Partner for energy security and sustainability

UTP’s Institute of Hydrocarbon Recovery uses computed tomography (CT) scan equipment for imaging, quantifying properties, and determining the distribution of fluids in porous rocks.

At Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS’ Institute of Hydrocarbon Recovery, postgraduate students conduct studies and perform research to find end-to-end solutions for the upstream oil and gas sector

RESEARCH and development in upstream oil and gas plays an integral role in every aspect of the exploration and production journey.

Oil and gas being one of the most capital-intensive industries requiring expensive equipment and a highly skilled workforce, developments in science and technology have made oil and gas exploration and production more robust and efficient – adding value to the organisations that invest in R&D.

As a partner to the oil and gas industry, the Institute of Hydrocarbon Recovery (IHR) at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) sets out to be a global reference for R&D and a partner of choice for consultancy and capability development in upstream oil and gas.

IHR director Dr Syahrir Ridha says the institute’s priority areas are finding and developing solutions in subsurface imaging for better and more precise decision making, investigating existing and frontier geological basin, as well as increasing the hydrocarbon recovery factor of oil and gas fields.

The institute’s latest approach of incorporating Industrial Revolution 4.0 technologies such as data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence is to address upstream subsurface challenges.

The Institute of Hydrocarbon Recovery was set up in 2017, and comprises the Centre of Research for Enhanced Oil Recovery (COREOR), Centre for Subsurface Imaging (CSI), South East Asia Clastic and Carbonate Research Laboratory (SEACARL), and Shale Gas Research Group (SGRG).

The strategic goals of IHR include developing robust technology to image subsurface with greater clarity, developing digital geological technologies and prototype to enhance geological interpretation and modelling, providing solutions to improve oil and gas recovery, and providing a conclusive R&D environment with state-of-the art technology.

At IHR, postgraduate candidates with geoscience and petroleum engineering backgrounds will find fulfilling research prospects across the spectrum of exploration and production.

The centres within IHR have clearly defined niche areas – ultimately leading to research outcomes with real-world benefits.

“At the Centre for Subsurface Imaging for example, we apply and provide the technology to map and predict the profile of the subsurface in such a way that we might be able to determine the presence of hydrocarbons within weeks of data acquisition, instead of months,” says Syahrir.

“In the past, the analysis and interpretation of the seismic energy recorded are not that really clear and some of the responses are also difficult to interpret and define.

“With machine learning applications we’re able to improve the resolution and train the response in such a way that it assists us to have a better indication of the presence of hydrocarbon. It helps us to identify the exact spot where hydrocarbon is located, and this is something that the industry is keen on. The use of machine learning to improve imaging is a niche area, as well as 4D time-lapse reservoir monitoring and full-wavefield migration inversion.

“In enhanced oil recovery (EOR) the focus area consists of applying water-based EOR methods, reservoir characterisations and also wellbore stability analysis.

“SEACARL focuses on mineral carbonation, carbonate, sedimentology and also structural geology while in shale gas research the focus is on shale fracture analysis, enhanced extraction and improving recovery in ultra low permeability systems,” he says.

Research, consultancy and training courses

IHR’s core competencies that encompass research, consultancy and training are set to attract postgraduate students.

“Research is our competitive edge and there are areas of research whereby we intensively discuss with the industry concerned to anticipate future challenges and the expected solutions,” says Syahrir who is an associate professor at UTP’s department of petroleum engineering. He is also a chartered petroleum engineer from the Energy Institute (EI), UK.

The institute’s consulting work aims to solve the oil and gas industry’s operational problems or pain points.

“Clients see that we have the capability to assist them and they trust us to provide solutions for their pain points,” he says, pointing out that machine learning is being applied for one of its clients to improve the resolution and quality of subsurface images and also lab testing services.

Some of the institute’s clients include PETRONAS, Elsa Energy, Hitachi, Deleum and SVP Petroleum.

“Besides undertaking research and offering consulting services, institute members who are subject matter experts also share their expertise and knowledge through professional short courses,” he says.

Besides offering open courses, there are also customised courses whereby the syllabus and modules are developed based on partners’ needs. The short courses are offered through UTP’s Centre for Advanced and Professional Education (CAPE).

IHR Director Associate Professor Dr Syahrir Ridha (left) with UTP researcher at the flow loop system for sand monitoring and drilling fluid simulation.

The institute is also equipped with sophisticated lab facilities that can support cutting-edge research, which students can access and utilise. Some of the sophisticated R&D equipment include the HPHT core flood system, CT scan, formation evaluation system, sandpack foam flooding, flow loop system, PVT fluid evaluation, IFT spinning and pendant drop, and high pressure porosity and permeability system.

“Postgraduate students are also part and parcel of research work. They are part of the team undertaking research demanded by the industry and addressing the pain points of the market. Apart from completing their Masters or PhD, students are also involved in running some of the research projects. So, they have that added gain,” Syahrir adds.

HPHT core flood system.

UTP which is ranked 70th in the QS Asia University Rankings 2021 has a high ratio of international community among the staff and students. This offers students a global intellectual and cultural experience.

For more information on UTP’s postgraduate programmes, visit

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