Process-based model tools for prediction of scour around offshore structural foundations


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.

Offshore renewable energy installations, such as wind turbine monopiles and tidal stream supporting frames, often significantly alter fluid dynamics around their foundations, leading to seabed scour—a major risk factor for marine renewable energy devices. Current design methods based on shear force concepts can estimate maximum or equilibrium scour depth under specific flow conditions. However, they are unable to account for scour adaptation during rapid changes in surface waves, e.g. backfilling. Observations also reveal distinct bed deformation and scour formation when structural dynamics intensify under strong lateral loads from energetic storms. Experimental studies indicate that sediment particles' motion within the seabed, unlike flow-driven particle transport above the bed, may play a significant role in bed sliding and pit hole development. This microscopic behaviour is currently missing in the existing methods, which causes the large uncertainties in the predictions.

Therefore, the project aims to address these knowledge gaps by examining the microscopic motion of particles during backfill and around dynamic structures, develop better parameterization of scour processes. The findings will not only shed lights on the fundamental mechanism of wave-structure-sediment interactions under a changing climate, but also provide opportunity to develop a practical tool for addressing the significant challenge involved in expanding offshore renewable energy into deep seas. Specifically, the advanced CFD-DEM model, scourFOAM, jointly developed by UoL and HR Wallingford, will be utilized to investigate particle behaviour alongside existing field and laboratory data. Novel particle-based approach will be used to represent the structural vibrations under lateral loading. Model results will be parameterised into simple engineering terms and a new scour prediction algorithm will be formulated based on structural stability analysis, with the aim of extending current prediction methods to the realistic offshore environments more comprehensively.

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 , those wishing to discuss the application process should discuss this with the CDT Manager Matt Fulton [].


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.