Schlumberger’s connections to Cambridge University
Schlumberger operates in Cambridge for one key reason: the University of Cambridge, and the unique academic prestige that can be gained through association.
Schlumberger's entanglements with the University of Cambridge are some of the most extensive in higher education globally. Schlumberger uses these relationships to subsidise and greenwash its business activities. By funding PhD scholarships, fellowships and a professorship, Schlumberger makes its activities look more legitimate, and constructs a pipeline of engineering talent. Some of the publicly funded projects Schlumberger is involved with are transparently about increasing fossil fuel extraction - giving Schlumberger knowledge and tools to make more profit without assuming the financial risk of research.
Schlumberger Gould Research Centre
Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre opened in 1982, as part of its "global research drive". Renamed Schlumberger Gould Research Centre in 2012, the centre is managed by one of Schlumberger's many UK subsidiaries: Schlumberger Cambridge Research Limited.
In Schlumberger's own words: "The search for oil and gas has three objectives: to identify and evaluate hydrocarbon-bearing reservoirs; to bring hydrocarbons to the surface safely and cost-effectively, without harming the environment; and to maximize the yield from each discovery. These objectives can be advanced only by ongoing research into all aspects of the exploration, drilling, and production processes."
Schlumberger Gould Research Centre therefore operates its own model oil rigs and has departments specialising in drilling, chemistry, fluid mechanics and geophysics.
While few Cambridge residents have heard of Schlumberger, many will recognise the award-winning architecture of Schlumberger Gould Research Centre's 'tent building' at High Cross, Madingley Road, CB3 0EL. This address is part of the University of Cambridge's West Cambridge Site, with a 70-year lease to the land signed by Schlumberger and the University in 1983. This permits Schlumberger to continue using Cambridge as a base for research into fossil fuel extraction until at least 2053 - 3 years after the world must reach net-zero carbon emissions.
Connections to the University do not stop there, however, as Schlumberger has stated that it "benefits from strong collaborative links with Cambridge University to drive innovation and support its long-term vision.”
The centre also provided Schlumberger with additional social legitimacy by sponsoring the Mineralogy Society Schlumberger Award, which was awarded annually from 1990-2020, and won by four University of Cambridge academics.
Professor Raymond Goldstein became the University of Cambridge's Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems in 2006. His research group, the Goldstein Lab, is not directly connected to fossil fuel extraction. Instead, it sanitises Schlumberger's reputation through nature-focused academic papers, and lighthearted news articles about ponytail physics. Meanwhile, the Goldstein Lab has recieved additional funding from the John Templeton Foundation - one of the top funders of the American climate denial industry.
Scholarships and fellowships
Schlumberger Cambridge International Scholarships, funded by Schlumberger in partnership with the University's Cambridge Trust, are valid at all 32 colleges, and "available to PhD applicants in subjects relevant to the work of the Schlumberger Gould Research Centre in Cambridge.”
The Schlumberger Foundation's most recent annual report revealed that there were 39 of its Faculty for the Future fellows studying at the University of Cambridge in 2019. This was more than any other university in the world, with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) trailing behind in second place with its 17 fellows.
Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechology
Schlumberger was named twice on the Department's webpage about its industry links, as both an "ongoing partnership" and a "major University-wide partnership". However, these references were hastily scrubbed from the page following the Schlumberger Out campaign occupation of the Chemical Engineering Department.
The Magnetic Resonance Resonance Research Centre (MRRC) researches topics including "optimisation of treatment fluids for oil recovery applications" and "improving the understanding of enhanced oil recovery processes". MRRC has collaborated extensively with Schlumberger, including research to enable "improvements of the management of productivity in many industrial sectors such as petroleum”. MRRC's relationship with Schlumberger is so close that it even "acquired a Bruker AV 85 (horizontal bore) spectrometer from a collaboration with Schlumberger".
