Petroleum Refining Systems Engineering MSc

Today, engineers and scientists are expected to have strong skills in information systems engineering and decision-support systems. On this programme you will develop the ability to help technology-intensive organisations make important decisions by adopting, combining, implementing and executing the right technologies.

Why Surrey?

Our Petroleum Refining Systems Engineering MSc will equip you with the essential knowledge required to work as an engineer 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.

Programme overview

Created in response to the worldwide shortage of qualified engineers in the petroleum refining systems engineering industry, our programme combines petroleum refining (technologies, operations and economics) and systems engineering (modelling and simulation, optimisation, and process design and integration).

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.

Module overview

Programme structure

We offer a set of optional modules that will allow you to tailor the programme to suit your individual needs, whilst the compulsory modules provide the fundamental knowledge and skills needed in industry today.

Graduate students will find the programme of substantial benefit in developing the knowledge and skills acquired in their undergraduate programme. For practising process engineers with professional business experience, the programme is an opportunity to update their knowledge of current design practice and also to familiarise themselves with developments in codes and methods of analysis.

Successful completion of four modules is required to gain a Postgraduate Certificate and eight modules for a Postgraduate Diploma. To be awarded the MSc, you will need to take eight modules and successfully complete a dissertation.

Each module is worth 15 credits. The majority of modules are provided by University academic staff. In addition, the Technology, Business, and Research Seminars module is coordinated and supervised by University academic staff but delivered by experts from industry, research institutions and business organisations. The majority of modules run for ten weeks and comprise approximately 30 hours of class time (three hours per week) and 120 hours of self-study and assignments.

There is a wide selection of modules on offer within the programme, covering the most relevant areas in the sector of business and technology in the process industry. At the end of the programme, you will have an opportunity to pursue a single topic in depth and to demonstrate evidence of research potential through the project dissertation.

Academic support in the form of consultations is constantly available to enable further knowledge and skill comprehension.

Compulsory modules

Refinery and Petrochemical Processing

This module provides an understanding of refining and immediate downstream petrochemical processing. Specifically, you will gain a holistic understanding of refinery systems and the family of hydrocarbon products (and their individual processing steps and corresponding technologies), and grasp the principles for improving refinery economics.

Process Safety and Operations Integrity

On this module you will build up an understanding of the principles for analysing and tackling major hazards and operational problems in refineries and petrochemical plants. Specifically, you will become aware of major types of operational and safety problems, and understand the causes and consequences of individual types of problems, as well as the ways of handling them. You will also master the methods of HAZOP and HAZAN, and be able to apply the principles of operations integrity management.

Process and Energy Integration

This module develops an understanding of process integration, highlighting solution strategies for the synthesis of energy recovery networks in the context of the overall flowsheets of processing plants and utility systems. The principles and methods apply to refinery, petrochemical and other processes.

Process Modelling and Simulation

You will be introduced to the concepts and tools for mathematical modelling and simulation of refinery, petrochemical and other process systems. Specifically, you will acquire knowledge of types of modelling tools and gain experience of applying the standard simulation tools commonly employed in the industrial workplace.

Process Systems Design

This module develops your understanding of how to systematically synthesise and design refinery, petrochemical and other process systems. It will cover process synthesis and integration technologies that reduce the costs and environmental impact of chemical plants, with a particular focus on reaction and separation.

Optimisation and Decision-Making

You will develop an awareness of the technology available for optimising process systems, business models and operations. You will be provided with state-of-the-art versions of modelling and optimisation approaches, in order to understand both the potential and the limitations of available techniques.

Optional modules

Introduction to Petroleum Production

On this module you will look at the field of petroleum production, and focus on surface engineering and operations. Course content includes production facility schemes, fluid separation design, equilibrium flash calculations, processing of gas condensates, hydrocarbon transportation and storage, and project economics.

Energy Economics and Technology

This module examines the fundamentals of energy economics, and will provide you with a sound knowledge base on the UK and world energy situation as well as important, current energy policy issues.

Economics of International Oil and Gas

On this module you will look at the economic analysis of international oil and gas markets, examining in detail the behaviour of stakeholders, namely consumers and producers. By the end of the course you will be able to assess key developments that have affected the oil and gas industry, as well as analyse current energy policies.

Renewable Energy Technologies

You will explore renewable energy technologies from the engineering point of view: applications, engineering calculations and design, feasibility and so on. The main aim of the course is to provide you with a systematic understanding of current knowledge, problems and insight into the field of renewable energy technologies.

Sustainable Development Applications

This module will provide an introduction to SD for students primarily concerned with industrial ecology, and a consolidation and deepening of understanding for students focusing on sustainable development and corporate environmental management.

