The most exciting current developments in Geosciences are driven by links between traditional Earth Science disciplines and novel developments in, and interactions between, the biological, chemical and physical sciences. Geoscience research in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (CeG) is poised at these critical boundaries with significant research strengths in Biogeochemistry and Geoenergy.
In the broad field of Geoenergy, we are working at the forefront of significant issues related to fossil fuel use. Major projects investigate the factors controlling shale gas and oil shale production, environmental conditions controlling the generation of modern organic-rich marine sediments and hydrocarbon source rocks in past greenhouse oceans, biogeochemical factors involved in the formation of the world’s vast heavy oil deposits, the potential of the deep biosphere with respect to hydrocarbon recovery and degradation, and the evolution of porosity-permeability in carbonate rocks. Cognisant of the environmental impacts of continued fossil fuel use, we also have research programmes tackling carbon capture and storage – either in deep geological formations or through generation of inert carbon pools (carbonate minerals, biochar) sustaining soils and peats as carbon sinks – with the aim to understand transformations and preservation of organic carbon in a range of settings. We also work on deep geothermal energy, delivering projects in Weardale (1 km borehole) and Newcastle city centre (1.8 km borehole), and address the availability of key mineral resources for new and renewable energy applications.
Our Biogeochemistry team is internationally recognised for its studies on the coupling of geochemical element cycling with microbiological processes both in modern and ancient environments. Specific emphasis is placed on the global cycles of carbon, nutrients and metals, and their relationship to primary productivity in the ocean and climate dynamics past and present. This research is supported by the development and application of novel molecular proxies to address key aspects of the global carbon cycle. We study the processes and feedbacks of past climate change across a broad range of global climate states and stratigraphic intervals, combining high resolution multi-proxy records with biogeochemical and climate modelling. Work on mineral weathering coupled with microbiological processes is leading to novel fertilisers and mechanisms for carbon capture. Biogeochemistry research also encompasses important modern day processes with genomics-enabled programmes exploring the controls on biogenic methane emissions in natural and engineered environments with important implications for future climate change.
As a strong multi-disciplinary group, numerous important links exist between our biogeochemistry and geoenergy researchers. Examples include the microbial transformations of hydrocarbons in surface environments and in the deep biosphere, and the effects of biogeochemical processes on porosity evolution in carbonate-hosted hydrocarbon reservoirs. We also have links to the engineering community through our work on microbial processes of significance to oil and gas production such as reservoir souring.
We also provide a wide range of consultancy and commercial services.
The geosciences group has a blog run by the PhD students that will keep you up to date with what is happening in the group and highlight the experience of some of our past and present students.