John R Mills graduated from TBS in 2004. He then returned to the UK and attended the University of Manchester, for Physics. In 2005 he decided to change his undergraduate programme to Geology and Geography and got his BSc in 2008. After that, he got his MSc in Reservoir Evaluation and Management from Heriot-Watt University, in 2009, and he is now a PhD student, Petroleum Engineering at Heriot-Watt University.
John has contacted the school through a letter to Mr Paul Wiseman, which we present below. We are all very proud of John’s achievement, and wish him all the best in his career and life!
I hope you are well and that Diogo has settled in well at school since we were last in communication. I can’t believe it was a year ago since we were last in touch. Time has a habit of flying but I am trying to keep in touch with people.
I am currently undertaking a PhD at the Institute of Petroleum Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. My area of research is the “Storage of Carbon Dioxide in deep saline aquifers and depleted gas fields” as a means of combating climate change. This work is being carried out with support from the British government in the form of an EPSRC Case Award in association with a sponsoring company “CO2 DeepStore”. I gained my undergraduate degree in Geology from the University of Manchester and a Master’s in Reservoir Engineering from Heriot-Watt University; both programmes have provided a very useful grounding for the field of research I work in.
My research focuses on pore-scale studies of CO2 behaviour in porous rock such as sandstones, and I am currently working with subsurface core samples in the lab and simulating fluid behaviour using the computer. I believe that strong technical skills and empirical results are vitally important for sound research; doing science with one’s hands fosters a better understanding of science at work. It is like trying to ride a surfboard; it is hard to understand how to ride a wave until you try doing it for yourself.
The work I am doing is very exciting. It allows me to ‘give back’ for the opportunities the Petroleum industry has provided me through my father’s occupation by understanding how we can transition to a zero-carbon economy by capturing and storing CO2 deep underground. Many aspects of this process have been used before. Natural gas is a fuel used to heat our homes and cook with, and has been temporarily stored underground in a similar way for decades. What is interesting is, that it does not draw public concern in the same way the storage of non-flammable Carbon Dioxide does! Perhaps it is because we need natural gas to keep us comfortable, but CO2 is an expensive waste? To ensure this statement is not a common point of view, effective communication of the science of carbon storage and the importance of man-made climate change is the cornerstone for public acceptance.
With this in mind, there is enormous pressure on researchers to make this technology efficient and cost effective in its own right to allow it to be implemented economically. Also, what we perceive as a large cost today may not be anything like the real cost of doing nothing. The Stern Review (2007) on the ‘Economics of Climate Change states that the cost of doing nothing [about climate change] will be much higher than taking action today. This could include the cost caused by major flooding from more intense rainfall or sea-level rise.
The Earth is a finely tuned system; atmospheric, biological, geological and oceanic systems work together in sync at different scales of time sand space. Humans alone have artificially changed the composition of all of those components in different ways; unregulated release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is one which will cause irreversible damage to our environment. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is currently the only technology proven to actively remove CO2 from point sources like coal-fired power stations. In combination with low-cost energy from renewable sources we could achieve an ideal balance of energy demand with low-carbon growth.
While I understand that I have forged my own path, I appreciate those who have helped to provide the tools I need to do it. You are one of those people who helped provide some of these tools during my time as a student at the British School. I am very grateful for the opportunities you helped create and the friendship we have shared. The confidence and experience I gained at the school is an asset which I continually draw upon.
I wish you and your family good health, and every success in developing the school. I hope other students who have had the opportunity to receive an education at the British School will recognize the privileged position they are in and learn to make the most of the opportunities and experiences available to them.
Best wishes with the year ahead.