Oil and gas remains a vital source of global energy, providing 85% of total supply. As reserves become limited, exploration is being undertaken in harsher, extreme environments such as the Arctic Circle, or even deeper waters such as off the coast of Africa and Gulf of Mexico. 

Unconventional and extra heavy oils pose new challenges meaning that they cannot be produced, transported and refined by conventional methods. To continue meeting demand, novel solutions are required to exploit current sources of oil and new resources.

We are engaged in research in a number of areas on behalf of industry. Current areas of work include:

  • Enhanced Oil Recovery – to maximise production using gas lift, pumping, water injection, and smart wells combined with CO2 storage. 

  • Flow Assurance – from ensuring efficient and uninterrupted transportation of produced fluid from reservoirs, to processing facilities through a multi-disciplinary approach including process, subsea and pipeline engineering.

  • Production Technology – developing compact separators, jet pumps, metering and other innovative technology for newer and challenging subsea environments.

  • Multiphase Flows – understanding the complex interaction of gas, oil, water and solid phases is fundamental and underpins our work.

Our global client list includes BP, Chevron, Shell, Petrofac and Total.

Research has been sponsored by organisations such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) as well as the European Union.

About our research

Our greatest strength is the ability to combine the academic rigour and long-term perspective of a university with the commercial and business focus of industry.

Our excellence in strategic and applied research has enabled us to make significant contributions to the world around us for over 60 years. We address real life challenges and focus on research that is of strategic and practical importance.

We provide a supportive research community for students and our academic work is regularly published in journal article, book or thesis form.

Our facilities

Our unique, industrial-scale facilities include:

Multiphase Flow Facility - This unique and fully automated high pressure facility is the largest amongst UK universities. Oil, water and air flow rates are individually metered and controlled. The facility supplies to a number of flowlines in various scales, lengths and orientations. The research work using this facility is mainly concerned with issues related to multiphase flow assurance and flow measurement.

DeltaV Automation System
- The multiphase flow facility is equipped with a state-of-the-art process control and management system. The DeltaV automation system from Emerson Process Management, is one of the market leaders. This enables us to address real control challenges directly related to industry in our teaching and research activities.

Heavy Oil Flow Rig - Heavy oil becomes more and more important in order to meet the increasing energy demands. Heavy oil is characterised by its high viscosity (akin to honey, molasses and Marmite). In contrast to light oil, multiphase flow (gas, water, oil) involving heavy oil is not well understood. The 1” and 3” facilities are designed to provide researcher and engineers a better understanding in order to design more effective production methods and measuring equipment.

Sand Transportation Rig - Sand is an important issue of flow assurance which needs to be understood and managed. Sand could deposit in a pipeline causing excessive pressure drop or blockage. In the extreme, sand could cause erosion leading to equipment and containment failure (leaks). The sand transportation rig is constructed to study the complex sand behaviour under various multiphase flow conditions and as a function of fluid properties and pipeline orientations. This 4”, 40m long loop can be inclined to facilitate the study of horizontal, upward and downward inclined flows. The test sections are on a platform which can be tilted up to 20º to the horizontal. It has a number observation sections for flow visualisation purposes.

Find out more about our pilot-scale facilities.

Working with us

We are a leading research centre for multiphase flow technology, process systems, subsea and offshore engineering. Our academic and research staff have many years industrial experience which enables us to understand the specific needs of our clients.

In addition to long-term research we are also able to undertake consultancy and development work. We can construct bespoke test facilities and develop models for process and technology development.

Training and education is an important part of our service with Masters degrees and a portfolio of short courses. We have developed bespoke training courses for clients all over the world covering topics such as flow assurance and pipeline engineering. Find out more about ways of working with us.