Abu Dhabi: The Petroleum Institute (PI) has announced the launch of PhD programmes for Emirati students starting early next year with an aim to enhance skills in the country’s oil sector

The PhDs which have been formally approved by the Ministry of Education will be offered in five specific areas — petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, and petroleum geosciences.

“With this step the PI is taking a major leap forward in establishing a research and development environment in one of the most important areas of the economy in the UAE — and that is the oil and gas sector,” Dr Thomas Hochstettler, president at PI, told a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

Explaining the main areas of research that the doctoral programmes would be focused on, Hochstettler said: “Right now we are very interested in enhanced oil and gas recovery, so that will be one area we will be looking at. There are other areas of primary concern such as injection of different liquids or gases in order to enhance oil recovery.

“We are going to be looking at cutting-edge technology across the spectrum of the PhD programmes so that we will not be engaged in dead-end technology. We will be looking at what are the areas of growth…that will be most readily transferable into productive activity in the oil and gas fields,” he added.

Hochstettler also spoke on the importance of continuing to improve the UAE’s oil sector, as the commodity of oil would still be a major resource for the country into the foreseeable future.

“The oil and gas industry make up a large percentage of the UAE’s gross domestic product, so to be able to contribute to the growth of that industry and to its efficiency is something very important to everyone working in this sector,” he said.

“Adnoc is sending about 30-40 students abroad at any given time to earn their PhD, and that’s fine and they are getting great education — but we think that bringing the students home here in the UAE where they can interact directly with Adnoc or the operating companies is a tremendous advantage to have — they can get first-hand experience,” he added.

Dr Murray Ross Gray, senior vice-president Academic and Provost at PI, said that the programmes were also chosen based on their needs within the oil and gas industry, and that the graduates would offer a major boost to the UAE and its goal of creating a knowledge-based economy.

“Those students [who get the PhD)] become major ambassadors and they take their capability with them when they graduate. They will have the ability to lead advanced research programmes based on the partnerships and capability we have developed.”