A petroleum engineer could...
|Make a computer simulation to predict the amount and flow of petroleum and natural gas through an oil field.||Determine what type of drilling fluid will prevent drilling tool damage and prevent oil spills.|
|Create the designs for drill string piping that will carry drilling fluid into a well as efficiently as possible.||Examine the quality of recovered oil and gas before separating the different components.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Earth is our home and is the source of everything that we require to survive and thrive. Earth gives us food, shelter, and energy. One source of energy, found deep within the earth, is oil. Oil drives the world's economy and is an extremely important commodity. Petroleum engineers spend their careers searching for reservoirs of oil and developing methods to efficiently extract it from the earth without damaging the surrounding environment.|
|Key Requirements||Curiosity, tenacity, patience, excellent problem-solving skills, and the ability to apply reasoning skills to problems in order to arrive at sound solutions|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Chemistry, biology, physics, algebra, geometry, algebra II, calculus, English; if available, computer science|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%)|
Training, Other Qualifications
Engineers typically enter the occupation with a bachelor's degree in an engineering specialty, but some basic research positions may require a graduate degree. Continuing education to keep current with rapidly changing technology is important for engineers.
Beginning petroleum engineering graduates usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers and, in large companies, also may receive formal classroom or seminar-type training. As new petroleum engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions. Petroleum engineers may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a staff or team of engineers and technicians.
Education and Training
A bachelor's degree in petroleum or chemical engineering is required for all entry-level petroleum engineering jobs. Most petroleum engineering programs involve a concentration of study in petroleum engineering, along with courses in both mathematics and the physical and life sciences. Many programs also include courses in general engineering. A design course, sometimes accompanied by a computer or laboratory class, or both, is part of the curriculum of most programs. General courses not directly related to engineering, such as those in the social sciences or humanities, are also often required.
Graduate training is essential for petroleum engineering faculty positions and many research and development programs, but is not required for the majority of entry-level engineering jobs. Many experienced engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Many high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as engineers.
Petroleum engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as engineers frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering.
Nature of the Work
Engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems. Their work is the link between scientific discoveries and the commercial applications that meet societal and consumer needs.
Petroleum engineers search the world for reservoirs containing oil or natural gas. Once these resources are discovered, petroleum engineers work with geologists and other specialists to understand the geologic formation and properties of the rock containing the reservoir, determine the drilling methods to be used, and monitor drilling and production operations. They design equipment and processes to achieve the maximum profitable recovery of oil and gas. Because only a small proportion of oil and gas in a reservoir flows out under natural forces, petroleum engineers develop and use various enhanced recovery methods. These include injecting water, chemicals, gases, or steam into an oil reservoir to force out more of the oil and doing computer-controlled drilling or fracturing to connect a larger area of a reservoir to a single well. Because even the best techniques in use today recover only a portion of the oil and gas in a reservoir, petroleum engineers research and develop technology and methods to increase recovery and lower the cost of drilling and production operations.
Petroleum engineers work in office buildings, laboratories, or industrial plants. Others may spend time outdoors at oil and gas exploration and production sites, where they monitor or direct operations or solve onsite problems. Some engineers travel extensively to plants or work sites here and abroad.
Many engineers work a standard 40-hour week. At times, deadlines or design standards may bring extra pressure to a job, requiring engineers to work longer hours.
On the Job
- Assess costs and estimate the production capabilities and economic value of oil and gas wells, to evaluate the economic viability of potential drilling sites.
- Monitor production rates, and plan rework processes to improve production.
- Analyze data to recommend placement of wells and supplementary processes to enhance production.
- Specify and supervise well modification and stimulation programs to maximize oil and gas recovery.
- Direct and monitor the completion and evaluation of wells, well testing, or well surveys.
- Assist engineering and other personnel to solve operating problems.
- Develop plans for oil and gas field drilling, and for product recovery and treatment.
- Maintain records of drilling and production operations.
- Confer with scientific, engineering, and technical personnel to resolve design, research, and testing problems.
- Write technical reports for engineering and management personnel.
- Evaluate findings to develop, design, or test equipment or processes.
- Assign work to staff to obtain maximum utilization of personnel.
- Interpret drilling and testing information for personnel.
- Design and implement environmental controls on oil and gas operations.
- Coordinate the installation, maintenance, and operation of mining and oil field equipment.
- Supervise the removal of drilling equipment, the removal of any waste, and the safe return of land to structural stability when wells or pockets are exhausted.
- Inspect oil and gas wells to determine that installations are completed.
- Simulate reservoir performance for different recovery techniques, using computer models.
- Take samples to assess the amount and quality of oil, the depth at which resources lie, and the equipment needed to properly extract them.
- Coordinate activities of workers engaged in research, planning, and development.
- Design or modify mining and oil field machinery and tools, applying engineering principles.
- Test machinery and equipment to ensure that it is safe and conforms to performance specifications.
- Conduct engineering research experiments to improve or modify mining and oil machinery and operations.
Companies That Hire Petroleum Engineers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
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Special thanks to Chevron for providing the images on this page. Image copyrights and trademarks are held by or on behalf of Chevron Corporation and used with permission.
- BLS. (2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2019 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved April 1, 2021.
- O*Net Online. (2019). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved April 1, 2021.
- Chevron Corporation. (2009). Petroleum Engineering. Careers at Chevron. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
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