What Is Petroleum Engineering?


Petroleum engineering focuses on the study and activities in the production of hydrocarbons. Contrary to what the title indicates, it is not only the study of petroleum (crude oil), but natural gas as well. Along with earth science, petroleum engineering is the oil and gas industry’s primary subsurface discipline. The focus is not only on the recovery of hydrocarbons from subsurface reservoirs, but the efficient process thereof.


The petroleum engineer

The petroleum engineers place in the industry lies within the Upstream sector. Upstream refers to those products (oil & gas) which are pulled up from below the ground. The petroleum engineer is charged with the exploration and production of such products.

Combining together with geologists, the petroleum engineer’s main effort is focused how a specified reservoir should be developed and depleted. The petroleum engineer is also tasked with the duties on how to do so for maximum economic benefit.

Skills needed

The ability to locate, develop, and successfully extricate hydrocarbons from underground reservoirs means the petroleum engineer must have a wide array of skills. Among those skills are mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, even finance and economics. Petroleum engineering often overlaps with like disciplines such as civil, mechanical, and chemical.

The petroleum engineer will need to be able to:

-Evaluate potential underground oil and gas reservoirs
-Oversee drilling activities both off-site and on
-Select and implement a diverse array of recovery schemes
-Design surface collection and treatment facilities

In the modern age, petroleum engineers must also have extensive computer skills. Advanced software knowledge is a must especially in the areas of exploration data analysis and simulated reservoir behavior.

Petroleum engineering as a global disciplineSecurity Guidelines for the Petroleum Industry Second Edition

The petroleum engineering field knows no borders. In fact, the reality is that oil and gas maps are not geopolitically based. Some oil and gas basins and formations spread across many states, and even cross borders into other countries. The petroleum engineer is therefore in demand anywhere there is oil exploration going on.

The potential to work abroad is not only exciting, it’s financially lucrative as well. The world is in need of petroleum engineers today more than ever.

Types of petroleum engineers

There is more than one type of petroleum engineer. They can be broken down into:

Reservoir Engineers: Reservoir engineers are tasked with the optimization of oil and gas through proper and efficient well placement, production rates, as well as optimized recovery techniques.

Drilling Engineers: Drilling engineers manage the technical aspects of drilling exploratory, production and injection wells.

Production Engineers:  Production engineers also includes subsurface engineers. They manage the interface between the well and the reservoir. This includes perforations, sand control, downhole flow control, and downhole monitoring equipment. Production engineers are also tasked with the evaluation of artificial lifting methods and select the proper surface equipment which separates oil, natural gas, and water.

Foundation and salary

While petroleum has been in use for thousands of years, the position of the petroleum engineer is a more modern one. The profession got its start back in 1914 as a sub-chapter of the American institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum engineers. Today, the industry has its own organization, the SPE, or Society of Petroleum Engineers.

The SPE is the largest association for petroleum engineers and publishes important information and documents pertaining to the industry: regulations, innovations, new technologies.

Petroleum engineering is one of the most specialized of all the disciplines and petroleum engineers are some of the highest paid. The average salary for a petroleum engineer is near $140,000 a year, with the more experienced in their trade making in excess of a quarter million dollars per year.

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