Fully-funded PhD: Tracing the origin of methane using clumped isotope geochemistry.

Supervisors:  Matthieu Clog, Fin Stuart, Doug Hamilton (ThermoFisher)

Methane (CH4) is a powerful greenhouse gas in Earth atmosphere.  Despite decades of study, the sources and sinks of methane in atmosphere are poorly constrained.  Methane concentrations and conventional stable isotope composition (d13C and dD) provides first order constraints on the origin of natural gas, but we are still far from a complete knowledge of methane geochemistry sufficient to provide insight into, for example, the origin and fate of methane in Earth atmosphere, and the origin of methane in natural gas reservoirs.  The clumped isotope composition of methane (13CDH3 and 12CD2H2) holds great potential for defining sources, refining the temperature of formation, and distinguishing biogenic and thermogenic production mechanisms.

This project has two broad aims:

  • to develop techniques for the routine, high precision measurement of methane isotopologues in samples of natural gas using the new ThermoFisher 253Ultra mass spectrometer (6-12 months).
  • to apply the technique to fingerprinting methane outgassing to the Earth atmosphere, such as coal-beds (UK and China) and wetlands (12-18 months).

The student will work closely Dr. Mattheiu Clog in the mass spectrometry laboratory at SUERC and they will join Prof. Stuart’s gas geochemistry group at SUERC that includes 3 PhD students and 2 PDRAs.  The student will benefit from SUERC’s strong links to academic collaborators in UGlasgow, UEdinburgh and beyond, and energy companies (e.g. Total).  The student will work closely with co-supervisor Mr. Doug Hamilton (ThermoFisher Scientific; 10% allocation) in the initial year of technique development and refining the existing analytical protocols, ultimately providing useable data and experience that can be used in support of marketing by TFS.

This is a unique PhD opportunity for an analytically minded candidate, offering direct access to unique technologies and providing highly desirable specialist and complementary interdisciplinary skills. Comprehensive training programme will be provided in specialist analytical techniques and transferable/professional skills by international experts. The student will gain access to University of Glasgow taught courses and specific training courses offered by NERC and others. The candidate will develop expertise in organic geochemistry and relevant analytical techniques.

The project is fully funded for 3.5 year by SUERC, Thermo Fisher Scientific and University of Glasgow, for a start in Autumn 2020.

Funding covers:

  • A tax-free maintenance grant set at the UK Research Council’s national rate, which in 2019/20 is £14,999.
  • Full payment of tuition fees at the Home/EU rate; &
  • Access to extensive research support funding.

Candidates should have first or 2:1 undergraduate degree or a Masters degree in a relevant discipline. Preference will be given to UK candidates and European Union candidates that have been resident in the UK for 3 years or more.

For enquiries please contact Prof. Fin Stuart (fin.stuart@glasgow.ac.uk)