CDT in oil and gas

Please note all enquiries relating to student recruitment should be directed to the CDT.

Number of notional studentships awarded: ten per year for four intakes, plus additional match-funded studentships.

Core academic partners: the universities of Aberdeen, Durham, Heriot-Watt (academic lead partner), Imperial College London, Manchester and Oxford, and the British Geological Survey.

Associate academic partners: the universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Dundee, Exeter (Camborne), Glasgow, Keele, Newcastle, Nottingham, Royal Holloway, Southampton and Strathclyde, and the National Oceanography Centre.

Core industry sponsors: BP, Cairn Energy, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and Verus Petroleum.

Associate industry sponsors: GeoTeric, Halliburton / Neftex, Nautilus (RPS Training), PGS, Schlumberger, Spectrum and TRACS International.


The NERC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in oil and gas will provide training to create a highly skilled workforce with expertise that can be used across the wider energy and environment sectors, as well as filling skills gaps in the oil and gas sector. This will equip the industry with the skills needed to reduce the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration and extraction.

NERC has invested about £4.3 million to support the oil and gas CDT and academic and industry partners within the CDT have already committed to invest a further £5.2 million to support additional studentships and training opportunities. The CDT is expected to provide training between 2014 and 2021.

The CDT will support at least 120 postgraduate students, 40 of whom will be funded by NERC, over four student intakes between 2014 and 2017. All of these students will benefit from being embedded alongside world-class researchers and industry partners in the form of placements, mentoring, facilities and equipment.

Research areas and training

All PhDs supported by this CDT will be aligned to one or more of the four main research themes set by NERC:

  • effective production of unconventional hydrocarbons. Unconventional oil and gas (ie shale oil and gas resources) plays an increasingly important part of the energy mix. Producing these resources effectively and with minimal environmental impact requires innovative science and technology.
  • extending the life of mature basins. Mature basins such as the UK’s North Sea contain very significant amounts of unrecovered hydrocarbons. Identifying and producing this resource in a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way is technically challenging but will extend the fields’ lives and help reduce UK reliance on imported energy in the medium term.
  • exploitation in challenging environments. The petroleum industry has successfully extracted a large proportion of the ‘easy to get’ oil and gas. Large resources are still present in environments in which exploration, appraisal and production are difficult and where conventional technologies are inadequate (for example ultra high pressure high temperature (HPHT) reservoirs, subsalt, polar regions).
  • environmental impact and regulation. Reducing the environmental impact of oil and gas extraction is a key priority for the sector. Improvements in the scientific understanding and technology used during hydrocarbon resource extraction will result in lower levels of environmental impact and will directly influence UK oil and gas industry regulations.

In addition to undertaking scientifically challenging research, a key aim of the CDT is to provide training for doctoral students within focused research areas to allow them to take advantage of the large and diverse number of employment opportunities offered by the oil and gas industry.

Further information

Further information regarding this CDT can be found on the oil and gas CDT website or by contacting the NERC Talent and Skills Team at
Please note that prospective students should contact the CDT directly.

Last updated: 17 January 2023

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