The Particles, Soft Solids and Surfaces (PS3G) Group names Schlumberger as a "collaborating company". A 2018-2023 research collaboration between PS3G and Schlumberger investigated "extensional rheology of complex fluids used in oil well construction" - including experiments involving Schlumberger’s proprietary drilling fluid DUO-VIS!! Meanwhile, a 2016-2019 research collaboration investigated "flow of gas- liquid foams in narrow complex geometries", which was stated to have applications in enhanced oil recovery.
Department of Earth Sciences
The northern Borneo Orogeny Seismic Survey (nBOSS) project "aims to use seismology to understand the deep geology and tectonics of northern Borneo". Its field area is Sabah, Malaysia. A 2018-2022 research collaboration between nBOSS and Schlumberger on "joint inversion of seismic body and surface wave data" involved analysis of 3D seismic survey data of Southeast Asia - likely including data provided by Schlumberger, who conducted a 3D seismic survey offshore Sabah in 2016. Schlumberger's Sabah seismic data is now on sale to companies bidding for licenses to prospect for oil and gas in the region, advertised as a way to "get the competitive advantage you need to select the best available prospects to meet the exploration goals of your operation".
The UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in the Application of Artificial Intelligence to the study of Environmental Risks (AI4ER) states an aim to "train researchers uniquely equipped to develop and apply leading edge computational approaches to address critical global environmental challenges." Its Principal Investigator and Co-Director is Dr Emily Shuckburgh - who heads the University's climate initiative, Cambridge Zero. Sounds good, right? So why did AI4ER continue to name Schlumberger Cambridge Research among its partners (even after BP and Total were quietly removed from the list) until March 2023? And why was this simple update only made after the Schlumberger Out campaign occupied the Earth Sciences Department and raised awareness outside an AI4ER talk?
A 2011-2015 research collaboration with Sclumberger investigated "rupture properties from microseismic data" - i.e. earthquakes caused by fracking. According to the grant application, this research was intended to "have both economic and societal benefits, and [...] further strengthen industry-academic collaborations."
Department of Engineering
The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment: Resilience in a Changing World (FIBE2) was "co-created" by the Department of Engineering and "27 strategic industry partners", including Schlumberger. FIBE2 industry partners "deliver guest lectures and provide commercial perspectives" and "collaborate with CDT Academic Staff to co-create, formulate and co-supervise MRes and PhD research projects”. FIBE2's list of its intended impacts includes: "new forms of Industry-University partnerships", "enhanced global competitiveness for industrial partners", "world-class research outcomes that address national needs, via the direct engagement of our key industrial partners" and "creation of powerful informal professional networks [...], including some hosted by FIBE2 CDT industry partners".
Schlumberger Cambridge Research and the Department of Engineering are project partners in the UK Fluids Network, which was created to "ensure that academic and industrial researchers can access the widest pool of expertise and resources, and can continue to innovate in critical emerging areas" - i.e. helping to facilitate the parasitic relationship between the fossil fuel industry and academia. The network's Principal Investigator is Department of Engineering Professor Matthew Juniper, while Schlumberger scientist Dr Simon Bittleston is on the Advisory Board. Research areas include carbon capture and storage, as well as various other topics relevant to continued fossil fuel extraction.
A 2017-2022 research collaboration with Sclumberger investigated "dynamics and control of large mechanical structors", relevant to oil and gas drilling. The project's grant application stated: "the motivation for this project is the control vibration in very long high aspect ratio drillstrings".
Department of Physics
The Laboratory for Scientific Computing "is almost entirely commissioned by industry" and Schlumberger is one of their current partners.
Churchill College counts the Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems among its fellows. In addition to this, Churchill has awarded an honorary fellowship to Dr Simon Bittleston - who has worked at Schlumberger for over 35 years, starting this career at none other than Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre. Dr Bittleston also sits on the board of Churchill's Møller Institute.
Have we missed something? Let us know at email@example.com
Scholarships and fellowships