University Research Themes

University Research Themes

Our research is concerned with the geological evolution of sedimentary basins.

Sedimentary basins contain the long-term record of the planet’s evolving environment and climate; they chart tectonic evolution of the lithosphere; they hold the bulk of the Earth’s fossil fuels, water resources and significant concentrations of economic minerals.

Our research embraces:

  • the formation of sedimentary basins and lithosphere geodynamics, their structure and sedimentary fill
  • the evolution of the deposits and their fluids and the generation, location and exploitation of resources

We address not only fundamental geological questions concerning Earth processes but also the development of resources for societal benefit - through the extraction of hydrocarbons to the use of geological reservoirs as repositories of societal waste.

Our multidisciplinary research embraces three of the four Universities Research themes:


Geology lies at the heart of the World’s energy needs. Hydrocarbons will remain a major component of global production for at least the next generation. The UK’s own hydrocarbon resources must be maximised while the know-how in Britain (and Aberdeen in particular) will be important for the global exploration and production of hydrocarbons. Indeed, as these activities becoming increasing challenging, Earth Science expertise will play an ever-increasing role. Furthermore, the successful development of underground reservoirs as repositories for CO2 or rad waste require the same expertise used to extract resources. Our past, current and future research is strongly linked to these societal drivers.

By applying the range of Earth Science disciplines our research assists in:

  1. The recovery of the remaining hydrocarbons not only from around the British Isles but also globally, and not just in existing fields/prospects but also in the new frontiers, both of extreme conditions (setting - e.g. deep and hostile waters; geological conditions, HPHT) but also of our understanding, for example in the characterisation and search for subtle traps.
  2. Optimisation of the exploration and production for the remaining conventional hydrocarbon resources by developing new scientific concepts and approaches.
  3. The development of unconventional hydrocarbon resources.
  4. The underground storage of carbon dioxide, especially in depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs.

Our core interests embrace all depositional environments. Our expertise straddles sedimentology, structure, mineralogy, geochemistry of geological fluids and their migration. Our quests include the understanding and quantification of uncertainty in the interpretation of geological and other subsurface data.

[The Aberdeen Institute of Energy Website]

Environmental Sustainability

It is our intention to further develop an understanding of global environmental change on a geological timescale, using the global and Scottish rock record. This will have educational spin-offs, as well as advancing fundamental science. We will also apply geological understanding to pressing societal challenges. Specific issues include:

  1. The response of the earth system to climate and feedbacks with internal Earth processes (tectonics) over geological time-scales.
  2. Quantifying and communicating uncertainty in climate models.
  3. Using geological subsurface reservoirs for the CO2and rad waste storage in geological reservoirs.
  4. Ethical dimensions to the limits of hydrocarbon exploration – especially in environmentally sensitive regions

[Environment and Food Security Research Theme Website

Our place in Scotland, NW Europe and beyond

Aberdeen has long played a major part in fostering Earth Heritage - the geological and landscape resources of Scotland. This has underpinned great scientific discoveries, from understanding mountain building processes to the evolution of early life. Earth Heritage however, doesn’t end at our coast-line - it reaches across and under the seas to neighbouring lands. It continues today - with exploration for mineral and energy wealth in challenging frontiers; it starts by understanding the geological-tectonic evolution of the continents and high latitude oceans; it tracks archaeology through to 21st century hydrocarbons and it can be a test bed for reaching out to other planets.

[The North Research Theme Website]