Postgraduate study

Applied Geoscience (Geoenergy) MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Applied Geoscience (Geoenergy)

This MSc is aimed at students who wish to pursue a geosciences-related career in the future energy sector, as it transitions from fossil fuels to a low carbon economy. The aim is to offer a programme that uses subsurface (geological) knowledge opening a diverse range of career pathways in lower carbon geoenergy technologies; the disposal of energy-related wastes and the hydrocarbon industry.

This MSc programme builds on the strength and reputation of the research groups operating in the School of GeoSciences on uses of the subsurface: carbon capture and storage (CCS); radioactive waste disposal; energy storage and extraction; unconventional and conventional hydrocarbons; wet and dry geothermal heat; and subsurface fluid tracing using noble gases and stable isotopes.

This MSc differs from competitors in the coverage of a wide variety of energy topics, from a subsurface perspective. There are many masters programmes covering, for example, petroleum geology and engineering, but the job market in this industry is volatile due to large fluctuations in the price of oil. By covering a wider range of energy topics, we provide for more varied career paths. In addition, many graduates do not wish to work for the hydrocarbon industry, given the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming. We cover topics that help to counter climate change by reducing CO2 emissions, including carbon capture and storage (CCS); and energy storage to enable a large proportion of renewable generation in an energy portfolio.

Compulsory courses (for students who have accredited prior learning, elective courses are taken in lieu) – 90 credits

  • Future GeoEnergy Resources
  • Applied Hydrogeology and Near surface Geophysics
  • Hydrogeology 2
  • Environmental Geochemistry
  • Project Design and Literature Analysis
  • Carbon Storage and Monitoring

Compulsory Courses – for those with Geoscience background – 20 credits

  • Subsurface Reservoir Quality

Compulsory Courses – for those without Geoscience background – 20 credits

  • Geology for Earth Resources
  • Hydrocarbons

Optional courses: choice of 10 credits from following *

  • Ore Mineralogy, Petrology & Geochemistry
  • Seismic Reflection Interpretation
  • Environmental Problems and Issues
  • Nuclear Waste Management: Principles, Policies & Practice

Compulsory Dissertation

  • Dissertation in Geoenergy

Dissertation projects require a wide range of facilities. Some need little more than access to the University Library or a computer. However, we also have a range of specialist software that can be used by students:

  • Petrel: industry-standard seismic interpretation - kindly donated by Schlumberger.

  • PetroMod: basin-modelling - kindly donated by Schlumberger.

  • Permedia Suite: fluid flow modelling - kindly donated by Haliburton.

  • Move: subsurface data integration, cross-section construction and 3D model building - kindly donated by Midland Valley.

  • RokDoc: rock physics modelling from wireline log and pressure data - kindly donated by Ikon Science.

  • OpenGeoSys: an academic code for simulation of thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical (THMC) processes in porous and fractured media

  • Eclipse: industry-standard subsurface fluid flow modelling - kindly donated by Schlumberger.

For more practical projects, the School of GeoSciences has a wide variety of analytical equipment that is available for use during the dissertation phase of the Msc.

  • Thin-sections and microscopes (transmission; reflection; UV; cathodo-luminescence; fluid inclusion) for petrography – a core technique for many rock-based projects.
  • Scanning Electron Microscope: we have a a new Carl Zeiss SIGMA HD VP Field Emission SEM and Oxford AZtec ED X-ray analysis and Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) system. Good for detailed petrography of sandstones and limestones.
  • ICP Analysis: Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. We have used this for projects involving the reaction of CO2 with reservoir rocks, for example.
  • Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry: The facility now has two gas source isotope ratio mass spectrometers with automatic carbonate preparation systems. Often used for characterising calcite cements in reservoirs or seal rocks.
  • XRF Facility: The instrument may be used for qualitative or quantitative analysis of geological materials.
  • X-ray Diffraction: this provides the mineralogical composition of a sample.
  • Chemical Analysis: we can conduct a wide range of traditional chemical analysis, for example the determination of inorganic carbonate content in a sample.
  • Electron microprobe: we have a world-class Cameca SX100 instrument

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScApplied Geoscience (Geoenergy)1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2019/20
MScApplied Geoscience (Geoenergy)2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2019/20
MScApplied Geoscience (Geoenergy)3 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2019/20

This programme will train students in the use of subsurface geological knowledge opening a diverse range of career pathways in lower carbon geoenergy technologies and the disposal of energy-related wastes. These include radioactive waste disposal; carbon capture and storage; geothermal energy and subsurface energy storage including compressed air energy storage.

