Offshore wind farm

Aura CDT Innovative Decommissioning for Offshore Foundation Systems


Funded PhD


4 years (full-time); 7 years (part time)

Application deadline:

Monday 6 June 2022

About this project

Worldwide and in Europe, there is a huge expansion of offshore wind, however to date little thought has been given to “what happens when we no longer need the foundations?”. Hollow steel piles (monopiles) are generally the foundation type of choice for offshore renewable energy in relatively shallow water. Their future cost-effective full removal has clear benefits and is an obvious focal point for research at present. The removal of piles can fall into two classifications i.e. “self-removal”, and removal by axial pull using standard craneage, where in the latter case significant reduction of extraction loads is required to make this a practical proposition. The term “self-removal” refers to the use of the foundation system itself without the need for heavy lifting equipment (over and above that associated with lifting the self-weight of the foundation). Three techniques appear viable under this classification: overpressure, vibration and rotation [1,2]. The first involves pressurising the void at the top of the monopile to produce an upwards traction; this is a technique already used for suction caissons. Vibration and rotation are techniques which use the movements of the pile to reduce the strength of the surrounding soils in which the pile is embedded. While some exploratory work has been carried out by contractors to date, none of these techniques have yet to be studied in detail at the scale of a typical offshore monopile.

The aim of this project is to develop computational models of these removal processes, to understand their effectiveness in different soil conditions and to enable prototype and full scale take up to be developed. It will allow cost-effective parametric analysis and virtual prototyping prior to expensive demonstration and risk adverse deployment. The nature of the study through computational techniques also allows not only the extraction method to be optimised but also the geometry of the piles for future designs to aid extraction whilst maintaining in-service requirements. One key objective on the way to the full model will be validation against physical modelling and field data.

For the PhD student, the scientific novelty will comprise: development of new computational techniques of much wider applicability to problems in civil and mechanical engineering; the first parametric study of monopile removal techniques and the derivation of initial guidelines for removal methods for industry.

This PhD scholarship is offered by the Aura Centre for Doctoral Training in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment; a partnership between the Universities of Durham, Hull, Newcastle and Sheffield. The successful applicant will undertake a PG-Dip training year at the University of Hull before completing their PhD research at Durham University.

[1] Davidson, C., Brown, M., Brennan, A., Knappett, J. 2017. Decommissioning of offshore piles using vibration. In Proceedings of the 27th International Ocean and Polar Engineering Conference, ISOPE 2017 (Vol. 2, pp. 666-673).

[2] Topham, E., McMillan, D. 2017. Sustainable decommissioning of an offshore wind farm. Renewable Energy, 102:470-480.

Find out more

Watch this short video to find out more about funded PhD scholarships at the Aura Centre for Doctoral Training.

Or for more information, watch a recording of the webinar held on 6 December 2021. You'll hear from programme leaders, supervisors, and students talking about funded postgraduate research at the Aura CDT as well as queries from other applicants in the Q&A.

For more information visit the Aura CDT website. If you have a direct question about the project, please email and we will forward the query to the relevant supervisor. Please do not contact the project supervisors directly.

How to apply

Applications in this current round of recruitment to the Aura CDT are open solely to Home students. Applications are made via the University of Hull admissions system. If you have not applied with the University of Hull before, you will need to set up an account to enable you to track the progress of your application and upload supporting documents.

Apply for Aura CDT Innovative Decommissioning for Offshore Foundation Systems:

Full time | Part time

With your application, you need to upload copies of the following supporting evidence:

  1. Complete transcripts (and final degree certificate(s) where possible). If your qualification documents are not in English, you will need to supply copies of your original language documents as well as their official translation into English.
  2. A completed Supplementary Application Form (please upload a separate form for each project application when asked to add Personal Statement).

Guidance on completing your Supplementary Application Form:

The Aura Centre for Doctoral Training is committed to generating a diverse and inclusive training programme. As part of our inclusive practices, the Centre adopts a process of assessing applications purely based on skills and attributes and does not consider any personal details. As such we ask applicants to remove any personal details from the Supplementary Form which is used by the Panel to assess and select applicants for interview. The form asks for details of your education, training and employment history as well as some specific questions about your motivations and research experience and interests. It is very important that you do not include any personally identifying information.

Completing the form

Applicants must:

  • remove all personal references in their application. Specifically, do not include the following details: Names, age, country, sex, gender, religion, disability, race, sexual orientation
  • Complete all sections of the form in font and size Calibri 11pt

Please download the Supplementary Application Form here.

Uploading the form

When you have completed the form, please save it as a pdf format and labelled as follows:

Last name_first name PhD application form

Our support team will then process the form removing your name and allocating you a number prior to your application being assessed.

Upload the form as part of your application documents through the University of Hull student application portal when asked to add Personal Statement. Please do not send your form directly to the Aura CDT. If you plan to apply for more than one project you must complete a separate form for each project.

Humber Bridge
Postgraduate Rebecca Humphries & Georgia Sykes walking by HUBS Wharfe Building

The Humber Region – the UK's ‘Energy Estuary’ – is rapidly becoming the focus of the renewables industry.

Join our friendly cohorts of researchers at the Aura Centre for Doctoral Training - a partnership between the Universities of Hull, Durham, Newcastle and Sheffield.

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University of Hull's Doctoral College provides support to postgraduate research students. Offering skills development opportunities and dedicated facilities, the college is here to help you achieve your potential.

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Funding is available for Home students only. The full-time Aura CDT PhD Scholarship includes fees and maintenance (£16,062 per annum, 2022/23 rate) for four years, depending on satisfactory progress.

Entry requirements

If you have received a First-class Honours degree or a 2:1 Honours degree and a Masters (or the international equivalents) in Engineering, Earth Science, Mathematics, Physics, with an interest in computational methods, we would like to hear from you.