[Skip header]
Patron: His Majesty the King
RSSA coat of arms

The Royal Scottish Society of Arts
Showcasing Scotland's Science, Technology and Innovation

Contacts Search
☰ Menu
Home About the Society Events Fellowship Prizes Governance Contacts Search

1st Meeting of the 198th Session (2018-2019)

Between a rock and a hard place: the critical role that Early Cenozoic events had in shaping the UK geology, shale gas reserves and carbon storage sites

Prof John Underhill

Prof John Underhill

Professor John Underhill BSc PhD FGS FRSE
Chief Scientist & Shell Chair of Exploration Geoscience
Academic Director of the NERC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil & Gas
Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh

On Monday 17th September 2018, at 7pm

A cursory look at the geological map shows the UK has been significantly uplifted and tilted to the east. The subsequent opening of the Atlantic Ocean caused further deformation resulting from buckling against the stable tectonic interior of continental Europe. These events profoundly affected many of the basins of sedimentary rock that make up the British Isles — including those considered to contain large shale resources and where carbon dioxide injection is proposed. Although it is generally assumed shale gas extraction would work if exploration drilling went ahead, little attention has been paid to whether the country’s geology is suitable for shale oil and gas production. The effects of this same uplift reached into the North Sea where they have importance for saline aquifers that form potential carbon storage sites. This talk will cover some of the fundamental geological uncertainties which need to be considered by the UK when considering carbon storage and shale gas extraction as viable solutions.

John gained his first degree in Geology at Bristol University in 1982. He was awarded a PhD from the University of Wales, Cardiff in 1985; the subject of his BP-sponsored thesis being: 'Neogene and Quaternary Tectonics and Sedimentation in Western Greece'.

John worked for Shell in The Hague and London as an exploration geoscientist. He was appointed as lecturer in the Grant Institute of Geology (as it was then) in 1989 before becoming Professor of Stratigraphy in 1998. Whilst at Edinburgh, spent Sabbaticals in BP (1992-93) and Norsk Hydro (1997-99).

John moved across to Heriot-Watt University in August 2013 and became the Shell Professor of Exploration Geoscience later the same year. He was promoted to the role of University Chief Scientist in January 2017.

John leads the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil and Gas, a £11 Million partnership of Universities, Research Centres and companies. He helped steer the British Geological Survey (BGS)‘s successful move to co-habit the new Lyell Centre for Earth & Marine Science & Technology at Heriot-Watt, which was launched last year.

John was elected to the Board of the European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers (EAGE) in 2009, an organisation that he led as their President in 2011-12. In 2012. He was awarded the Geological Society's Petroleum Group‘s top award, The Silver Medal and the Edinburgh Geological Society's Clough Medal. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) bestowed their prestigous Distinguished Educator Award to John at their Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh in May 2013. John was awarded the Lyell Medal for 2016 by the Geological Society.

His main area of geological research is understanding how the Sedimentary Basins form and evolve through the use of seismic interpretation methods and their impact on petroleum systems.

John was also a well-respected football referee in the Scottish Premier League until mandatory age retiral in 2008 and was on the FIFA international panel of referees and officiated in the Champions Leaue and other European competitions.