Other pathways include working in environmental and regulatory aspects of energy storage involving potential pollution; tracking subsurface fluids in the event of leakage from subsurface facilities and ground water resources.

Mark Wilkinson (programme director)


My main research interests are in geological CO2 storage including studying natural analogues (rocks with natural CO2 in them), to tell us what will happen to the CO2 when it is injected into a rock. I recently worked on what to do if a leak develops (which it probably won’t), and have modelled monitoring schemes for CO2 storage sites so we can detect leakage easily and cheaply.

I also study diagenesis, or what happens to sediments as they are buried and turn into rocks. In practice, I study reservoirs, for oil / gas, CO2 storage, or water supply. I’m particularly interested in if sandstones and shales interact during burial. In other words, do solutes (e.g. K, Al, Si) move from sands into shales or vice-versa?

And I’ve worked on energy storage (Compressed Air Energy Storage and hydrogen storage), to answer the question, can we save energy from renewables for peak demand times?


I’m the Programme Director of the MSc in GeoEnergy, i.e. I designed the course (with a lot of help from my friends...), I teach some of it, and I’m the first point of contact for students on the course.

Field Geology

I’m lucky that I teach on several field trips, all visiting areas of interest. The nearest is Arthur’s Seat in central Edinburgh, you can’t get much closer to the University than that! I also help with our residential trip to the Lake District for 1st year students, and a 3rd year excursion to Helmsdale, NE Scotland, to study the type of rocks you only normally find deeply buried below the North Sea, and quite similar to those the UK extracts oil and gas from.

Stuart Gilfillan (assistant programme director)


My core research interest is in fingerprinting carbon dioxide in order to track its movement and means of storage in subsurface reservoirs, as part of efforts to develop carbon capture and storage technologies. More recently, I have been applying this knowledge to the environmental monitoring of unconventional gas extraction, geothermal energy production and understanding the connectivity of hydrocarbon reservoirs. I have been working on the measurement of geochemical fingerprints in shale gas sources in the UK since 2012 and have a keen interest in all areas of utilising the subsurface for energy production or storage.


I’m the deputy programme director for the GeoEnergy MSc and am also the course organiser for the Future GeoEnergy Resources course. I also teach a variety of undergraduate courses from introductory geological map interpretation to first years, to the Geological Evolution of the British Isles to the fourth years.

Field work

I teach on several field trips, including the world famous Siccar point in East Lothian, the stunning Assynt area of the NW Highlands and the hot and dusty region of Almeria in Spain. In addition, I’m lucky enough to have had the chance to work at a range of CCS test sites all around the world, in a variety of countries including Australia, Canada, Iceland, Italy and the USA.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a science or engineering subject. We will also take any relevant professional experience into account where appropriate. Evidence of mathematical ability is required for the less numerate degrees (e.g. geology). The equivalent of a National 5 or GSCE in Mathematics at grade B. Prospective students should be aware that basic calculus is required for one of the courses.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections; the "Enabling Skills" sections are not considered)

  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates. Revised 22/03/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScApplied Geoscience (Geoenergy)1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScApplied Geoscience (Geoenergy)2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MScApplied Geoscience (Geoenergy)3 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Programme Administrator, Kathryn Will
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 2624
  • Contact:
  • Room 332, Grant Institute
  • School of Geosciences
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FE

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Programme Administrator, Kathryn Will
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 2624
  • Contact:
  • Room 332, Grant Institute
  • School of Geosciences
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FE