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Petroleum Geoscience by Distance Learning

Petroleum Geoscience by Distance Learning

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The closing date for applications to start this course in September 2022 has now passed. Find out more

Please note that this degree is now closed for 2022 entry. Please see our alternative Energy Geosciences.

Key information

Duration: 2 years full time or 5 years part time

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

The course

Petroleum Geoscience by Distance Learning (MSc)

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. 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. 

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

Make an enquiry

  • Study a programme recognised internationally as one of the industry’s best.
  • Benefit from adaptable part-time learning fitted around your daily life.
From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience, and this is particularly the case as we continue to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as we can.

Core Modules

  • 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.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of acquisition, processing and interpretation of seismic and well-log data. The module also covers fundamental elements of surveying and interpretation of shallow geophysical data including resistivity, gravity, magnetics, and shallow seismics. You will learn the limitations of these techniques in terms of understanding the geology of the shallow and deep subsurface. You will learn fundamental geophysical workflows and how to apply them to industry data.

  • The aim of this module is to provide students with the skills and knowledge required to recognise large scale structures in the field, on seismic data and on remote-sensing data, to interpret them in terms of their kinematics and geological evolution, to understand them in the context of tectonic processes and to apply that understanding to the analysis of hydrocarbon fields, subsurface storage, mineral deposits and modern hazards. The module deals with the characteristics and evolution of large-scale structures that control sedimentary basins and their fill. A review of remote sensing acquisition, processing and interpretation will be also be covered within the module. Students will take part in field-based training on subseismic-scale structures as well as examine seismic-scale outcrops across sedimentary basins.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the processes of sediment supply and transport in clastic and carbonate 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 carry out practical work involving the description and interpretation of sediment cores and the use of that data to construct palaeogeographic maps.

  • In this 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, and an introduction to amplitude versus offset (AVO) and seismic inversion analyses. 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.

  • The module comprises four main topics. The first topic focuses on source rock deposition and geochemistry, kerogen kinetics and numerical basin modelling, including exercises in the latter. The second topic covers the understanding and working knowledge of reservoir geophysics. The third topic aims to develop understanding and skills in play fairway analysis. The fourth topic presents the fundamentals of decision analysis and economic evaluation of subsurface leads and prospects. The final topic aims at the integration of this knowledge, along with work done in other courses in the programme, to complete a team-based evaluation of a subsurface system. The module also includes a field trip component where students can apply what learnt in the class.

  • 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 energy geoscience. You will carry out research in collaboration with companies in the petroleum and renewable 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 report and give an oral and poster presentation at a symposium attended by examiners and guests from the industry.

  • This module will describe the key principles of academic integrity, focusing on university assignments. Plagiarism, collusion and commissioning will be described as activities that undermine academic integrity, and the possible consequences of engaging in such activities will be described. Activities, with feedback, will provide you with opportunities to reflect and develop your understanding of academic integrity principles.

    You are required to take and pass this module in order to progress into the second year of study.


Optional Modules

  • All modules are core

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

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


A physical science subject related to geoscience.

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.

International & EU requirements

English language requirements

All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.

The scores we require
  • IELTS: 6.5 overall. No subscore lower than 5.5.
  • Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 54. No subscore lower than 51.
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.

Country-specific requirements

For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.

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.

Other essential costs***: Please visit the University of London website for information about Distance Learning fees and funding.

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year.

All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. This means that the overall cost of studying the course via part-time mode is slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information, please see our terms and conditions. Please note that for research courses, we adopt the minimum fee level recommended by the UK Research Councils for the Home tuition fee. Each year, the fee level is adjusted in line with inflation (currently, the measure used is the Treasury GDP deflator). Fees displayed here are therefore subject to change and are usually confirmed in the spring of the year of entry. For more information on the Research Council Indicative Fee please see the RCUK website.

** The UK Government has confirmed that EU nationals are no longer eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2022, we will award a fee reduction scholarship equivalent to 60% of the difference between the UK and international fee for your course. This will apply for the duration of your course. Find out more

*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2022/23 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included. 

Earth Sciences Postgraduate Admissions

Lynne White, Postgraduate Programmes Coordinator

+44 (0)1784 443581

94% Percentage of Department of Earth Sciences' research ranked world-leading or internationally excellent

Source: REF, 2014

2nd Ranking in the UK for Earth Sciences research

Source: REF, 2014

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