PhD Opportunity: Oilfield Scale

HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY – Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering

FAST Research Group / Energi Simulation Chair


SUPERVISORS: Professor Eric Mackay and Professor Ken Sorbie.

The flow of fluids from subsurface rocks via wells can be hindered by the precipitation of mineral scales.   Scale deposits – such as calcium carbonate and barium sulphate – cause production difficulties by growing on metal surfaces (such as well bores) and in porous media (such as reservoir rocks), causing restrictions to fluid flow.  The use of chemical scale inhibitors has been widely adopted as a method to control scale formation.

The Flow Assurance and Scale Team (FAST) in the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering at Heriot-Watt University is a 20+ person strong team that conducts research on the prediction and prevention of oilfield scale.  Over 15 industrial companies have sponsored this world leading research for 30+ years, and further details can be found at

The Energi Simulation Chair in Reactive Flow Simulation supports collaborative research initiatives between Heriot-Watt University and other universities on topics where component flow and chemical reactions in porous media are important.  These include precipitation of oilfield scales (with FAST).

A laboratory based PhD studentship is available to develop the understanding of the mechanisms by which inorganic scales form, and the mechanisms by which scale inhibitors prevent scaling and are retained on rock surfaces under a variety of subsurface conditions.

The successful applicant may be required to develop a number of skills from among the following list – scale inhibitor performance evaluation; core flooding; inhibitor/brine analysis (ICP, wet chemical); flow visualisation, recording and analysis.  Although desirable, these skills are not essential prerequisites.  They will have the opportunity to present their results to the funding companies and at international conferences, and will be supported in writing journal publications.


This scholarship is open to UK, EU and international applicants.

Applicants should be educated to BSc or Masters degree level in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or other numerate scientific/engineering subject and they should preferably have some prior laboratory experience.  They should demonstrate good English language skills, attention to detail, a disciplined and methodical approach to completing their workload, computer literacy, excellent communication skills and the ability to write reports, collate information and present it in a clear and engaging manner to academic and industry audiences.

We recognise that not every talented researcher will have had the same opportunities to advance their careers. We therefore will account for any particular circumstances that applicants disclose (e.g. parental leave, caring duties, part-time jobs to support studies, disabilities etc.) to ensure an inclusive and fair recruitment process.


The funding is for 3.5 years, and covers home/international tuition fees and a tax free annual stipend of £16,000.

How to Apply

To apply you must complete our online application form. Please select PhD programme Petroleum Engineering and include the full project title, reference number and supervisor on your application form. Ensure that all fields marked as ‘required’ are complete.

When you apply you will be asked to provide a supporting statement (up to four A4 pages), outlining how you would approach your research. This should be uploaded to the ‘project proposal’ section of the application form. You will also be required to upload a CV, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts and one academic reference. You will be asked to enter details of an academic referee. Until your nominated referee has uploaded their statement, your application will not be marked as complete and will not be considered by the review panel.  You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.

The closing date for applications is 8th April 2021.  Applications made after this date may be considered if further funds become available or if candidates have other sources of funding.  Applicants must be available to start in May 2021.

For further details please contact Heather O’Hara at the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, email