Student Article / Science

Petroleum Engineer: Another Avenue in Engineering

Petroleum Engineer: Another Avenue in Engineering

Assistant Editor

28 Dec, 2018

Petroleum engineering is a field of engineering which is concerned with those activities which are connected to the production of hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons can either be crude oil or natural gas. Production and exploration are deemed to fall within the upstream sector of the oil and gas industries. The two main subsurface disciplines of the gas industry are exploration by earth scientists and petroleum engineering. They focus on maximizing the economic recovery of hydrocarbons from subsurface reservoirs. Petroleum geology and geophysics work on the provision of a static description of the hydrocarbon reservoir rock, while petroleum engineering work on the estimation of the recoverable volume of this resource by using a detailed understanding of the physical behavior of water, gas, and oil within porous rock at very high pressure.

By working together and combining their efforts throughout their life, geologists and petroleum engineers of a hydrocarbon accumulation detect the way in which a reservoir is developed and depleted. Usually, they have the highest impact on the field of economics. Petroleum engineering needs a vast knowledge of many other related disciplines, like geophysics, petroleum geology, drilling, formation evaluation (well logging), economics, reservoir engineering, reservoir simulation, well engineering, completions, reservoir simulation,  and petroleum production engineering.

Recruitment to the petroleum industry has historically been from the disciplines of physics, chemical engineering, and mining engineering. Subsequent development training has usually been done within the oil companies. The profession of petroleum engineer started in 1914 within the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME). The first Petroleum Engineering degree was granted in 1915 by the University of Pittsburgh. Since then, the profession has evolved for solving increasingly difficult situations. Improvements have been done in computer modeling, the application of statistics, materials probability analysis, and new technologies like enhanced oil recovery and horizontal drilling, have drastically improved the toolbox of the petroleum engineer in recent decades. Sensors, automation, and robots are being utilized to propel the industry to more efficiency and safety.

The Arctic, desert, and deep-water conditions are usually contended with. High temperature and high-pressure environments have become increasingly commonplace in operations and need the petroleum engineer to be savvy in topics as wide-ranging as thermo-hydraulics, geomechanics, and intelligent systems.

The largest professional society for petroleum engineers is the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). It publishes much technical information and other resources to support the oil and gas industry. It offers free online education, mentoring, and access to SPE Connect, an exclusive platform for members for discussion of technical issues, best practices, and other topics. Members of SPE are also able to access the SPE Competency Management Tool for finding the knowledge and skill strengths and opportunities for growth. This professional society publishes peer-reviewed journals, books, and magazines. The members of this community also receive a complimentary subscription to the Journal of Petroleum Technology and discounts on SPE's other publications. Apart from this, they also receive discounts on registration fees for SPE organized events and training courses.

Petroleum engineers need to have a bachelors degree in engineering according to the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statics. Education of petroleum engineering can be availed at many universities across the world. 

Works done by a Petroleum Engineer:

• Designing of  equipment for the extraction of oil and gas from onshore and offshore reserves deep underground

• Design development plans for drilling in oil and gas fields, and then for recovering the oil and gas

• Development of various ways for injecting water, gases, chemicals, or steam into an oil reserve to force out more oil or gas

• Making sure that the equipment of oilfield is operated, installed, and maintained properly

• Evaluation of the production of wells through testing, surveys, and analysis

• Oil and gas deposits, or reservoirs, are situated deep in rock formations underground. 

When all oil and gas are discovered, petroleum engineers work with geoscientists and other specialists for understanding the geologic formation of the rock which contains the reservoir. They then detect and design the drilling methods, make the drilling equipment, implement the drilling plan, and monitor operations. The best techniques currently being used recover only a portion of the oil and gas in a reservoir, so petroleum engineers also research and develop new ways to recover more of the oil and gas. This additional recovery helps for lowering the cost of drilling and production.

Types of Petroleum Engineers:

Completion engineers: These engineers decide the best way for finishing building wells so that oil or gas will flow up from the underground. They oversee work for completing the building of wells. This is a project which involves the use of hydraulic fracturing, tubing, or pressure-control techniques.

Drilling engineers: They determine the best way to drill oil or gas wells, taking into account a number of factors, including cost. They ensure that the drilling process is efficient, safe, and minimally disruptive to the environment.

Production engineers: They take over wells after drilling is completed. They typically monitor wells' oil and gas production. If wells are not producing as much as expected, these engineers figure out ways for increasing the amount being extracted.

Reservoir engineers: They estimate how much oil or gas can be recovered from underground deposits, known as reservoirs. They study reservoirs' characteristics and determine which methods will get the most oil or gas out of the reservoirs. They also take into consideration various operations for ensuring that optimal levels of these resources are being recovered.

Qualities required for Petroleum Engineering

Analytical skills: Petroleum engineers must be capable of compiling and making sense of large amounts of technical information and data for ensuring facilities which operate safely and effectively.

Creativity: As each new drill site is unique and therefore presents new challenges, petroleum engineers must be able to design new ideas with creative designs for the extraction of oil and gas.

Interpersonal skills: Petroleum engineers must work in harmony and mutual understanding with others on the projects which require highly complex machinery, equipment, and infrastructure. Communicating and working well with other engineers is crucial to ensure that the projects meet customer needs and run safely and efficiently.

Mathematical skills: Petroleum engineers utilize the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Problem-solving skills: It is critical to identify problems in drilling plans for petroleum engineers because these problems can be costly. These engineers must be careful not to overlook any potential issues and must quickly address those which do occur.

To know more about other careers in detail and for planning a bright future, you must go through our career guide and future bright programmes.

By: Preeti Narula