Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search

You are here Courses > Undergraduate > Modules Outline

Geology for Engineers 2020 - CEU44A02 (5 ECTS)


Lecturers: Dr. Seán McClenaghan, Dr. David O'Connell

Course Organisation

This course consists of 33 lectures over 11 weeks, together with 4 practical exercises and a fieldtrip to a local site of geological interest. All practicals, the field trip and 9 weeks of lectures (geology) are given by Dr. Seán McClenaghan, the remaining lectures (hydrogeology) are given by Dr. David O'Connell.

Engineering Semester or Term

Start Week

Hours of Associated Practical Sessions

End Week



Per Week


Per Week










Total Contact Hours: 41

Course Description

Geology for Engineers provides an introduction to several areas of Earth Sciences that impact the engineer, including geological materials, earth surface processes, hydrocarbon exploration and production, natural disasters and climate change. Engineers often need to work with geologists. This course will enable the student to operate effectively in such a team by explaining terminology and concepts in the fields stated above. The course also provides the engineer with a natural, regional-scale context in which to place site-specific questions. Financial and time pressures on the engineer necessarily force him/her to concentrate on the site-specific aspects of geology, such as the mechanical properties of the ground and the local risk of natural hazards like flooding, subsidence or earthquakes. This course provides examples of how such local-scale phenomena can be better predicted using knowledge of regional-scale geological processes. The student will learn the kind of questions that geologists can answer, allowing him/her to better assess how much time/money to spend on geological investigations for any given project.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this course the student will be able to:

  • Recognise standard terminology, including basic classification systems for geological materials, and terminology applied to important plate tectonic, surface and climatic processes.
  • Describe the formation and internal structure of planet Earth and describe plate tectonic theory.
  • Explain how natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes relate to plate tectonic processes, and explain difficulties in predicting natural disasters.
  • Explain the generation of hydrocarbons within sedimentary basins, use simple exploration techniques, and compare technologies for hydrocarbon exploration and extraction.
  • Describe the roles of glacial, fluvial, hill slope, coastal and submarine processes in forming the natural environment, and appraise whether engineering solutions are appropriate in managing surface processes.
  • Explain the major controls on global climate, describe evidence for natural climate change in the geological record, and assess the engineer’s role in managing anthropogenic climate change.
  • Explain the sources and distribution of radon in Ireland, describe engineering solutions to alleviate high indoor radon levels.
  • Define basic terms in hydrogeology and apply equations of groundwater flow to simple engineering situations.

Course Content

  •  Planet Earth [Dr. Seán McClenaghan]
    • Earth’s internal structure: core, mantle, crust
    • Plate tectonics – Deformation of the plates: faulting and folding
    • Earthquake seismology
    • Describing and classifying rocks and minerals
    • Measuring geological time
  • Volcanic Processes [Dr. Seán McClenaghan]
    • Controls on physical properties of magma
    • Principles of multi-phase geophysical flows
    • Eruption dynamics
    • Important mineral deposits produced by volcanic processes
  •  Sedimentary basins and Hydrocarbons [Dr. Seán McClenaghan]
    • Imaging sedimentary basins using reflection seismology
    • Types of sedimentary basin
    • Generation of hydrocarbons within sedimentary basins
    • Hydrocarbon exploration techniques
  • Geology of Ireland [Dr. Seán McClenaghan]
    • Tectonic overview
    • Basement structure
    • Examples of igneous rock
    • Main occurrences of metamorphic rock
    • Clastic and carbonate sediments
  • Earth surface processes [Dr. Seán McClenaghan]
  • Glacial landforms and sediments
  • Weathering, slope and river processes
  • Coastal processes
  • Role of society in controlling surface processes
  • Natural hazards [Dr. Seán McClenaghan]
    • Earthquakes
    •  Tsunamis
    • Volcanic hazards
    • Radon and other radiological hazards
  • Climate [Dr. Seán McClenaghan]
    • Role of atmosphere, oceans and the solid Earth in controlling climate
    • The Greenhouse Effect
    • Milankovitch cycles
    • Role of society in moderating climate change
  • Hydrogeology [Dr. David O'Connell]
  • Hydrogeological terms
  • Occurrence of groundwater
  • Groundwater head and groundwater flow
  • Application of hydrogeology to landfill site selection and design
  • Groundwater protection


Assessment is by one two hour exam at the end of the second semester. All of the material taught in the course (including practicals and field trip) is examinable.

Recommended Texts

Understanding Earth (second edition), Press & Siever
The Solid Earth (second edition), Fowler
Geology Basics for Engineers, Parriaux
Introducing Groundwater (second edition), Price
Water wells and boreholes, Misstear, Banks & Clark

Further Information

Course material, including geology handout notes, practical exercises and past exam papers will be made available in Dr. Seán McClenaghan's (mcclens) GET folder on a week by week basis during the module. Information on how to access GET folders can be found at here