Autonomous Downhole Drilling. Self-funded PhD in Engineering Ref: 3081

About the Research Project

Location:  Streatham Campus, University of Exeter, EX4 4QJ

Academic Supervisors:  Dr Yang Liu

Project description:

Energy plays a significant role in our economy and lifestyles, and during last 150 years civilization people have increasing consumption on fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas.

Fifty years later after the first exploitation in the UK North Sea, oil and gas reserves are reducing and production declines. As a result, more and more difficult drilling conditions become a norm of drilling industry, and this requires better control of downhole drilling processes under various drilling conditions. However, oilwell drill-strings exhibit a wide variety of complex phenomena and undesired vibrations caused by extreme loading and their slenderness. Control of such system undergoing self-excited vibrations when geological conditions vary is very demanding and often on the border of the capability of human operation.
The increasing demands on enhancing stability, improving performance, and optimizing effectiveness of drilling operations can only be met by automation of the drilling process. To date, oil and gas companies are developing new drilling systems which have high degree of autonomy with supervisory control and changing the way of traditional drilling. In particular, these systems attempt to optimize the process of drilling compared with current approaches. Understanding and tackling these complexities with an intelligent automation system will deliver breakthrough in drilling.
This project aims to develop an autonomous drilling system with the ability of predicting and controlling drilling risks to the minimum, and optimise drilling process as a whole under various drilling environments. Both simulation and experimental works will be carried out.

This PhD offers an excellent opportunity to develop novel technologies for the oil and gas drilling industry which will contribute for the next generation of oil and gas exploration technique.

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor: Dr Yang Liu


Information about current fees can be found here:

Information about possible funding sources can be found here:

Entry requirements

Applicants for this research project must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least a 2.1 UK Honours degree, an MSc or equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

How to apply

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, covering letter and two academic references. Your covering letter should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project. You may also be asked to upload verified transcripts of your most academic qualification.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email:

Please quote reference 3081 on your application and in any correspondence about this project.


Application deadline:10th June 2018
Value:This project is self-funded
Duration of award:Not applicable
Contact: EMPS Postgraduate Research Office