I'm currently employed as a Senior Collaborative Energy Research Fellow by the Midlands Energy Graduate School (MEGS) working to promote collaborative research in the field of energy between the universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Loughborough.
My research specialises in developing innovative pyrolysis techniques to tackle applications in petroleum geochemistry where traditional techniques fail. Over the past 12 years I have lead the development and commercialisation of hydropyrolysis (HyPy) as a novel pyrolysis technique for the characterisation of organic macromolecules. The use of high hydrogen pressure and suitable catalysts gives HyPy the unique ability to liberate high yields of hydrocarbon biomarkers covalently bound within source rock kerogens and petroleum asphaltenes, whilst minimising their structural or stereochemical alteration. This enables the technique to be used for petroleum geochemical applications where conventional approaches using the "free" solvent extractable biomarkers cannot be employed including the characterisation and correlation of heavily biodegraded oils, samples contaminated by oil-based drilling mud, oil field solids (tar mats/pyrobitumens), and for deciphering basin filling history of migrated petroleum fluids.
The successful commercialisation of HyPy was achieved in collaboration with our licensed manufacturing partner, Strata Technology, with sales of 8 systems to academic and industrial institutions in the UK, Germany, USA, China and Australia. HyPy is also regularly utilised on a commercial basis by companies within the oil and gas sector including upstream E&P (e.g. Shell; Chevron; Cairn Energy; Unocal), downstream fuel technology (e.g. Innospec, Nalco) as well as UK oil service companies (e.g. Roberston; GeoMark Research; IGI). The commercialisation of HyPy was a winner in the Business Support to Universities category of the Engineer Technology & Innovation Awards 2008, and was highlighted as an example of knowledge transfer in the 2007 NERC annual report.
Outside of petroleum geochemistry HyPy has gained prominence in a diverse range of applications with high impact studies published on the characterisation of the macromolecular carbonaceous material within meteorites [Sephton et al., 2005. PSS, 53, 1280-1286),], investigating the nature of deposits in fuel injection equipment [Barker et al., 2009; SAE 2, 38-44], the isotopic analysis of steroids [Meredith et al., 2010. RCMS 24, 501-505], identification of the earliest recorded evidence of animal life on earth [Love et al., 2009. Nature 457, 718-722], and the isolation, quantification and characterisation of pyrogenic carbon in environmental samples [Meredith et al., 2012. GCA 97, 131-147].
Our experience with high pressure systems, together with the absence of a pressure term (as dictated by chemical theory) from the temperature-time based first-order kinetic models that are currently used in basin modelling have led us to investigate the role of water pressure on hydrocarbon generation, maturation and cracking. This has developed into a long-running joint industry/academic research programme funded by Statoil and Woodside Energy. In contrast to many published pyrolysis studies (primarily conducted using gold bags) our work has demonstrated that high liquid water pressures (500-900 bar) significantly retard thermal maturity (as measured by source rock vitrinite reflectance and aromaticity) and hydrocarbon generation (as measured by decreased bitumen and C1-C4 gas yields) [e.g. Carr et al., 2009. Pet. Geosci. 15, 17-26; Uguna et al., 2012. OG 52, 103-113].