course outline

MSc Petroleum Geoscience

The MSc Petroleum Geoscience course is managed by Dr. Gary Hampson (Course Director) with assistance from dedicated teaching staff. This team deals with all aspects of the course, including curriculum development and course delivery, and is supported by over 20 specialist internal and external staff with many years of oil industry experience. The course also benefits from contributions from industry professionals.

The key aspects of course structure are:

  • Course duration: 50 weeks (early October to mid-September)
  • Classroom teaching, group projects, fieldwork: Terms 1 and 2 (early October to early April)
  • Examinations: Term 3 (May)
  • Independent projects: Term 3 and summer (early June to mid-September)

Term 1: Production Geoscience

Term 1 (11 weeks, October-December) addresses Production Geoscience as currently practiced in the oil industry, which requires a broad understanding of geological, geophysical and reservoir engineering subjects. For this reason, there is strong integration between the MSc Petroleum Geoscience, MSc Petroleum Geophysics and MSc Petroleum Engineering courses during this period. The syllabus comprises 8 weeks of classroom-taught courses followed by a 3-week Production Geoscience Group Project, which provides practical experience of industry-style workflows.

A 3D image of the Wytch Farm fieldModules studied in Term 1 include:

  • Development Geology and Reservoir Modelling
  • Seismic Techniques
  • Petroleum Structural Geology
  • Characterisation of Fractured Reservoirs
  • Petrophysics
  • Petroleum Engineering
  • Geostatistics
  • Introduction to Petroleum Engineering
  • Hydrocarbon Reserves

Right: A 3D image of the Wytch Farm field, southern England; this dataset forms the basis of the Term 1 Production Geoscience team exercise

Term 2: Exploration Geoscience

Term 2 (11 weeks, January-March) addresses Exploration Geoscience, with an emphasis on applying current concepts, methods and technologies (e.g. basin analysis, sequence stratigraphy, petroleum systems modelling, seismic interpretation) to hydrocarbon basins. The syllabus comprises 7 weeks of classroom-taught courses followed by a 4-week Exploration Geoscience Group Project, which provides further practical experience of industry-style work. Student teams present their project work to a panel of selected industry judges. The term is followed by a 2-3 weeks synthesis fieldtrip, which provides the opportunity to revise and integrate many aspects of the entire course prior to the exams.

Modules studied in Term 2 include:

  • Characterisation and Modelling of Petroleum Systems
  • Applied Sedimentology
  • Basin Analysis
  • Play Fairway Analysis

  various disciplines

The ability to integrate various disciplines is the key theme in Term 2 of the Petroleum Geoscience MSc


Group Projects

In addition to the teaching programme in terms 1 and 2, students undertake the following group projects: 

Production Geoscience Group Project. This is a field development training exercise which illustrates the integration of disciplines required for field appraisal and reservoir characterisation. The project is carried out by teams of 5-6 students (2-3 MSc Petroleum Geoscience, 2-3 MSc Petroleum Engineering) using an integrated dataset (seismic, wireline logs, cores, fluid pressure measurements, well tests and petrophysical data). The project integrates all the formal teaching in Term 1, and trains students to be team players in multi-disciplinary reservoir management groups.

Exploration Geoscience Group Project ('Barrel Award'). This is an exploration-based project focusing on the detailed assessment of the petroleum potential in a frontier basin. The project is carried out by teams of 4-6 students, using a grid of 2D and/or 3D seismic data collected for regional exploration, regional well data and industry-standard analogue databases. The project integrates all the formal teaching in Term 2, and trains students to be team players in exploration evaluation and regional hydrocarbon prospectivity analysis. This is a competitive exercise assessed by a panel of three external, senior geoscientists. They select the winning team, which receives the prestigious Barrel Award (an award that extends back for over 40 years).


We regard fieldwork as an integral part of Petroleum Geoscience training, and it is used to consolidate our students' understanding by illustrating classroom-taught concepts in the field. Fieldtrips are taken in areas of outstanding geological interest that illustrate the full breadth of petroleum geoscience. Our approach in the field is problem based, so that students use the outcrops to help to better understand and interpret subsurface geological datasets (seismic sections, well-log panels, reservoir production datasets). Many oil companies run field trips to the same locations, and the MSc course provides an early opportunity for our students to study the same outcrops and consider the same lessons.

Fieldtrips undertaken during the course include:

  • Wessex Basin Fieldtrip, 6 days, October
  • Somerset fieldtrip, 2 days, November
  • Derbyshire fieldtrip, 2 days, February
  • Synthesis fieldtrip, 2-3 weeks, March/April

Independent Project Work

After the exams, students undertake a independent project from early June until mid-September. The independent project is the culmination of the MSc course, and provides students with the opportunity to further their specialist knowledge in a particular area and/or to gain work experience in an oil company.

