PhD Subsurface Simulation under Uncertainty for Sustainable Energy Supply

Research / Academic

The acceleration of the energy transition poses new challenges for subsurface planning and opens up the possibility for subsurface activities to interfere with each other. Subsurface space is limited and decisions on how to use it need to consider several aspects: technical, environmental, economic and social.
Subsurface basins are a finite resource that host multiple activities; these subsurface activities can be quantified by reservoir simulation models that can establish the influence radius of each individual activity and identity the interference potential between activities in an agile way.
Your PhD research will focus on the development of a reservoir simulation framework for a variety of subsurface activities, consider an increased timeframe than standard including reversibility and recovery time, and an increased spatial scope at the basin level. Uncertainties and uncertainty quantification will be a key aspect. Your work will help to create knowledge about sustainability indicators for geological resource use and the integration of these criteria in a inter-disciplinary, multi-criteria decision analysis. Your research will identify the most significant factors controlling the long-term behaviour and capacity of subsurface resources under uncertainty. Staged development will be taken into consideration following decisions based on technical, environmental, economic and social input.
This PhD research is part of the DIAMONDS research project (Dynamic Integrated Assessment Methods fOr the sustaiNable Development of the Subsurface) in which innovative hydrogeological methods will be integrated with economic, environmental, and social impact assessments to determine threshold values that must be met to respect subsurface, environmental, economic, and social criteria for the sustainable management of geological resources in Belgium and beyond. In DIAMONDS a total of 6 PhD students and 2 Postdocs from University of Antwerp, Ghent University, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and the TU Delft will collaborate across disciplines. The project aim is to allow future generations to equally make optimal use of the subsurface. The project focuses on the Campine basin in Belgium as the subsurface resource and generate fundamental understanding on the interference of activities, drawing scientific conclusions.
The following research questions underpin your PhD thesis:

  • How can we identify the impact radius of different subsurface activities (e.g. geothermal energy, heat storage, gas storage and groundwater) so that we can minimize interference and use the subsurface resource in the most sustainable way at the basin level?
  • How can we assess and classify subsurface, development and economic uncertainties when deciding on a specific subsurface activity?
  • How is the subsurface resource affected by different applications beyond the project timescales (e.g. 100s of years) in terms of recovery and reversibility?
  • How can we use our understanding of the subsurface activities under uncertainty to best inform a participatory decision making process on subsurface use?


We are looking for a candidate that has;

  • a good MSc degree in a relevant field (e.g. geoscience, reservoir engineering or another numerical engineering field).
  • strong numerate and programming skills.
  • motivation to contribute to a sustainable energy supply.
  • enthusiasm to work on inter-disciplinary research in teams.
  • excellent interpersonal and communication skills in English (oral & written).
  • ability to plan, execute, deliver on your planning and communicate research results.

Experience with reservoir simulation, uncertainty quantification, LCA and techno-economics is considered a plus, but we are happy to provide support and training on these aspects! 
Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Salary Benefits:

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.
Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.
The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. 
For international applicants, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service. This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.


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