What is Petroleum Engineering?

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Petroleum engineering ensures that energy will continue to be a key component to societal functioning and people’s everyday lives. Petroleum engineers solve important challenges that contribute to energy security and national prosperity. The rewarding field of petroleum engineering requires knowledge of physics, geology, chemistry and mathematics. Petroleum engineers often work on global oil and gas projects in developing areas in developing areas in Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe.

Job Duties

Petroleum engineers examine and research complex maps of subsurface oil and gas reservoirs in order to recommend the strategic placement of wells. Their goal is to maximize the economical production from the reservoirs while maintaining safety, efficiency and environmental stability. They evaluate potential well production rates and performances through computer stimulated programs and flow production models. For example, they may create flow simulations that are enhanced by various processes, such as pressurizing or subsurface heating.

Petroleum engineers recommend supplementary processes that enhance recovery and performance. They develop well drilling plans for management to approve. This means they must specify things like drilling time, material requirements and special operational needs. This may call for directional drilling and testing, or it may require unique well casing and drilling technology. Petroleum engineers provide technical consultations during drilling operations to resolve existing and potential problems. This is usually things like bore directional change, unsatisfactory drilling rate and subsurface water problems in well bores.

Required Education

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that petroleum engineers should have a four-year degree in petroleum engineering, but a bachelor’s degree in chemical or mechanical engineering is sometimes accepted. The objective of a petroleum engineering program will most likely be to produce qualified engineers who can successfully provide oil and gas production services and technical advice. Graduates of these programs will understand the science and engineering principles behind the technology and operation of petroleum engineering. These programs often emphasize ethical behavior, continuing professional education and environmentally responsible stewardship of natural resources.

Related: 10 Great Value Colleges for a Petroleum Engineering Degree 2016-2017

Petroleum engineering programs develop a working knowledge of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, phase behavior, material properties, transport phenomena and strength of materials. Petroleum engineering programs develop competence in design and analysis of well systems, drilling procedures and well completion techniques. Students are trained in the evaluation and characterization of subsurface geological formations through geoscientific methods. Students learn how to design and analyze system that produce, inject and handle subsurface fluids. Students also learn how to optimize resource development and management.

Expected Job Qualifications

Petroleum engineers should be familiar with both traditional and unconventional drilling techniques. They need broad knowledge of well drilling, management and completion practices. Some petroleum engineers must understand hydraulic fracturing and reservoir stimulation technologies. Petroleum engineers should be comfortable working in the field under challenging climate or weather conditions, but they must also be comfortable working long hours in an office analyzing large data sets and statistics to make conclusions and recommendations.

Petroleum engineers should have the ability to effectively apply the fundamental concepts and procedures of petroleum engineering. They must continue their professional development of technical expertise and knowledge through seminars, training and formal education. Companies want petroleum engineers who are creative thinkers and problem solvers with the ability to find new ways to solve problems. Having a strong intellectual curiosity to explore better ways to make good investment decisions while protecting the environment will be appreciated.

Finally, petroleum engineers should be highly-motivated team players who are willing to collaborate and go the extra mile to complete projects.