We use cookies on this site. By browsing our site you agree to our use of cookies. Close this message Find out more

Home > Courses > Postgraduate > Petroleum Geoscience (By Distance Learning)
More in this section Earth Sciences

Petroleum Geoscience (By Distance Learning) MSc

All applications must be made through the University of London International Programmes website.

UCAS code
Year of entry
Course length
2 years full time
5 years part time
Available by distance learning
Earth Sciences »
Location of study
Main Campus (Egham) »

The hydrocarbon industry is crucial to provide us with domestic energy, transportation, plastics and other everyday needs. Petroleum Geoscience by Distance Learning with the University of London lets you earn a Masters degree in this booming sector which fits around your work or family commitments.

Choose from a range of course modules to tailor your learning, studying online over a period of years to earn your MSc. This flexible programme lets you choose between the standard course structure, a postgraduate diploma or a series of individual taught courses, letting you fit your studies around your daily life.

You’ll graduate with a Masters degree from the University of London by studying with the University of London International Programmes featuring academic direction from the renowned Royal Holloway Department of Earth Sciences, which is consistently ranked among the UK’s top 10. The programme finishes with a one-week field trip and research project, letting you contribute to our leading research culture while you develop your skills and knowledge.

Royal Holloway is recognised as one of the world’s premier training centres for the hydrocarbon industry, and has run a Petroleum Geoscience MSc programme since 1985. We’ve established invaluable links within the industry while helping over 600 graduates from 32 countries progress into rewarding careers in the Earth Sciences. Study Petroleum Geoscience (by Distance Learning) to enhance your career development without the need for full-time study. 

  • Benefit from a pioneering research culture, with 94% of Department of Earth Sciences research ranked world-leading or internationally excellent – no.2 in the UK (REF 2014).
  • Graduate with a Masters degree developed and taught by a department consistently ranked among the UK’s top 10 (The Complete University Guide and The Guardian 2016).
  • Study a programme recognised internationally as one of the industry’s best.
  • Benefit from adaptable part-time learning fitted around your daily life.

Core modules

Tectonics and Lithosphere Dynamics

This module is split into three components. The first will introduce you to modern plate tectonic theory and its application to understanding of formation of sedimentary basins based on earthquake data, tomography, gravity and magnetics. The second covers different tectonic settings and examines how the mechanical properties of plates can be applied to understand deformation, subsidence and heat flow within sedimentary basins. The third examines a range of terranes through the interpretation of remote sensing imagery and includes training in the use of geographical information systems (GIS) for compiling geological databases.

Geophysical Analysis

In this module you will develop an understanding of the methods by which seismic data are acquired and the impact of acquisition parameters on data quality. You will look at the basics of horizon and fault correlation, tying seismic data to well data, and 2D and 3D interpretation methodologies. You will consider the principles of seismic wave theory, the main steps involved in the processing of a typical seismic processing sequence, and the limitations of the technique in terms of imaging the subsurface, including an introduction to the concept of amplitude versus offset (AVO). You will examine and apply industry-standard seismic interpretation workflows. 

Structural Analysis

In this module you will develop an understanding of large scale structures in the field and how seismic data and remote-sensing data can be used to interpret them in terms of their kinematics and geological evolution. You will also look at these structures in the context of tectonic evolution and how this knowledge can be applied to the analysis of hydrocarbon fields, prospects, and mineral deposits. This module is taught in four week-long stages, the first of which is largely field-based. You will examine the theoretical aspects of fault and fold growth and initiation, analysing the evidence for these using outcrop studies in Somerset in Devon. The other stages consider rock mechanics and petroleum geomechanics, and the types of structures found in sedimentary basins.

Petroleum Systems

In this module you will develop an understanding of the various elements of a petroleum system, including source rocks, migration pathways, reservoirs, seals and trapping structures. You will look at source rock deposition and geochemistry, kerogen kinetics and numerical basin modelling. Using an Eastern Mediterranean basin example, you will carry out play-fairway analysis to construct petroleum system summary charts, and produce gross depositional environment (GDE) and common risk segment (CRS) maps. You will examine hydrocarbon plays, using quantitative methods, and conduct volumetric estimates, risk analyses and simple economic analysis of individual leads and prospects. Working as part of a team, you will integrate data from various soruces to conduct a basin or play-fairway petroleum system evaluation in a major semi-mature hydrocarbon-bearing basin.


