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An online short course getting to grips with the technologies involved in converting organic material from plants and humans to energy.

Learn with the university now established as a leader in renewable energy teaching and research, with the input of industry leaders pioneering these promising technologies.

Gain options and advantage in your engineering career through boosting your knowledge in this exciting and topical field – with all the advantages of online learning anywhere in the world.


Biomass is readily available throughout the world, whether wood, agricultural crops, or the organic waste produced by billions of animals and humans. The conversion of such abundant and renewable material offers a means to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbons and mitigate changes in our climate.

You’ll gain in-depth knowledge of the biomass and bioenergy industries, including resources, technologies, environmental and sustainable issues, and the challenges we face in using and applying these forms of energy in the energy mix.

This short online course has been designed by our experts to give a grounding in these fast-developing technologies for practising engineers, new engineering graduates looking for an exciting industry or to pursue a research career, and researchers and professionals working in physical sciences looking for the career benefits of a comprehensive foundation in how we obtain energy from biomass.

Aberdeen – already a ‘World Energy City’ – is rapidly becoming a global centre for renewable energy, both in the field and in the research lab. Over a hundred companies are active in the region, and large-scale biomass plants across the Aberdeenshire countryside provide working demonstrations of technology in action. You’ll learn from highly-qualified and experienced university experts with guest lectures from industry leaders now putting theory into practice. And your programme benefits from an Industry Advisory Board which constantly reviews your course content to ensure that you gain state-of-the-art knowledge and are up to date with emerging trends and technologies.

Why Aberdeen for this course?

The combination of reputation, experience, breadth of expertise, teaching and research strength, location and international outlook makes Aberdeen the obvious provider of first-class education in all branches of energy. Our city is a leading ‘World Energy City’ and Europe's energy capital, and our region boasts a growing reputation in teaching, research and practice in renewable energies.

Our Institute of Energy brings together experts in research, teaching and professional development across all areas of renewable and hydrocarbon industries. Students gain the benefit of close working relationships with major companies and entrepreneurs, and learn from experienced industry professionals and world-class academics who collaborate with industry colleagues on cutting-edge research.

Aberdeen engineering graduates are highly respected and operate at senior level, including CEO and MD, in sectors of the industry worldwide. Wherever you are working in the world you are likely to have a fellow Aberdeen graduate engineer working with you.

You can take this credit-bearing short course standalone. Should you decide to pursue your studies in greater depth, you can use these credits to progress to a full Masters programme in Renewable Energy Engineering in which you’ll tackle all the main sources and technologies of renewable energy. This programme is also available fully online, for you to study at your own pace, at any location, and fitting around your work and personal commitments.

What you'll study

You’ll gain a thorough grounding in all technologies used for converting biomass to energy:

  • Thermal conversion, using heat as the dominant mechanism to convert biomass into another chemical form through combustion, or pyrolysis (without oxygen)
  • Chemical processes converting solid biomass into gas through gasification
  • Biochemical conversion such as anaerobic digestion, which uses the enzymes of bacteria and other microorganisms to break down biomass into gas or liquid fuels.

You’ll also become familiar with thermodynamics, and the concepts of mass and energy balance. 

How you'll study

This 12-week online learning short course offers all the flexibility and convenience to study when, where and how you choose, and to fit your learning around your location, work and personal commitments.

Our online courses are delivered through our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as self-contained units of learning taught and assessed to the same quality as our degree programmes, and developed specifically for an online audience using a range of learning materials and assessment activities.

We aim to create an international, online classroom experience and student community which enables you to enjoy the same learning experience as students on our full degree programmes, including access to a suite of learning resources and support.

We expect you to spend around 10-15 hours weekly on your 12-week course. You’ll be guided through your programme with three hours of video lectures and tutorial each week, plus virtual lab work. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to interact with your tutors, and with your online classmates on discussion boards.

Wherever you are in the world, as you enjoy the advantages of online study, you will still feel part of our very special Aberdeen family and learning community.


During your course you will have regular assessments on your coursework, accounting for 30% of your total marks.

At the end of the course you’ll have a written examination worth 70% of your marks.  Through our network of partners throughout the world we will arrange a convenient location for you to sit your exam. Alternatively, if you are based in Aberdeen, you can take your exam on our Aberdeen campus.

Entry Requirements

In general, applicants are expected to hold a relevant degree; however alternative/lower qualifications, combined with an appropriate level of relevant experience, may also be considered as a means for entry.

All students entering the University, including online courses, must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study our programmes effectively. Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. For details of our pre-sessional English courses see our Language Centre website.