PhD in the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences - Brimstone and Treacle: Understanding Oil-Driven Microbial Souring in Petroleum Reservoirs

Newcastle University

Value of award: 100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £14,533 (full award) plus an industrial CASE studentship top up fee.  

Number of awards: 1

Start date and duration: 8 January 2018 for 4 years


Souring and corrosion are multimillion dollar problems in the petroleum industry. A major cause of souring is the oxidation of organic compounds in oil by sulfate-reducing microorganisms. These use sulfate as an oxidant, generating sulfide, which has deleterious consequences including: health and safety risks, reduced quality/value of gas and oil, increased corrosion risk, increased infrastructure costs (corrosion resistant materials, sulfate removal systems), and impact on transport and refining.

You will determine fundamental factors controlling the development of reservoir souring and identify conditions that will either predicate or mitigate the likelihood of souring. A 'souring index' will be devised to predict the souring potential for different crude oils / fields based on understanding of the relationship between fluid properties (oil and formation water characteristics and their interaction with injected seawater) and microbial communities in the reservoir and/or introduced with injection water. Different combinations of these factors will be investigated to identify conditions which lead to the highest and lowest rates of sulfide generation.

You will spend time at BP facilities in the US and UK to access materials, technical and operational expertise.


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

iCASE project with BP

Name of supervisor(s)

Professor Ian M HeadSchool of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Eligibility Criteria

You must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree or international equivalent, in Microbiology, Geochemistry or a related subject.

The award is available to UK/EU applicants only. Depending on how you meet the EPSRC's eligibility criteria , you may be entitled to a full or a partial award.

How to apply

You must apply through the University's online postgraduate application system. To do this please 'Create a new account'

All relevant fields should be completed, but fields marked with a red asterisk must be completed. The following information will help us to process your application. You will need to:

  • Insert the programme code 8314F in the programme study section.
  • Select 'PhD Geoscience (full time)'as the programme of study
  • Insert the studentship code ci806 in the studentship/partnership reference field 
  • Attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code ci806 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project.
  • Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.

You should also send your covering letter to Professor Ian Head to


Professor Ian M Head
School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
Tel: +44(0)191 208 6605

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Northern England