In this module you will develop an understanding of the processes of sedminent supply and transport in clastic sedimentary systems. You will look at depositional processes and the characteristics of deposits formed in glacial, aeolian, alluvial fan, fluvial, lacustrine, lagoonal, coastal, marine shelf and deep marine environments. You will examine carbonate sedimentary systems and the application of sequence stratigraphy in analysing carbonate platforms and ramps. You will also cary out practical work involving the description and interpretation of sediment cores and the use of that data to construct palaeogeographic maps.

Reservoir Geoscience

In thid module you will develop an understanding of the basic physical principles of reservoir geoscience and how to apply them in general reservoir studies. You will look at reservoir geophysics, including the standard technique used in well-log analysis, permeability development and maintenance in porous and fractured reservoirs. You will examine seismic interpretation techniques, including training in the use of standard software for reservoir geoscience, such as Petrel. You will consider porosity and permeability development and fluid transport in porous and fractured reservoirs, analysing fracture-related permeability and fluid transport using numerical approaches. You will evaluate the use of Darcy's law for flow in porous rocks and the cubic law for flow in rocks, seeing how these laws apply together in large fault zones, and their overall effect on, and control of. fluid transport in reservoirs.

Students styuding for the MSc will also complete:

Independent Project

You will have the opportunity to carry out an in-depth piece of independent research on a topic of your choice within the field of petroleum geoscience. You will carry out research in collaboration with companies in the petroleum industry, who will also provide data and / or a component of your supervision. You will attend an induction session at the start of the project and present short updates at regular review seminars. You will produce a 15,000 word report and give an oral and poster presentation at a symposium attended by examiners and guests from the industry.

Full details of the assessment process can be found on the University of London International Programmes website.

his course may be studied up to 5 years part-time.

Entry criteria:

An undergraduate degree (e.g. bachelor) which is considered at least comparable to a UK 2:1  (Honours) degree, in a physical science subject related to geoscience. The degree must be awarded from an institution acceptable to the University. A 2:1 (Honours) or equivalent is beneficial but not essential if you have work experience in the oil and gas industry.

Work experience in the oil and gas industry, preferably carrying out evaluation of conventional and/or unconventional petroleum systems, but any technical oil and gas related work will be considered. Sufficient relevant work experience may be considered to replace the requirement for a second class honours degree qualification in geoscience; cases are considered on an individual basis.

Applicants for the MSc must demonstrate that they have access to interpretation software, data and local expert supervision before they can register for and complete the research project module PGM051 necessary to complete the MSc. Usually this means applicants should be currently in employment with an oil and gas company, but exceptions can be made for students who can arrange data, software and supervision by other means.

You do not need to be currently in employment within the oil and gas industry to complete the six taught modules. Successful completion of these modules is sufficient to qualify for a PG Diploma.

English language requirements:

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in all other subscores. For equivalencies, please see here

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.

Petroleum Geoscience (by Distance Learning) lets you earn a desirable Masters degree while studying part-time alongside employment. You’ll graduate with excellent employment prospects in a sector with many well-paid career opportunities in the UK and abroad, as well as the option to progress into further postgraduate study. 

Royal Holloway, University of London has taught a Petroleum Geoscience programme since 1985, and it’s now recognised as one of the premier training facilities in the hydrocarbon industry. You’ll benefit from strong industry links, and a track record of helping 600 graduates from 32 countries progress to rewarding careers in the Earth Sciences.

  • The MSc is ideal for hydrocarbon industry professionals who wish to develop their knowledge and skills alongside their work;
  • Graduates will be trained in the skills needed to address a range of exploration and production challenges;
  • You'll join a worldwide network of alumni who are successful industry professionals in oil companies, geoscience IT, consultancy, and academia.

PLEASE NOTE: All applications must be made through the University of London International Programmes website University of London application.

Please visit the University of London website for information about Distance Learning fees and funding.

Back to course search results


Related degrees


Comment on this page

Did you find the information you were looking for? Is there a broken link or content that needs updating? Let us know so we can improve the page.

Note: If you need further information or have a question that cannot be satisfied by this page, please call our switchboard on +44 (0)1784 434455.

This window will close when you submit your comment.

Add Your Feedback