What is Petroleum Engineering?
Petroleum engineering is the discovery, management, and removal of oil and gas from their underground reservoirs. The key energy requirements in the world today are fulfilled by fossil fuels, and of these a large majority is based on crude oil and natural gas. This needs effective detection and extraction procedures to ensure that an energy hungry world continues to have access to the energy it requires. This is a big part of why Petroleum Engineers are so sought after.
In fact, the complexity of the processes involved today has resulted in specific sub-disciplines emerging within petroleum engineering that focus exclusively on key aspects of the fuel access and removal process.
Disciplines within Petroleum Engineering
The first discipline relates to fuel reservoir detection and management. The people involved in this aspect are known as Reservoir Engineers and their primary responsibility is to find potential hydrocarbon storage regions and analyze their potential fuel output.
They do this by working with geologists to analyze the rock formations to formulate a fairly accurate estimation of the size of the hydrocarbon deposit, and therefore, its potential revenue. If it is determined that the reservoir size is substantial enough to validate commercial extraction, it is then necessary for them to look at the financial aspects of how to access these deposits. Based on this information they can provide a cost benefit analysis which gives confirmation on whether or not to proceed with the development of the potential reservoir.
In the case that it is determined that it is feasible to move forward, the Reservoir Engineers will work on an optimal strategy for the access and removal of these hydrocarbons. The strategy seeks to ensure revenue is maximized, removal costs are minimized, and reservoirs are managed effectively, while ensuring that the operations at the site are performed efficiently.
The second discipline is focused on the extraction process which requires drilling a well into a reservoir, and the people who focus on this area are known as Drilling Engineers. These engineers focus on the technical aspects of how to best access the fuel in the underground reservoirs.
They do this by taking the analysis and recommendations provided by the Reservoir Engineers and develop a detailed extraction plan as to how to perform the necessary drilling operations. The scope of this work includes determining the best equipment for optimal drilling, as well as in many cases, designing new equipment for the specific challenges related to the reservoir.
These include drilling in various climatic conditions such as deserts, sub-zero ice sheets, as well as under-sea reservoirs. The Drilling Engineers supervise the entire drilling process, monitor it for safety and cost effectiveness, and ensure that all equipment is managed efficiently and are regularly maintained so as to not effect production operations.
After the Drilling Engineers have delivered a producing well, then it is the job of the Production Engineers to manage the removal of the hydrocarbons, and deliver it for production by pipeline for processing into the various fuels required to fulfill different energy requirements.
Once again, these engineers are responsible for designing the necessary equipment to optimize the extraction of the fuels from the reservoirs, and monitor the actual output to determine ways for improvement. They are also responsible for monitoring the throughput of the fuels to ensure consistent delivery, as well as detect potential problems so as not to slow down the production process.
Is Petroleum Engineering Hard?
Petroleum engineering is a challenging field but it is something you definitely achieve. To better understand if it is difficult to become a petroleum engineer, there are two focus areas you need to consider.
First and foremost, you need to have some important personal characteristics that will help you be successful. You must be a good communicator, have flair for problem analysis and resolution, as well as out of the box thinking and creativity.
The key here is that you should be able to adapt to a changing environment easily, as conditions can change rapidly in this field and you must have the presence of mind to think clearly and calmly, while also reacting quickly to any problems or issues.
While interaction is required, you should also be able to work independently and make informed decisions on your own when needed. If you are not keen on taking responsibility, then this is not the field for you.
Finally, you must also be willing to travel and be away from home for extensive periods at a time. This can be the hardest part about being a petroleum engineer, so make sure you take this into consideration.
The other aspect of being a Petroleum Engineer is to ensure that you have the right background and skills that will help you excel in this field. First, you must have a solid background in math and science as they form the foundation of the field. Then you must ensure that you obtain a Bachelors, and preferably a Master’s degree, in Petroleum Engineering from an institution that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
There are also a number of institutions currently offering combined programs leading to both the Bachelors and the Master’s degree in a reduced timeframe. It is also recommended that you obtain the Certified Petroleum Engineer (CPE) certificate from the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) to refine your skills.
By having the right capabilities, educational qualifications and certifications, you can help ensure that pursuing a career in petroleum engineering won’t be as difficult as it might seem.
Other General Information
Another important aspect of petroleum engineering is the way in which technology has infiltrated many areas of the field. This is due to the fact, as mentioned earlier, that the fuel extraction process has become increasingly complex and demanding ever more versatile solutions while ensuring cost effectiveness. This has resulted in many areas in which manual analysis and review are done, to give way to more sophisticated technology oriented solutions which aid petroleum engineers in their job.
These include development of detailed statistical and modeling applications through which Reservoir Engineers can input a variety of geological data for more effective estimation exercises of reservoir size and potential output.
They can then use highly developed simulation systems to analyze optimal extraction areas to better determine effective access strategies, so that they can recommend the best areas to begin drilling operations.
Drilling Engineers, on the other hand, can leverage high level Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools to develop new and effective equipment for the various conditions that they need to drill wells in. The advantage from this is that they can reduce the time to test and experiment with equipment prior to development, and thereby improving the chances of output from their drilling operations.
Finally, Production Engineers can access detailed forecasting software that analyzes reservoir throughput as well as depletion levels to better manage the extraction process. This way, they can optimize the amount that can be extracted while ensuring that the reservoir is effectively managed so that a reliable output can be assured for a longer timeframe. This is important to ensure an effective return on business investment so that a profit can be realized from the operations.
Is Petroleum Engineering Right For You?
Now that you have a better understanding of what petroleum engineering is, how hard it is, and what some of the sub-disciplines are, you can determine if the field is right for you. If you’re great at science and math, and enjoy critical thinking and analytics, then this may just be your calling!