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Course content

This programme will equip you with the essential knowledge for engineering careers in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors.

Upon completion of the course you will have gained a comprehensive understanding of oil refining and associated downstream processing technologies, operations and economics; process safety and operations integrity; and methods for the optimal design of process systems.

You will learn about the general economics of the energy sector, oil exploration and production, as well as renewable energy systems.

Furthermore, your study of the various aspects of petroleum refining will be augmented by unique work assignments at a virtual oil-refining and chemical company.

Programme structure

This programme is studied full-time over one academic year and part-time students must study at least two taught technical modules per academic year. It consists of eight taught modules and a dissertation.

Example module listing

The following modules are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that not all modules described are compulsory and may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.

Educational aims of the programme

The programme aims to provide a highly vocational education that equips the students with the essential knowledge and skills required to work as competent engineers in the petrochemical sector.

This is to be achieved through combining proper material in two popular and complementary topics: process systems engineering and petroleum refining. The key objective is to develop a sound understanding of oil refining and downstream processing technologies, process safety and operation integrity, as well as systems methods for the optimal design of process systems.

A balanced curriculum is provided with essential modules from these two areas supplemented by a flexible element by way of elective modules that permit students to pursue subjects of preference relevant to their backgrounds, interests and/or career aspirations.

An integrated approach is taken so as to provide a coherent view that explores the interrelationships between the various components of the programme.

Programme learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

The programme aims to develop the knowledge and understanding in both petroleum refining and systems engineering. The key learning outcomes include:

  • State-of- the-art knowledge in petroleum refining and petrochemical processing, in terms of the technologies of processes that comprise a modern refinery and petrochemicals complex
  • The principles for analysing and improving the profitability of refining and petrochemicals processing
  • General Safety, health, and environment (SHE) principles on a refinery and petrochemicals complex
  • Methods and systems for ensuring safe and reliable design and operation of process units
  • State-of- the-art knowledge in process systems engineering methods, in the areas of: modelling and simulation of process systems, mathematical optimization and decision making, process systems design and process and energy integration
  • Advanced level of understanding in technical topics of preference, in one or more of the following aspects: petroleum exploration and production, economics of the energy sector, sustainable and renewable systems, supply chain management

Intellectual / cognitive skills

The programme aims to strengthen cognitive skills of the students, particularly in the aspects of problem definition, knowledge and information acquiring, synthesis, and creativity, as collectively demonstrable through the successful completion of the research dissertation.

The key learning outcomes include the abilities to:

  • Select, define and focus upon an issue at an appropriate level
  • Collect and digest knowledge and information selectively and independently to support a particular scientific or engineering enquiry
  • Develop and apply relevant and sound methodologies for analysing the issue, developing solutions, recommendations and logical conclusions, and for evaluating the results of own or other’s work

Professional practical skills

The programme primarily aims to develop skills for applying appropriate methods to the design and operation of petroleum refining processes. The key learning outcomes include the abilities to:

  • Apply knowledge of the operation of refineries to analyze and to improve the profitability of refining and petrochemical processing
  • Apply relevant principles, methods, and tools to improve the safety and operation integrity of refineries
  • Apply systems engineering methods such as modelling, simulation, optimization, and energy integration to improve the design of petroleum refining units and systems

Key / transferable skills

The programme aims to strengthen a range of transferable skills that are relevant to the needs of existing and future professionals in knowledge intensive industries irrespective of their sector of operation.

The key learning outcomes include the further development of the skills in the following areas:

  • Preparation and delivery of communication and presentation
  • Report and essay writing
  • Use of general and professional computing tools
  • Collaborative working with team members
  • Organizing and planning of work
  • Research into new areas, particularly in the aspect of literature review and skills acquisition

Global opportunities

We often give our students the opportunity to acquire international experience during their degrees by taking advantage of our exchange agreements with overseas universities.

In addition to the hugely enjoyable and satisfying experience, time spent abroad adds a distinctive element to your CV.


Visit the Petroleum Refining Systems Engineering MSc page on the University of Surrey website for more details!

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