There are three main disciplines in this complex and diverse industry.
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.
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.
Which Specialization Is 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!