Postgraduate study

GeoEnergy MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

GeoEnergy is an emerging field and is of increasing importance globally as the world battles climate change, but relies on a secure supply of low carbon energy. I chose the programme as it focuses on an applied area of geoscience and allows you to apply existing knowledge, gain new knowledge and skills, all while focusing on real world applications. My advice for those studying for an MSc is to make the most of the one year you have!

Christopher McMahon MSc GeoEnergy
Christopher McMahon               MSc GeoEnergy

Your career in a lower carbon future starts here.

The MSc GeoEnergy enables you to pursue a geosciences-related career in the rapidly evolving energy sector, as it transitions from fossil fuels to a low carbon future.

The programme uses subsurface geological knowledge to open a diverse range of career paths in lower-carbon energy technologies, the disposal of energy-related wastes and the evolving hydrocarbon industry.

You will learn about a variety of ways to reduce CO2 emissions from the energy sector to help in meeting net-zero targets to tackle climate change, such as carbon capture and storage, along with energy storage technologies that complement renewable energy provision.

The MSc has been explicitly designed to explore a wide range of energy topics, giving you opportunities for a varied career path.

What is Geoenergy?

Geoenergy encompasses the entire range of energy technologies and sources that interact with the geological subsurface.

This includes both established energy technologies such as hydrocarbons, through to developing areas such as the production of geothermal energy and the storage of radioactive waste.

These technologies require either injection, extraction or interaction with fluids from the subsurface which are subject to fundamental geological controls.

Understanding these controls is essential for responsible and safe utilisation of these energy-related technologies for a low carbon future.

Reputation, relevance and employability

You will benefit from the strength and reputation of our research groups. We are one of the largest groups of geoscientists in the UK, examining uses of the Earth’s subsurface such as:

  • carbon capture and storage
  • radioactive waste disposal
  • energy storage (including compressed air, heat & hydrogen) and extraction
  • unconventional and conventional hydrocarbons
  • wet and dry geothermal heat
  • sustainable use of water resources
  • subsurface fluid tracing using stable isotopes and noble gases

Is the MSc for me?

The traditional energy industry can offer interesting and exciting careers for those who choose to follow a career within it.

The developing geoenergy industry can offer similar challenges and opportunities, meeting the challenge of providing reliable low carbon energy that will be needed to meet the internationally agreed global decarbonisation targets.

This MSc is ideal for those seeking an environmentally responsible career, focused on sustainable management of environmental resources.

Find out more from our students

Visit our student blog, where students in the School of GeoSciences share their experiences of postgraduate study, living in Edinburgh and everything in-between.

This MSc programme comprises:

  • compulsory and option courses
  • dissertation

Courses are delivered by staff who are active researchers in each field. Their expertise is supplemented by selected guest speakers, generally from industry or other research organisations.

Throughout the programme, your teaching team will work with you to prepare for the dissertation project. This will be your opportunity to explore a specialist topic of your choice in relation to geoenergy.

Teaching methods

You will experience a range of teaching styles while you are studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking.

Courses can be delivered through a mix of teaching and learning styles including:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • computer-based practicals
  • group work
  • fieldwork

For practical projects, the School of GeoSciences has a wide range of analytical equipment available for use. Please view in our Field Trips and Facilities section below.

Please view each relevant course for teaching and assessment methods.

Changes to teaching and learning

We are committed to offering a high-quality education to all our students. Please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery, including due to Covid-19.

Changes to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for educational experience.

Although we endeavour to provide a wide range of optional courses to choose from, these can be subject to change or cancellation at short notice.

Places on optional courses can be limited, due to course capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.

Part-time study

As we are committed to helping people into education while continuing to work or managing family and personal commitments, you may study this programme part-time.

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.

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
MSc1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2021/22
MSc2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2021/22
MSc3 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2021/22

You will learn about the wide range of geoenergy technologies, many of which are essential if ambitious emissions-reduction targets are to be achieved.

Communicating this knowledge to others is an essential skill, so you will be provided with opportunities to practise talks to convey your knowledge to your classmates. To help develop these skills, staff will provide feedback on these talks, and some are formally assessed.

You will acquire cutting-edge knowledge of geoenergy technologies, taught by experts in their fields who are regularly publishing on these topics.

This includes detailed technical aspects of the technologies, as well as other important aspects that influence acceptance and use such as cost, regulation, drawbacks and how the public views the technology.

