GEOL40650 Applied Geoscience

Academic Year 2023/2024

The module provides a background to the main industry sectors that apply geosciences in order to understand the subsurface for a wide range of purposes including mineral extraction, energy generation and construction. An overview is provided of each sector including aspects of the commercial and social-environmental drivers. The role of geology and geophysics, key geoscience principles and technologies applied in each sector are summarised. Many of the concepts introduced in this module will be developed in further detail in subsequent modules within the MSc.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completing this course students should have an understanding of
- the challenges facing societies in terms of energy, resource and climate related challenges that require geoscience-based solutions
- key aspects of industries that use geosciences to understand the subsurface including
- the commercial drivers, stakeholders, types of businesses, roles of geoscientists play and
- the principal technologies, methodologies and concepts used in order to make predictions in the subsurface

Indicative Module Content:

1 Global challenges and geoscience in the 21st Century (Dr L. Amy)
Global challenges, UN Sustainable Development Goals, Critical Needs, geoscience and sustainable development.

2 Energy: past, present and future (Dr L. Amy)
Energy demand and key drivers, energy sustainability development goals, climate agreement goals, the energy transition, global the present energy sources and scenarios for future energy sources, role of geoscience.

3 Raw materials: past, present and future (Dr K. Torremans)
Demand versus supply of raw materials, changing perspectives on raw material reserves through time focusing on metals, environmental, sustainability and governance of raw materials, concepts of circular economy and recycling, and its main challenges.

4 The Petroleum Industry: key geoscience principles (Dr L. Amy)
Petroleum definition and types, petroleum generation, petroleum systems (source, reservoir, seal, trap, migration and timing), petroleum basins.

5 Characterisation of porous rock I (Dr T. Manzocchi)
Porosity. Net:Gross Ratio. Pay and non-pay. Permeability, saturation, capillary pressure. Porosity / permeability relationships, Rock typing.

6 Characterisation of porous rock II (Dr T. Manzocchi)
Porosity from wells and seismic. Heterogeneity and connectivity. Thief zones, baffles and barriers. Representative effective properties.

7 The Petroleum Industry: overview of the sector (Dr L. Amy)
Uses in today’s society, a short history of petroleum exploitation, the petroleum value chain and field life cycle.

8 The Petroleum Industry: Unconventional Petroleum (Dr L. Amy)
Unconventional petroleum, fracking, tight reservoirs, shale oil, coal-bed methane, tar sands, relative resource value, oil and gas prices, global resource and reserve volumes, peak oil vs peak demand.

9 Overview of the Minerals and Raw Materials Sector (Dr K. Torremans)
Introduction to raw materials and mineral systems, what are mineral resources and ore reserves, what makes a viable mineral deposit. Trade and business drivers, typical legal and environmental requirements, typical success rates. Sustainability of resources, and environmental, social and governance responsibility. The ‘Exploration to Estimation’ process: What stages do projects go through, what timelines and stakeholders are involved, what is the role of geoscientists?.

10 The Minerals Industry: key geoscience principles I (Dr K. Torremans)
Main classification schemes for ore deposits, ore deposits in a global tectonic context, mineral systems approach. Overview of hydrothermal ore-forming processes. Origin and movement of ore forming fluids in the earth’s crust and modern evidence of these processes, introduction to metal solubilities in aqueous solutions, fluid-rock interaction and alteration (source, sink), precipitation mechanisms, metal zoning and paragenetic sequences. Examples of hydrothermal ore deposits.

11 The Minerals Industry: key geoscience principles II (Dr K. Torremans)
Overview of igneous ore-forming processes and deposits. Magmas and metallogeny. Mineralising processes. Example deposit types, mining aspects. Dimensions and spatial geological context.
Overview of magmatic-hydrothermal ore-forming processes and deposits. Characteristics, origins and pathways of magmatic-hydrothermal fluids. Metal transport in magmatic-hydrothermal solutions. Relation to intrusions. How do elements get concentrated and the concept of element partitioning. Near-surface upgrading processes. Example deposit types. Main exploration and mining techniques. Dimensions and spatial geological context.

12 The Minerals Industry: key geoscience principles III (Dr K. Torremans)
Sedimentary ore-forming processes and key industrial minerals. Critical metals for renewable technologies and batteries. By-products and elemental associations within the periodic table of elements. What is geometallurgy. Common ore and gangue minerals. Main exploration and mining techniques..