Students are expected to demonstrate independent thinking, critical and creative analysis, and sound technical judgment in their project work, and to manage both the technical analysis and time-management aspects of the project. In short, the independent project should represent the pinnacle of a student's knowledge and ability over the duration of the MSc course.

It is our aim to place the majority of students into companies for the full duration of their projects - typically this amounts to 70-90% of the total student body. The remainder undertake projects within Imperial College.


Course Assessment

Assessment of the students is based on three separate components:

  • Examinations (50% of the final marks). At the beginning of Term 3, all candidates take five 3-hour examinations on the subjects covered during the course.
  • Course Work (25% of the final marks). Certain assignments carried out during the year as course work are assessed.
  • Independent Project (25% of the final marks). The independent proect is assessed by written dissertation, poster presentation and oral presentation.

Candidates achieving an overall mark of 70% and above in all three components of the course assessment will be conside red for the award of a Master of Science Degree with Distinction.

Course objectives:

The programme is designed to provide:

- basic knowledge in the key subsurface petroleum exploration & production geoscience disciplines;

- specialist knowledge in sequence stratigraphy, sedimentology, structural geology, basin analysis, petroleum systems & reservoir geology;

- skills in state-of-the-art technologies (e.g. 3D seismic interpretation, formation evaluation, reservoir modelling & basin modelling);

- guidelines for the main E&P workflows (e.g. play fairway analysis, prospect evaluation, appraisal, development & reservoir management);

- multidisciplinary and transferable skills for working within integrated subsurface evaluation teams.

MSc Petroleum Engineering

Amongst MSc Petroleum Engineering academics are distinguished researchers and lecturers, highly regarded in academia and the petroleum industry. The programme is also accredited by the UK Engineering Council so that graduates with appropriate first degrees and relevant professional experience qualify for the CEng (Chartered Engineer) designation. 

Course Director

Professor Martin J. Blunt

Chairs in MSc Petroleum Engineers

Professor Martin J. Blunt

Professor Matthew Jackson

Professor Peter R. King

Professor Ann Muggeridge

Professor Velisa Vesovic

Professor Robert W. Zimmerman

The Department of Earth Science and Engineering enjoys excellent links with many major companies including Shell, Total, BP, BG, Statoil, Conoco Phillips and many more. Every year a number of leading figures from the industry come to Imperial College London to teach MSc Petroleum Engineering students in various disciplines. This is to the mutual benefit of both parties as these figures can impart knowledge of cutting edge technologies and processes used in the industry whilst also gaining an introduction to our students who are considered as potential future employees and highly regarded because of the quality of the education they receive during their time at Imperial College London. Along with internal staff, those visiting lecturers combine to form a specialist Petroleum Engineering team of over 20 academics who can pass on knowledge from over 160 years of experience in the oil and gas industries.

Course structure

The course is managed by Professor M. Blunt. It is supported by over 20 specialist internal and external staff with over 160 years of cumulative industrial experience. The course also benefits from contributions from industry professionals. The course runs for 12 months and is aimed at providing the necessary background for employment in the oil and gas industry or a springboard for a research degree, as well as providing an in-depth study and consolidation for those already working in industry.

There are three principal elements to the course:

  • Formal lectures, problem classes, laboratory and computer exercises. These take place on a full-time, structured basis from October to March in the normal academic terms. During the taught course, our students are taken on field trips including the Wessex Basin. Formal examinations are conducted in January and the first two weeks of the Summer term.

  • Group project work. This is a group field development exercise carried out by groups of about five to six students, the first phase being carried out jointly with the MSc Petroleum Geoscience students. The objective is to interrelate the separate subjects taught in formal lectures. Data for the project are analysed with prevailing commercial software as part of Modules II to IV and integrated into a development proposal as part of Module V. This is assessed initially by a presentation to the examiners at the end of the Spring term. After review and discussion, selected groups make further presentations to an invited audience from industry.

  • Individual research projects. After formal examinations, candidates will work on individual research projects. These are submitted at the beginning of September and are examined both as a report and by an oral presentation in mid-September. Projects may be selected by the candidate, planned in cooperation with industrial sponsors or allocated by the Department.


The course finishes with an extensive four-month individual research project in the student's chosen branch of Petroleum Engineering. A broad range of research topics are covered and all projects are supervised by an academic from Imperial College London and many are done in collaboration with major petroleum companies allowing students to make contacts and gain practical experience within the industry.

The projects expand upon the core taught modules, requiring independent thinking and critical analysis, resulting in an addition to knowledge of substantial depth and relevance to the modern petroleum industry. On completion of the projects will be a series of presentations to faculty of Imperial College London and our associates in industry. A number of the final theses are published as SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers) papers

Course Assessment

Please see the course outline document below for details on course assessment.

Please view the Programme Specification document for the MSc Petroleum Engineering

Please view the Course Outline for the MSc Petroleum Engineering

Please view the Syllabus for the MSc Petroleum Engineering

Please view the Guidebook for the MSc Petroleum Engineering

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