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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


Oil and gas training centre welcomes £1m industry investment

(28 May 2014)

Six of the oil industry’s biggest names have confirmed additional funding support for the new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil and Gas in which Durham University is a core partner.

BP, Shell, BG, ConocoPhillips, E.ON and Total have together pledged more than £1 million to underpin a Training Academy for 90 PhD students over the next six years. This brings total funding for the Centre, which is led by Heriot-Watt University, to more than £9 million. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has allocated £2.7 million to the centre and the remaining £5.2 million will come from the Centre’s academic and affiliated partners over the next six years.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said, "The shared funding from industry and government that is going into this centre will nurture a future generation of experts to provide technical and intellectual leadership for decades to come in one of the UK's great industries. It is an excellent example of how our industrial strategy is helping industry and government to work together and align research investment with priorities for economic growth. I am delighted that businesses are supporting the new centre so strongly, it is a vote of confidence in how the consortium led by Heriot-Watt, with support from the Natural Environment Research Council, have designed the programme."

Professor Aplin of CeREES is Durham’s academic lead for the CDT said “The UK currently finds itself in an interesting position with regard to its fossil fuel energy supply. Oil and gas production from the North Sea is declining whilst the controversial production of onshore shale gas and oil seems increasingly likely. All of this sits within the context of our commitment to substantial reductions in CO2 emissions by 2050.

We need urgently to train professionals who are not only technically excellent but who can navigate the country through a rapidly changing energy landscape. This highly collaborative CDT, co-funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council, industry and university partners, is ideally placed to do just that. We at Durham are very happy to be playing a central role in developing the vision”.

Heriot-Watt’s Professor John Underhill, who holds the position of Shell Chair of Exploration Geoscience, will lead the new centre. He said, “The level of company investment underlines the support for the CDT in general, the especial importance that industry attaches to the Training Academy in particular and highlights the need for doctoral oil and gas research studies to be placed in their broader context.”

The Centre will focus on creating a highly skilled workforce with expertise that can be used across the wider energy and environmental sectors, as well as filling skills gaps in the oil and gas sector. This will equip the industry with the skills needed to meet the future challenges of energy security.

The European President of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Keith Gerdes of Shell will chair the Industrial Advisory Board of the CDT on behalf of NERC. He said, “This Centre is a truly game-changing initiative and represents the most exciting development in the provision of training for the energy industry in the UK that has occurred during my career.

“The consortium of universities led by Heriot-Watt includes major UK providers of world-class teaching and research in petroleum geoscience and related subjects. The collegiate structure and inclusive nature which is at the heart of this construct is extremely attractive to many members of the industry and will create a ‘one stop shop’ for industry and academic engagement for both research and recruitment.

“I am delighted to be involved in such an innovative, student-centric project designed to attract and train top postgraduate talent for the future energy industry.”

Of the Centre’s 90 postgraduate students, 30 will be funded by NERC. All of its students will benefit from being embedded alongside world-class researchers and industry partners in the form of placements, mentoring, facilities and equipment.

The Centre consists of seven core partners and a further 12 associate partners. Core partners are Heriot-Watt University, Imperial College, Aberdeen University, Durham University, Manchester University, Oxford University and the British Geological Survey (BGS). The 12 associate partners are the universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Dundee, Exeter (Camborne), Glasgow, Keele, Newcastle, Nottingham, Royal Holloway, Southampton & Strathclyde and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

Find out more about the new CDT in Oil and Gas.

For more information, please contact: Barbara Fraser,, 0131 556 0770, 07500 019757.