UCL Energy Institute


Fully funded PhD studentship on the future role of UK refineries in a net zero transition

20 December 2022

Applications are now open for a proposed studentship 'The future role of UK refineries in a net zero transition', as part of 60 studentships to be awarded by the UCL EPSRC DTP.

Photograph of an oil refinery

About the project

Project title: The future role of UK refineries in a net zero transition
Project supervisors: Professor Paul DoddsProfessor Lazaros Papageorgiou
Project ID: 2228bc1240 (You will need this ID for your application)

Oil refineries manufacture a wide range of products for energy and non-energy uses from fossil fuels. Demands for some refinery outputs, such as diesel, are expected to greatly reduce after 2030, while others will be much less affected.

The six UK refineries could change the way their units operate, or invest in new equipment, to change the proportions of each petroleum product that is produced. They could also invest to enable greater use of fuels such as biomass and low-carbon hydrogen to reduce the lifecycle emissions of their products. The aim of this PhD is to investigate how demands for products from oil refineries might change in the future as the global economy decarbonises, and what the implications are for the design of refineries.

The primary analysis tool will be the UK TIMES energy system model, which the UK Government used to generate scenarios for the UK’s Net Zero Strategy (2021). You will use the model to explore decarbonisation pathways for sectors using petroleum products. You will develop a much more sophisticated representation of the six oil refineries and their options for future developments, to understand how they might adapt to changing demands in the future and whether existing refineries might be adapted to use biomass-derived fuels and low-carbon hydrogen to produce lower-carbon petroleum products.

The UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA), a trade association representing refineries, is sponsoring this PhD. You will benefit from the substantial technical knowledge within UKPIA about the UK’s oil refineries and will have the opportunity to visit the refineries.

The project is ideally suited to a quantitative individual with a chemical or process engineering background who is motivated to work on problems that can have a real-world impact in supporting the transition to a decarbonised energy system.

This studentship will have an enhanced stipend.

About the Supervisory Team

Professor Paul Dodds, Professor of Energy Systems in the UCL Energy Institute, will be the principal supervisor. Paul specialises in engineering and technoeconomic modelling. He created and leads the development of the UK TIMES energy system model in partnership with the UK Government, who have adopted it as their principal in-house energy system model. He has been PI of 14 research projects, including three large UKRI projects. Dodds is a Co-I of a number of major research centres including the UK Energy Research Centre. He has supervised five PhD students to completion.

Professor Lazaros Papageorgiou, Professor of Chemical Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering, will be the subsidiary supervisor. He has expertise in developing mixed-integer optimisation models and solution techniques, applying them to flexible manufacturing in process industries, supply chain optimisation, production planning and scheduling, capacity planning under uncertainty, data mining, and water and energy systems engineering. He received the 2012 IChemE Hutchinson medal and has an h-index of 52. He has substantial PhD supervision experience.

Key information

Funder: UCL ESPRC DTP-CASE studentship - This project involves industrial collaboration. The student would need to spend a minimum of 3 months (as either a single block, or multiple shorter blocks) at the partner’s premises.
Industrial partner: UK Petroleum Industry Association Limited 
Value: Fees, Stipend (at least £20,668 per year, plus a £2500 enhancement)), Research Training Support Grant
Duration: Up to 4 years (thesis to be submitted within funded period)
Eligible Fee Status: Home, International (EPSRC caps the total number of funded International fee status students across UCL for this award at 30%)
Study Mode: Full or Part time (at least 50% FTE) [Note: Part time is not available to International students]
Primary Selection Criteria: Academic merit
Project ID: 2228bc1240 (You will need this ID for your application)
Application Deadline: 12:00 on 26 January 2023

How to apply

This PhD Studentship topic is one of 19 proposed by The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources to a competition for approximately 60 studentships that will be awarded across UCL as part of the UCL EPSRC DTP. Prospective students are welcome to apply for up to 5 potential studentships - see the full list of projects from our department and the UCL project database for a comprehensive list across the university. The 60 successful proposals will be chosen following applicant interviews.

Before applying, all applicants must read the full eligibility criteria and application guidance on the UCL EPSRC DTP website. There is a 3-part application process, with a deadline of the 26 January 2023 to complete the third part of the application.