stored in the subsurface after conversion to e.g. hydrogen, thermal energy, or compressed air until needed, allowing for back-production within short and longer time scales of hours to years.

CCS overlaps with such storage sites, but with the aim of permanent storage. The UK, especially Scotland, is an attractive target for CCS implementation and is considered to significantly extend the lifetime of oil and gas reservoirs, thereby strengthening the related industrial sectors. The combined technologies of geothermal energy production, subsurface energy storage or CCS refer to the geoengineering aspects of Subsurface Energy Systems (SES). In this context, SES rather refers to the integration of Geoenergy applications with energy production at the surface as well as economic, societal and policy aspects.

There is a significant demand globally for research and training in these technologies, given that many small and large integrated oil and gas companies are decarbonising their assets which, at the same time, needs to be monitored and regulated by governmental bodies. Councils across the UK and Europe are increasingly looking at the subsurface for storing or producing energy.


Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt is one of the world’s leading universities with strong links to international business and industry driven by our established reputation as a top research-led institution.

With a rich heritage stretching back to 1821, we are a truly global university bringing together scholars who are leaders in ideas and solutions delivering innovation, educational excellence and ground-breaking research.








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We offer over 180 Postgraduate courses that will provide you with the knowledge to solve real world challenges.  There are around 2,400 postgraduate students studying at our Edinburgh Campus. It is a friendly, welcoming place, where you …

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