PhD students from the NERC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil & Gas and the Shell Centre for Exploration Geoscience welcomed the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Business & Enterprise, Matthew Hancock, to a one-day seminar on Petroleum Systems Analysis given by the Chair of the CDT's Industry Advisory Board, Prof. Keith Gerdes and his colleague, Dr. Andy Bell on 6th February, 2015.

The Minister was given a short introduction to the background and objectives of the CDT by its academic lead, and praised the collegiate approach that has brought together the expertise of 17 academic partners, 2 NERC affiliates and 9 industry sponsors for the benefit of the UK oil and gas sectors.

After being introduced to the students, the Minister was given a demonstration of Schlumberger's Petrel seismic interpretation software and its use in modelling hydrocarbon basins in the North Sea by two of the NERC CDT students studying at Heriot Watt, Ross Grant and Rachael Hunter. Both students are working on projects linked to one of NERC’s four CDT research themes, Extending the Life of Mature Basins.

The importance of collecting current data for analysis was highlighted and the Minister took a keen interest in trying out the software for himself and interpreting its results. In the group discussion that followed, the CDT students emphasised the importance of the collective group training that they can access via the CDT and its benefits both to their current PhD studies as well as to their eventual career development plans. The CDT student cohort includes students with geological, biological, environmental and mathematical backgrounds, ensuring that they have a range of knowledge and experience that they can draw from each other to deepen their own research and widen their perspective of the oil and gas industry and its operational challenges. Prof. Gerdes also underlined the benefits to industry of having a pool of innovative research to meet the current and future challenges for the sector and the highly skilled and trained individuals who will lead these advances.

Prof. Gerdes said “It is clear from the nine industrial partners’ exclusive funding of the Training Academy provision, and their willingness to contribute to the delivery of more than 50% of the courses, that industry representatives see great value in the CDT model. It is heartening to see the students’ enthusiasm for the CDT model being clearly demonstrated during their lively Q & A session with the Minister.”

We are delighted that the importance of the NERC Oil and Gas CDT is recognised by Matthew Hancock's visit and Heriot-Watt looks forward to continued engagement with DECC and BIS and their Ministers in support of this CDT and other strategic initiatives of national significance.

Dr. Liz Fellman, Director of Research & Enterprise at Heriot-Watt University

Prof. John Underhill, who leads the NERC CDT in Oil and Gas said: “It is excellent to see how NERC’s strategic investment in the Oil and Gas CDT has proved to be such a great model for applied training and academic research. The program has attracted a very talented pool of students, gained invaluable insights from academic and industry experts alike, received substantial backing from Government Departments and strong endorsement from UK ministers who have paid visits to the CDT, all of which augers well for long-lasting success.”