Optimising Trenching Techniques for Subsea Cable Installation


The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Net Zero Maritime Energy solutions (N0MES) has a 4-year funded PhD place available for an exceptional researcher. With the support of the University of Liverpool (UoL), Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and 33 maritime energy sector partners, N0MES PGRs will pursue new, engineering-centred, interdisciplinary research to address four vital net zero challenges currently facing the North West, the UK and beyond:

a) Energy generation using maritime-based renewable energy (e.g. offshore wind, tidal, wave, floating solar, hydrogen, CCS);

b) Distributing energy from offshore to onshore, including port- and hinterland-side impacts and opportunities;

c) Addressing the short- and long-term environmental impacts of offshore and maritime

environment renewable energy generation, distribution and storage; and

d) Decommissioning and lifetime extension of existing energy and facilities.


The UK is steadfast in its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by utilising renewable energy sources for electricity generation. In April 2022, the government unveiled the British Energy Security Strategy, aiming to deploy up to 50 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity in the UK by 2030. Central to this ambition is the vital role played by offshore cables, serving as the backbone of renewable energy infrastructure and predominantly installed through trenching processes.

However, the efficient installation of subsea cables across diverse soil conditions remains a significant challenge, highlighting the need for innovative solutions. This project embarks on a mission to drive forward innovation in offshore cable installation practices by deciphering the intricate dynamic interplay between cutting tools and subsea soils in trenching processes. To achieve the overarching goal, we will

  • Extend the particle finite element model [1-2] and code to accurately model the dynamic interaction between solid bodies and saturated porous media, accounting for significant changes in geometry;
  • Validate the model and implemented code through rigorous testing against self-conducted model experiments and data provided by our esteemed industry partner;
  • Systematically investigate how various aspects of the trenching process impact efficiency, providing valuable insights for optimisation;
  • Integrate the research outcomes into accessible design methods/charts for adoption by industry stakeholders.

We want all of our staff and Students to feel that Liverpool is an inclusive and welcoming environment that actively celebrates and encourages diversity. We are committed to working with students to make all reasonable project adaptations including supporting those with caring responsibilities, disabilities or other personal circumstances. For example, If you have a disability you may be entitled to a Disabled Students Allowance on top of your studentship to help cover the costs of any additional support that a person studying for a doctorate might need as a result.

We believe everyone deserves an excellent education and encourage students from all backgrounds and personal circumstances to apply.

Applicant Eligibility

Candidates will have, or be due to obtain, a Master’s Degree or equivalent from a reputable University in an appropriate field of Engineering. Exceptional candidates with a First Class Bachelor’s Degree in an appropriate field will also be considered.


Application Process

Candidates wishing to apply should complete the University of Liverpool application form [How to apply for a PhD - University of Liverpool] applying for a PhD in Civil Engineering and uploading: Degree Certificates & Transcripts, an up-to-date CV, two academic references and a supporting statement [maximum 300 words] detailing; what inspires you within this project, how your skill set matches the project, up to 3 examples showing your commitment so science, piece of science that excites you & anything else to support your application.


Candidates wishing to discuss the research project should contact the primary supervisor [xue.zhang2@liverpool.ac.uk], those wishing to discuss the application process should discuss this with the CDT Manager Matt Fulton [n0mescdt@liverpool.ac.uk].


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

The EPSRC funded Studentship will cover full tuition fees of £4,786 per year and pay a maintenance grant for 4 years, starting at the UKRI minimum of £19,237 pa. for 2024-2025. The Studentship also comes with access to additional funding in the form of a research training support grant which is available to fund conference attendance, fieldwork, internships etc.

EPSRC Studentships are available to any prospective student wishing to apply including international students. Up to 30% of our cohort can comprise of international students and they will not be charged the fee difference between UK and international rate.



  1. Zhang, X., Krabbenhoft, K., Pedroso, D. M., Lyamin, A. V., Sheng, D., Da Silva, M. V., & Wang, D. (2013). Particle finite element analysis of large deformation and granular flow problems. Computers and Geotechnics54, 133-142.
  2. Zhang, X., Oñate, E., Torres, S. A. G., Bleyer, J., & Krabbenhoft, K. (2019). A unified Lagrangian formulation for solid and fluid dynamics and its possibility for modelling submarine landslides and their consequences. Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering343, 314-338.