PhD Stipend in Advanced Process Control Using AI-enhanced Sensor Fusion and Its Application in Offshore Produced Water Treatment

Position No.


At the Faculty of Engineering and Science, Department of Energy Technology a PhD stipend is available within the general study program Energy Technology. The stipend is open for appointment from 1 May 2021.

Aalborg University contributes to the knowledge building of the global society as well as the development of prosperity, welfare and culture of Danish society. This is accomplished through research, research-based education, public sector services and knowledge collaboration. AAU educates students for the future and activities are based on a dynamic and transformative collaboration with the surrounding community. Read more about AAU at

The Department of Energy Technology is a dynamic engineering research department in continuous growth and inspiring surroundings. The department has a very international environment and covers all areas of clean and sustainable energy systems of the future within electrical, thermal and mechatronic energy technology. The department has campuses in both Aalborg and Esbjerg. The mission is to be world leading in both research and research-based education of the energy engineers of the future. The department has approx. 300 employees of many nationalities, of which 24 are administrative staff. In addition, the department constantly has approx. 50-70 guest researchers from around the world. Research and teaching are in the absolute world elite in the field of energy, and we have extensive and leading workshop and laboratory facilities, where research and innovation are carried out in direct collaboration with industry to a great extent. Read more about the Department of Energy Technology at

The position is offered in relation to the research program “Offshore Energy Systems” and the PhD stipend will be positioned to the section for Esbjerg.

Job description

As the coming of the industrial 4.0 era, the process control technology, particularly for complex systems, is facing a renascent opportunity. Many emerging technologies, like digitalization, machine learning, IoT and cloud computing, provide numerous power to promote process control into much better operation and maintenance as well as environmental footprint.

Subject to this general background and by focusing on the Produced Water Treatment (PWT) processes in offshore OG production, which include the 3-phase separator and de-oiling hydrocyclone stages.

This PhD project will develop some new paradigm of process control methods using AI and sensor fusion technologies.

There are two main tasks in the project:

(i) development of AI-enhanced sensor fusion algorithms for more accurate and reliable online monitoring of Oil-in-Water (OiW) concentration based on the currently available measurements, e.g., the measurements of temperature, levels and pressures in the upstream 3-phase separators, and the pressures, flowrates and OiW at the downstream hydrocyclones. Thereby the effluent water quality in terms of hydrocarbon residual can be more reliably monitored;

(ii) development of AI-enhanced process control strategy/method. Based on available measurements and fused information in task (i), some new control solution, with the objectives for better cost-effectiveness, reliability, environmental-footprint and capacities, need to be achieved via one of the following ways:

(a) standard control structure while the control parameters need to be derived via supervised machine learning in either off-policy or on-policy manner;

(b) complete data-driven (model-free) control solution via machine leaning. No matter which way, the control development procedure/algorithm needs to be systematical and genetic, such that they can be easily adapted to handle different tailor-made systems.

The project also consists of experimental work to test and validate the developments at AAU’s testing pilot-plant, and with a potential to test at one operator’s platform at the late stage of the project. It should be noticed that this PhD project focuses on the technology development and proof-of-concept, thereby the achieved solutions/methods can be adapted to other process systems as well, such as the separation processes in bio-energy generation and bio-fuel production etc.

This PhD stipend is for 3-year duration and supported by a joint EUDP project, cooperated with DTU, KU and companies of Shute, Total and EIC.

The candidate should be willing and skilled to cross-disciplinary cooperation. This PhD stipend will daily work together with other students and researchers in the Separation Technology Research Group (STRG) who has been worked in offshore production automation for over 15 years.

The STRG is one of the global pioneers in research of offshore PWT technologies and also equipped with global-leading testing facilities.

The candidate with strong background/experience of process control, sensor fusion and machine learning will be prioritized. Knowledge with offshore OG separation/de-oiling processes will add extra value, but it is not obligatory.

The applicant must provide and upload a proper project description, which describes the applicants initial thoughts and ideas related to the specific project applied for. This includes a brief state-of-the-art (including short list of references), a time schedule and how the applicant intends to shed light on the project objectives. The project description should have a length of 4-5 pages.

You may obtain further information from Associate Professor Zhenyu Yang, Department of Energy Technology, phone: +45 9940 7608, email: concerning the scientific aspects of the stipend.

PhD stipends are allocated to individuals who hold a Master’s degree. PhD stipends are normally for a period of 3 years. It is a prerequisite for allocation of the stipend that the candidate will be enrolled as a PhD student at the Doctoral School of Engineering and Science in accordance with the regulations of Ministerial Order No. 1039 of August 27, 2013 on the PhD Programme at the Universities and Certain Higher Artistic Educational Institutions. According to the Ministerial Order, the progress of the PhD student shall be assessed every six months. It is a prerequisite for continuation of salary payment that the previous progress is approved at the time of the evaluation.

The qualifications of the applicant will be assessed by an assessment committee. On the basis of the recommendation of the assessment committee the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Science will make a decision for allocating the stipend.

For further information about stipends and salary as well as practical issues concerning the application procedure contact Ms. Lisbeth Diinhoff, The Faculty of Engineering and Science, email: , phone: +45 9940 9589.

For more information of The Doctoral School of Engineering and Science:

The application is only to be submitted online by using the “Apply online” button below.

AAU wishes to reflect the diversity of society and welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background or belief.




Appointment and salary as a PhD fellow are according to the Ministry of Finance Circular of November 10, 2015 on the Collective Agreement for Academics in Denmark, Appendix 5, regarding PhD fellows, and with the Ministry of Finance current circular on the employment structure at Danish Universities.



Aalborg University (AAU) conducts teaching and research to the highest level in the fields of humanities, engineering, and natural, health, and social sciences.

Aalborg Universitet

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