UCL Energy Institute


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

22 April 2024

Applications are now open for a studentship 'The future role of UK refineries in a net zero transition' available to UK students, 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 supervisor: Professor Paul Dodds
Industry partner: Fuels Industry UK
Project ID: 2228cc1445 (You will need this ID for your application)

Oil refineries manufacture a wide range of products from fossil fuels. Demands for some refinery outputs, such as diesel, are expected to greatly during the 2030s.

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. Low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture and storage could reduce the lifecycle emissions of their products, in line with the UK strategy for decarbonising industrial clusters. For example, offshore wind could power electrolysers to produce hydrogen for manufacturing synthetic jet fuel. The aim of this PhD is to investigate potential options for oil refineries to contribute to net zero, particularly through the use of low-carbon hydrogen. You will work with UCL researchers in the EPSRC HyRES hydrogen research centre.

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 and low-carbon hydrogen and biomass-derived fuels to produce lower-carbon petroleum products.

Fuels Industry UK, a trade association that represents refineries, is sponsoring this PhD. You will benefit from the substantial technical knowledge within Fuels Industry UK 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.

Key information

Funder: UCL ESPRC DTP-CASE studentship - This project involves industrial collaboration.
Industrial partner: Fuels Industry UK
Value: Fees, Stipend (at least £21,622 per year, plus a £3500 enhancement)
Duration: Up to 4 years (thesis to be submitted within funded period)
Eligible Fee Status: Home (UK)
Study Mode: Full or Part time (at least 50% FTE)
Primary Selection Criteria: Academic merit
Project ID: 2228cc1445 (You will need this ID for your application)
Application Deadline: 29 May 2024

How to apply

Before applying, all applicants must read the full eligibility criteria and application guidance on the UCL EPSRC DTP website