You will gain experience in writing reports, summarising your knowledge on a subject, and drawing conclusions from a wide range of data types, which will equip you with important skills that are essential to many career pathways.

The MSc GeoEnergy provides a range of career opportunities in this emerging industry, and the ability to work toward a lower-carbon future.

You will be equipped with the advanced knowledge and skill required to use subsurface geological knowledge for future geoenergy applications.

This will open a diverse range of career pathways in geoenergy technologies and the disposal of energy-related wastes.

Opportunities include:

  • carbon capture and storage
  • radioactive water disposal
  • geothermal energy and subsurface energy storage including compressed air energy and hydrogen storage

Other pathways may include the monitoring of environmental and regulatory aspects of geoenergy and the prevention of pollution to protecting ground water resources through the tracking of subsurface fluids.

Careers Service

Our Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, offering a range of tailored careers and personal development guidance and support.

We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead, while at university and after graduation.

Field trips

The programme includes a geological field excursion which will provide a real-world synthesis of the separate strands of the MSc GeoEnergy:

  • hydrogeology (sedimentary aquifers)
  • nuclear waste disposal in both hard and soft rocks
  • carbon capture and storage
  • unconventional and conventional hydrocarbon production
  • subsurface reservoir quality

We aim to visit the world-class geological exposures of the Scottish Highlands, which will provide you with a unique opportunity to interpret analogues of the rocks required for geoenergy technologies, and gain improved geological field skills which are highly transferable.

Local day trips

Scotland is rich in geological diversity. The programme provides several opportunities for day trips that may encompass either local fieldwork or site visits to a range of locations across southern Scotland.

Previous day trips have included geological localities along the Lothian coast near Edinburgh, including the world-famous Hutton’s Unconformity at Siccar Point.

As part of the programme of events to welcome new students, we also organise a series of visits to local, geoenergy-related attractions.

These have previously included the National Coalmining Museum and Scottish Oil Shale Museum.

There are no additional charges for compulsory field trips.

Changes to field trips

Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including due to Covid-19.

Where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled.

We will also look at alternative arrangements that will ensure you achieve the quality learning outcomes of your degree.

Changes to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for educational experience.

Any changes will be announced as soon as possible.

Specialist software and facilities

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 you can use.

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 GeoEnergy.

An example of specialist software includes:

  • 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

Some of our analytical equipment that is available for use in dissertation projects include:

  • 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 new Carl Zeiss SIGMA HD VP Field Emission SEM and Oxford AZtec ED X-ray analysis and Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) system - for detailed petrography of sandstones and limestones.
  • ICP Analysis: Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. For example, we have used this for projects involving the reaction of CO2 with reservoir rocks.
  • 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.

We also host a variety of world-class experimental facilities, some of which have been used by MSc students. These include:

  • CO2 flow rigs, for studying how fluids interact with rocks as they flow through
  • the ‘GREAT-cell’, for studying the flow of fluids through large rock samples (30 cm diameter) under typical subsurface pressure conditions
  • Micro-CT scanner, for imaging fluids within the porespaces of rocks

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.

We may also consider your application if your background is not specifically related to these disciplines provided you have relevant work experience in a related area.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

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

For 2021 entry we will accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 20 in each module). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 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.

Find out more about our language requirements:


You will need to pay this deposit if you receive an offer of admission (either unconditional or conditional).

  • £1,500 (this contributes towards your tuition fees)

Find out more about tuition fee deposits:

Field trips and field courses

We do not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses.

Costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips will be covered by the programme fees. However, you must pay for incidental or personal expenses.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MSc1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MSc2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MSc3 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

School of GeoSciences scholarships

Browse funding opportunities

You are also encouraged to undertake your own research into the range of potential scholarships and other funding for which you may be eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Room 332, Grant Institute
  • School of Geosciences
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FE

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines.

We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline.

We aim to make the majority of decisions within six weeks of the selection deadline.

If we have not made you an offer by a specific selection deadline this means one of two things:

  • your application has been unsuccessful, in which case we will contact you to let you know, or
  • your application is still being considered, will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decisions made or applications rolled to next deadline
1 31 January 2021 15 March 2021
2 31 March 2021 15 May 2021
3 30 June 2021 15 August 2021

(*Revised 9 March 2021 to add information on decision timescales.)

You must submit one reference with your application.

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

Further information

  • Room 332, Grant Institute
  • School of Geosciences
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FE