Technology, Business and Research Seminars

You will learn about the general principles and practices associated with planning, undertaking and reporting research in engineering or physical sciences. At the same time, a series of seminars will be delivered by academics and industrial experts from diverse hi-tech industries and business (including chemicals, oil and gas, information systems and renewable technologies) which will present you with valuable insights into today’s challenges faced by technology-intensive industries in terms of their business and information systems activities. It also covers general business aspects that will explain how to start up a technology-based company.

Knowledge-based Systems and Artificial Intelligence

Knowledge is the most critical part of any decision-making process, whether it’s design, management or general business. By the end of this module you will be able to represent a design process as a space of states, understand the relationship between design artefact, design intent and design rationale as well as build an ontology and apply an agent-based architecture to the solution of a problem.

Supply Chain Management

You will explore the concept of a supply chain and its management, including both qualitative and quantitative analysis, on this module. By the end of the course you should be able to understand key concepts of supply chain management, typical distribution networks, forecasting models, planning and optimisation of inventory policies.

Transitions to a Low Carbon Energy Economy

Energy use, and the systems put in place to supply it, are responsible for the majority of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide. As a result, much climate change policy is directed towards the energy sector. Energy is also central to economic development and social welfare and thus energy security and cost minimisation are high on national policy agendas. This module focuses on the transitions needed from the current situations in energy use, supply, markets and policy to those required as part of a long term, sustainable, low carbon energy system.

Biomass Processing Technology

On this module you will develop in-depth understanding of the processes and techniques required for the production of energy, as well as chemical and material products, based on biomass processing. You will finish the course with an increased ability to identify, analyse and select processes for producing biofuels, pyrolysis and gasification. You will become confident explaining the concept of biorefinery and possible integrations with conventional refineries.


This project provides an opportunity for you to pursue a single topic in depth and to demonstrate evidence of research potential for the Masters award. You are encouraged to either research a new concept or apply existing technology in a new field. A number of dissertations are carried out in collaboration with industry. Through this module, you will be able to approach an open-ended topic to research new ideas and experiment with new technologies.

Teaching and assessment

Our programme utilises our research-active staff in conjunction with state-of-the-art facilities to provide a range of learning experiences – lectures, seminars, directed study, practical laboratories and project work.

Lectures are delivered by specialised, expert academic staff. Further in-depth knowledge and skills are gained through seminars delivered and guided by experienced professionals from industry, business and research organisations, with the focus on the latest trends and problem-solving methods. You will also work on a number of projects, individually and in groups, supervised by academic staff and focusing on real-life problems.

Modules are generally assessed by a combination of examinations and continuous assessment. The latter will be based on solutions to tutorial questions, reports covering practical sessions and fieldwork, and essays on a number of suitable topics. Each module is examined separately. There is a written final examination for most modules at the end of each semester, although some modules are examined by continuous assessment only. The modules and the dissertation project have a minimum pass mark of 50 per cent.

Facilities, equipment and academic support

Modules related to the different groups are taught by a total of six full-time members of staff and a number of visiting lecturers.

An extensive library is available for individual study. It stocks more than 85,000 printed books and e-books and more than 1,400 (1,100 online) journal titles, all in the broad area of engineering. The library support can be extended further through inter-library loans.

As part of their learning experience, students have at their disposal a wide range of relevant software needed to support the programme material dissertation projects. In recent years, this work included the design of various knowledge-based and business systems on the internet, the application of optimisation algorithms and semantic web applications.

Numerous laboratory facilities across the Faculty and the University are also available for those opting for technology-based projects, such as the process engineering facility, a control and robotics facility and signal processing labs.

The work related to the MSc dissertation can often be carried out in parallel with, and in support of, ongoing research. In the past, several graduates have carried on their MSc research to a PhD programme.

Related programmes

Postgraduate (Taught)

Related departments/schools

Related research areas

Programme leader

Dr Tao Chen

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General enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681

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Programme facts

Type of programme:


Programme length:

  • Full-time: 12 months
  • Part-time: 24 months

Start date:

Sep 2016, Feb 2017

Entry Requirements

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English language requirements

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time Sep 2016 £8,000 £18,000
Part-time Sep 2016 £4,000 £9,000
Full-time Feb 2017 £8,000 £18,000
Part-time Feb 2017 £4,000 £9,000

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2016/2017 only. Annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our Masters Programmes


Discounts for Surrey graduates

Thinking of continuing your education at Surrey? As an alumnus of Surrey you may be eligible for a ten per cent discount on our taught Masters programme fees. Learn more.

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GREAT Surrey Scholarships India

For for all postgraduate taught courses starting in February 2017 within the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, the University is offering graduates from India the opportunity to apply for one of three scholarships worth £5,000 through the GREAT Scholarships - India programme. 

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Admissions Information

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Further information for applicants

Postgraduate Study Advice

Steps to Postgraduate Study is an official, independent guide for anyone considering a taught postgraduate course. The guide is produced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland.

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Modules listed 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.

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