MSc Petroleum Geoscience / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course description

Christine Roche

MSc Petroleum Geoscience Graduate

Studying MSc Petroleum Geoscience provided me with the technical knowledge which was needed as a stepping stone to build my career within the industry.

Christine Roche / AMME Manager, Petroleum Geo-Services

The Petroleum Geoscience MSc is taught over one calendar year by leading researchers in the field.

We will build your knowledge by examining the sedimentary and structural processes that govern the way sedimentary basins fill, and how an understanding of these complex three- dimensional systems can be usefully applied to improve models of petroleum systems in the subsurface.

The knowledge and techniques taught at Manchester are also directly applicable to developing subsurface technologies in geothermal energy, carbon capture and storage and network gas storage.

You will develop key skills for evaluating subsurface geology, using industry standard software and through working with industry data. You will learn how to evaluate sedimentary basins and develop leads ands prospects, appraise any discovery and finally efficiently and sustainably develop the fields.

The program has close links with industry, including major energy companies, that provide additional input into our courses, deliver some of the content, and are instrumental in providing cutting- edge datasets for investigation as part of the MSc projects.

The Petroleum Geoscience MSc is ideal if you wish to pursue a career in the energy industry working in exploration for oil and gas, and future mitigation measures such as carbon sequestration. These skills are also transferable to other energy industries, such as geothermal and nuclear.

The skills and knowledge you develop will also provide a solid basis for postgraduate research in the fields of sedimentology or basin research. 



  • You will develop knowledge of the tools and techniques used to explore for hydrocarbons and extract them in an efficient manner.  

  • You will develop critical awareness of the direction of the energy industry - in particular, academic and applied advances in exploration, development and production technologies. 

  • We will teach you the skills to evaluate subsurface geological systems in order to assess value and recovery potential of resources, or as potential repositories for geothermal fluids and for storage of CO2 or other gases. 

  • You will learn how to effectively communicate scientific ideas to specialist and non-specialist audiences, through written and spoken presentations. 

Special features

Students examining spectacular Pleistocene aeolioan dunes exposed along the Mallorca coast
Students examining spectacular Pleistocene aeolioan dunes exposed along the Mallorca coast

Fieldwork on Manchester's Petroleum Geoscience program is provided at no extra cost. In addition, you will be provided with a fieldwork package worth £250, including boots, coat, rucksack and measuring equipment. 

A key element of the course is fieldwork, which aims to synthesise and reinforce material taught in lectures and practical classes. They provide the opportunity to learn relevant field techniques, and to compare field analogues with core, wireline logs and seismic sections. 

Over the duration of the course several trips are conducted: 

  • One-day field trip to classic localities at Mam Tor, Derbyshire, UK. 

  • Five days on the North Yorkshire coast, UK, to investigate source, seal and reservoir elements. 

  • One-day excursion to gain experience of core analysis at the BGS core store, Keyworth.

  • Seven day field course in Semester 2.

You will attend a seven-day overseas field trip at the end of the taught part of the course. This is currently to the Spanish Island of Mallorca. It provides an opportunity to study both clastics and carbonate reservoirs, comparable to working petroleum systems in North Africa and the Mediterranean. This region is noted specifically for superb outcrops of the Miocene carbonates, where the depositional processes, environments and diagenesis can be observed. The trip provides insight into the distribution of carbonate facies and reservoir in a sequence stratigraphic context. All travel and accommodation costs are covered by the programme

Additional course information

Our student community

Postgraduate students from Manchester's Basins, stratigraphy and sedimentary processes research Group run award-winning AAPG and EAGE student chapters.

These groups regularly invite industry personnel to deliver talks on careers, academic projects and exploration / production activities. As well as insight into energy industry activities, these events providing valuable networking opportunities for Petroleum Geoscience students.

Teaching and learning

Taught postgraduate students have around 20 hours contact time a week, and you are expected to spend around 30 hours in private study.

Your week will be made up of: 

  • Lectures

  • Online materials 

  • Laboratory classes 

  • Staff-led and peer-led group work 

  • Individual research projects 

  • Computer-based tuition - you will be trained in software used to process and analyse digital subsurface data using our industry-specification dedicated computer workstation cluster. 

  • Workshops 

Coursework and assessment

  • Assessment is through various methods. Traditional examinations take place in January and May each year, while the majority is through in-course assessment of coursework, practical and project work.  

  • One-third of the program is composed of the Independent Research Project, with assessment based on a written thesis and a presentation made at the end-of-year MSc conference 

Course unit details

Program structure

Semester 1 is taught jointly with our other Energy masters programmes. Teaching builds a foundation of knowledge in subsurface  geoscience. The core subjects cover the fundamentals of petroleum geoscience, such as reservoir geology, geophysics fundamentals, petrophysics, operations geology, fundamentals of exploration and production geoscience and geochemistry.

Semester 2 is focused on building more specialist skills for exploration and development of hydrocarbons.  You will learn how to evaluate sedimentary basins, locate leads and define prospects.  The course covers field development and introduction to reservoir engineering. Finally these new skills and knowledge are applied in a Group Project. 

MSc Independent Project

You will spend the final 12 weeks of the program on the MSc Independent Projects. These are challenging, but rewarding, and involve the collection, analysis and integration of a dataset linked with Petroleum Geoscience. To achieve best results, projects are matched to student interests and may involve single datasets or combinations of seismic, fieldwork, wireline log, well core, thin sections, petrophysical data, etc.

Projects are written up as a thesis taking the form of a short paper. You will present your project findings at the MSc conference in front of an invited audience. Some project work produced for Manchester's MSc has proved to be of sufficient quality to be accepted for publication as journal articles. Recent examples include: 

Course unit list

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Fundamentals of Applied Subsurface Geoscience EART60031 15 Mandatory
Exploration Group Project EART60102 15 Mandatory
Computational Subsurface Geoscience EART60152 15 Mandatory
Prospect Evaluation and Petroleum Economics EART60162 15 Mandatory
Communication Skills and Fieldwork EART60230 15 Mandatory
Key Interpretation Skills EART60381 15 Mandatory
Basin Analysis EART60391 15 Mandatory
Field Appraisal and Development EART60402 15 Mandatory

Scholarships and bursaries

We offer a number of postgraduate taught scholarships and awards to outstanding UK and international students each year.

The University of Manchester is committed to widening participation in master's study, and allocates £300,000 in funding each year. Our Manchester Masters Bursaries  are aimed at widening access to master's courses by removing barriers to postgraduate education for students from underrepresented groups.

For more information, see the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences Fees and funding  page or visit the University of Manchester funding for masters courses  website for more information. 


Computing facilities  

The program uses a high-specification workstation cluster, and we are a Schlumberger centre of excellence - providing access to software such as Petrel, PetroMod and Eclipse. Additionally, access to other leading software can be provided, including Kingdom Suite, GeoTeric and Paleoscan.  

Research facilities  

MSc research projects have access to analytical facilities within The University of Manchester, including SEM and optical microscopes, XRF, XRD, and more. 

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: