Oil production declines 10% per year to 20 MBPD: Exploration of the value chain



This PhD is focused on building the tools for understanding and engineering the energy transition in the oil industry. The goal is to build a biophysical system dynamics model of the oil production system and use this model to explore the energy transition of the oil supply. Energy transition in oil supply is defined by at least 10% reduction in production per year to 20 million barrels per day (mbpd) global production. The project will include research into the oil industry to establish the production,[1] downstream supply chain,[2] stock-and-flow, refinery and distribution dynamic relationships. To date, oil supply chain modelling has been concerned with optimising investment to manage expansion.[3] Energy transition requires reduction of oil supply, so the fundamental question of management of the oil supply chain[4] in contraction is of interest.

The objective of the PhD is to develop a realistic model of a hypothetical complex oil production and supply chain, based on best knowledge, to create a “serious game” for a range of stakeholders and to process and analyse the results. The challenge is to use gamification to create an alternative, but understandable and explorable, reality, and to generate real problem solving and adaptive responses from participants so that valid interpretations of different decision, investment and policy pathways can be explored. The reason for using a serious game approach is that the industry is not currently seriously contemplating the downshift in production, and so being able to “play” with the different levers and choices is a no-commitment way to move into the research space required. The methods will include dynamic system modelling, and interaction during the development and gaming phases with oil industry engineers in order to tap into their knowledge and to carry out the serious game investigations.

A novel aspect of this biophysical economics approach is to model the value chain and answer the question of how to value different uses of carbon differently in relation to the essentiality of the production or services provided. For example, all primary production utilises oil, and does a ton of carbon used in producing food for local inhabitants have the same values as a ton of carbon used in servicing luxury tourism or producing fish for export?

The lead supervisor has worked previously in the area of oil production decline and developing methods to assess risks to essential transport activities and drivers for adaptation of unnecessary travel behaviours.

The supervisory team brings the following skill sets to the project:

Professor Susan Krumdieck:

Dr. Mark Bentley: Industrial experience in petroleum geology, research…

The project is funded for 3 years and covers the PhD fees and stipend (currently £15 285 per annum). The project will be carried out as part of the Islands Centre for Net Zero Transition Lab activities based in the Scottish Islands, and located at the HWU Orkney ICIT campus.

This project is available to UK and International students. The successful candidate will have a B.Sc. (2:1 or higher) and M.Sc. (distinction) or equivalent, and ideally additional experience in computer science, modelling, supply chain management and ideally with some experience of oil industry engineering. You will have good programming skills, preferably in Python or other advanced programming languages. Knowledge of simulation and gaming frameworks would be advantageous. You will be highly self-motivated and confident enough to seek out solutions beyond the current team if required. Candidates that have some appreciation of oil production or supply chain would be preferred. You must be able to describe complex issues in a means that is accessible to policy makers, lay people, economists and others.

How to apply

To apply you must complete our online application form. Please select PhD programme Energy Transition and include the full project title, reference number and supervisor (Prof SP Krumdieck) on your application form. Ensure that all fields marked as ‘required’ are complete.

You must complete the section marked project proposal; upload a supporting statement documenting your reasons for applying to this particular PhD project, and why you are an ideal candidate for the position.  You will also need to provide a CV, a copy of your degree certificate/s and relevant transcripts. You will be asked to enter details of an academic referee who will be able to provide a technical reference. Until your nominated referee has uploaded their statement, your application will not be marked as complete and will not be considered by the review panel. You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English within the last 2 years). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.

Please contact Prof Susan Krumdieck (S.Krumdieck@hw.ac.uk) for further information or discussion.

Jack Boulton is currently working on his PhD on this topic, having been awarded a Watt Scholarship. 

The ICNZ is anticipating advertising of the scholarship in November. Applicants must be available to start the PhD in 2023.

Submit to: Susan Smith


[1] Höök M, Davidsson S, Johansson S, Tang X. 2014 Decline and depletion rates of oil production: a comprehensive investigation.Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 372: 20120448.

[2] Lima, C., Relvas, S., Paula F.D. Barbosa-Povoa, A., 2016 Downstream oil supply chain management: A critical review and future directions, Computers & Chemical Engineering, 92(2):78-92.

[3] Moradi Nasab, N., Amin-Naseri, M.R. 2016 Designing an integrated model for a multi-period, multi-echelon and multi-product petroleum supply chain, Energy, 114(1): 708-733.

[4] Wan Ahmad, N.K., de Brito, M.P., Rezaei, J., Tavasszy, L.A. 2017 An integrative framework for sustainable supply chain management practices in the oil and gas industry, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 60(4): 577-601.

Oil Transition

Oil Transition

PhD and MSc
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