PhD position on 'Induced Seismicity and Geothermal Energy Production in the Netherlands' (4 yrs)

Job description:

The Department of Earth Sciences currently seeks a highly motivated, high-potential applicant for a PhD position to work within the research programme WarmingUP ( on the theme 'Geothermal energy in the built environment'.

Induced seismicity can occur in geothermal energy production and is documented in many high enthalpy production systems around the globe and in settings where hydraulic fracking has been applied for the enhancement of reservoir quality. In the Netherlands, low enthalpy systems are being developed in permeable reservoirs without the need for reservoir stimulation. However, in the -tectonically active- South-Eastern part of the country few small events with magnitude up to M~2 have occurred, which may likely be related to geothermal operation, and have resulted in suspension of the geothermal production systems in that region.

Consequently, also in face of induced seismicity associated with Groningen Gas production, there is public concern over the possible occurrence of induced seismicity in geothermal operations. Are the ongoing and planned geothermal operations in the Netherlands safe in terms of potential risks for induced seismicity? Can it be precluded that over lifetime progressively more seismic events may manifest itself only decades after the start of production such as in Groningen Gas production?

For existing and new geothermal production systems in the Netherlands, in WarmingUP we aim to improve our understanding on potential hazards for induced seismicity, over the production lifetime. Therefore, predictive models are needed, which can assess the likelihood for the occurrence of induced events and the exceedance of threshold magnitudes over the lifetime of geothermal energy production. To this end, the PhD will co-develop, with a multi-disciplinary team of scientists in WarmingUP, model capabilities for changes in stresses and associated seismic hazards for typical geothermal reservoirs in the Netherlands. The models will be tested and validated on case studies, representative for the Dutch setting. A key focus of the research is to enhance fundamental insight in the correlation between (the absence of) seismic hazards and specific subsurface in-situ conditions (e.g. stress, structures, reservoir and over-/underburden rock properties) on one hand and operational conditions on the other hand.

The predictive models build on the extension of geomechanical models available in TNO (e.g MACRIS for prediction of stress changes in structurally complex reservoirs as a function of pressure and temperature change), as well as event-rate en hazard prediction models on the basis of workflows developed for Groningen, and including logic tree concepts.

For subsurface parametrisation, the PhD candidate will contribute to the national compilation and analysis of subsurface in-situ (or baseline conditions) which are of significant relevance for the effect on seismic hazards and includes (amongst others) in-situ stress, base line seismicity, distance and orientation of faults, reservoir conditions (fracture of matrix porosity) and thermo-mechanical properties.

The research team is highly interdisciplinary and includes Prof. Jan-Diederik van Wees (supervisor, UU/TNO) and Dr. Fred Beekman (UU), and a supervisory and advisory team from WarmingUP, including Induced Seismicity Project leader Brecht Wassing (TNO), Dr. Thibault Candela (TNO), Dr. Jan ter Heege (TNO). The research will be performed at Utrecht University and TNO.

Up to 10% of the candidate's time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Department of Earth Sciences. A personalised training programme will be set up, mutually agreed on recruitment, which will reflect the candidate's training needs and career objectives



The successful candidate should be ambitious and have an MSc (or equivalent) in Earth Sciences before the start of the appointment. A strong background in geomechanics, tectonics, and/or physics is essential. Experience with one or more of the following topics would be an advantage: modelling of geomechanical or tectonic processes and programming, including Python. A broad interest in geosciences, and the willingness and capacity to interact in a multidisciplinary team, are essential. The candidate should be proficient in both spoken and written English, and preferentially be able to communicate in Dutch as most of the project documentation is Dutch.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a full-time PhD position, initially for one year with extension to four years in total upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period.

Employment conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities. The gross monthly salary starts at € 2,395 in the first year and increases to € 3,061 in the fourth year. The salary is supplemented by a holiday allowance of 8% of annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3% of annual salary per year. We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model).

Facilities for sports and childcare are available on our main campus (where the Department of Earth Sciences is situated), which is located only 15 minutes away from the historical city centre of Utrecht.

About the organisation:

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Department of Earth Sciences conducts teaching and research across the full range of the solid Earth and environmental Earth sciences, with activities in almost all areas of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biogeology and hydrogeology. The department hosts a highly international group of more than 100 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers and houses a wide variety of world-class laboratories.

Additional information:

Informal enquiries about the position may be sent to Prof. Jan-Diederik van Wees (Chair in Geothermal Exploration), via or

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. Applications will be accepted until August 30, 2020. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter. The expected starting date can be as early as October 1st, 2020, but no later than December 1st, 2020. Online screening may be part of the selection. Commercial response to this ad is not appreciated.

Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

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posted: 27 July 2020     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.