13 Carbon capture and storage I (Dr L. Amy)
The process of “carbon capture and storage” (CCS), the need for CCS due to mitigate climate change, different types of CCS, marine storage.

14 Carbon capture and storage II (Dr L. Amy)
Underground geological storage in association with enhanced oil recovery, depleted oil and gas fields saline aquifers and unmineable coal, state of the CCS industry and examples of projects.

15 The Groundwater Sector: overview of the sector (Dr C. Childs)
Global groundwater supply and demand. Commercial, political and societal aspects of the groundwater industry. Future outlook for the groundwater sector.

16 The Groundwater Sector: key geoscience principles (Dr C. Childs)
Aquifer types and aquifer properties. Matrix and fracture porosity. The potentiometric surface and flow in the subsurface.

17 The Renewable Sector: overview of the sector (Prof. F. McDermott)
Growth of renewable energy. Context in relation to total energy demand. Renewable energy penetration in global electricity, heat and transport sectors. Growth rates for wind, solar and hydro and trends in cost per kWh for renewables compared with fossil fuel sources. Consideration of non-renewable, low emission energy sources (nuclear). Intermittency and possible approaches for energy storage solutions (e.g. (pumped-hydro, power-to-gas, battery, compressed air, virtual storage).

18 The Renewable Sector: key geoscience principles (Prof. F. McDermott)
Earth system perspectives on renewable energy resources and their variability on a range of timescales (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal). The water-energy nexus. Day-ahead to seasonal-scale prediction and forecasting of wind, solar and hydro-electricity resources. Projected climate change impacts on global to regional-scale wind, solar and hydro resources and associated uncertainties. Geoscience-related considerations for sub-surface energy storage solutions.

19 The Geotechnical Sector: overview of the sector (Dr C. Harnett)
Construction as a driver for sector growth. Potential factors limiting growth of the sector, e.g. cost of geotechnical services. Segmentation of market based on end users, and type of space (e.g. underground, foundation, slope). Geotechnical sector and nuclear waste. Key industry players. Brief introduction to topics that will be covered in the Rock Engineering module.

20 The Geotechnical Sector: uncertainty, risk and subsurface characterisation (Dr C. Harnett)
Estimating risk in geotechnical problems, and the financial implications. Defining acceptable risk. Probabilistic analysis. Concept of over-engineering, e.g. factor of safety. Sources and quantification of uncertainty, particularly regarding characterization of materials and their heterogeneity.

21 Geothermal Energy Sector: overview of the sector (Prof. J. Walsh)
Consideration of the economics of heat and geothermal energy. Outline of the main technologies underpinning shallow to deep geothermal, open to closed, single to doublet and multi-well arrays, and heat pumps.

22 Geothermal Energy Sector: key geoscience principles (Prof. J. Walsh)
The geological challenges of geothermal systems, including the principles of heat sources, the relative significance of advection and conduction, the challenges of siliciclastic to limestone to fractured intrusive host rocks and the risks associated with geothermal systems, including induced seismicity, leakage and heterogeneity.

1 Global Challenges Exercise (Dr L. Amy)
Consideration of the geoscience challenges and energy transition pathway for different countries.

2 Minerals (Dr K. Torremans)
Characterisation of mineral deposits. Modern analytical techniques for geometallurgy and geotechnical characterisation and their use in an industry context. Interpretation of whole rock geochemistry and mineral chemistry data to understand the geometry and character of a mineral deposit for near-mine exploration.

3 Minerals (Dr K. Torremans)
Characterisation of mineral deposits. Modern analytical techniques for geometallurgy and geotechnical characterisation and their use in an industry context. Designing and managing a safe and productive mine. Using geochemical and geotechnical data in mine production.

4 Groundwater (Dr C. Childs)
Construct a map of a potentiometric surface for a groundwater aquifer from boreholes. Interpret the map in terms of groundwater flow patterns.

5 Renewables (Dr K. Torremans)
Quantification of the supply-demand question of metals for renewables.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
active/task-based learning;
peer and group work;
student presentations. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Practical class work Throughout the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Examination: Written exam 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be given on practical class work either at the end of the class, the following week or at the end of the trimester before exams.

Name Role
Dr Conrad Childs Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Claire Harnett Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Tom Manzocchi Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Frank McDermott Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Koen Torremans Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr John Walsh Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.

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