30 March 2016

New bachelor programme in chemistry opens doors to international jobs

Chemistry education

Denmark needs chemists who can develop efficient and environmentally sound extraction of fossil oil and gas. To provide those, the University of Copenhagen Department of Chemistry is now establishing a new specialization that forms part of the chemistry undergraduate programme. The name of the new specialization is “Oil and Gas Chemistry”, and it can be chosen after the first of three undergraduate years at UCPH.

Scientists in laboratory

One in six barrels of oil used as raw material

Even if we could replace fossil fuels as a source of energy tomorrow, there would still be an enormous need for fossil oil and gas. Today one sixth of the world production is used as feedstock in products ranging from pharmaceuticals, paints and glues and skateboard wheels to colostomy bags and the artificial fertilizers that help feed a growing population. Even as we are transforming our energy sector to focus on sustainable sources, the need will grow for non-energy uses of fossil fuels.

No need to drill in Arctic region

Many oil wells around the world are approaching the limits for what can be extracted using conventional methods. Some oil companies are contemplating drilling in areas such as the Arctic, but the reserves in existing fields could last for decades, if extracted using so called “Enhanced Oil Recovery” (EOR) methods.

Oil and gas chemists can protect sensitive nature by developing more efficient and environmentally sound extraction methods. For the University of Copenhagen, this is an important reason to establish the specialization.

One of many specialization in the UCPH Chemistry Bachelor programme

The UCPH Department of Chemistry educates chemists to provide solutions for some of the planet’s most pressing problems. We train high school tutors and offer programmes in environmental chemistry, medicinal chemistry, green and sustainable chemistry and now oil and gas chemistry.

Educating to make a difference

Society, authorities and organizations have a rightful claim to expect well trained chemists. So do trade and industry. Our students are prepared to help authorities regulate on an enlightened basis, to help industry develop new solutions and products and to carry out fundamental research for the benefit of society at large.

Calcite viewed through a microscope

Much more than just oil and gas extraction

Fundamental research in oil and gas chemistry is not just about developing efficient and sustainable extraction methods. At heart, the research is about how fluids and minerals interact. It could uncover new methods in underground waste removal and  new catalysts to make industrial production more efficient and less resource intensive. This is another reason for introducing the specialization.

Too valuable to burn

Even if fossil sources of energy were in no way related to climate change, they would still be much too valuable to burn in our cars and power plants. This alone is reason enough to replace fossil energy sources with renewables.

Turnaround bound to take decades

The turnaround from fossil to renewable energy sources will, however, take decades even if we get a lucky scientific breakthrough. To cover the interim needs, oil and gas should be extracted as efficiently and as sustainably as possible. This is why the University of Copenhagen is establishing a new undergraduate programme in oil and gas chemistry.