These days, it’s becoming more important for governments and global businesses to consider the intricacies of energy policy. While many countries have a significant petroleum reserve, others are finding their native reserves are either running low or difficult to extract commercially with todays technology. Effort is being poured into new and different ways to exploit existing reserves and activate technologies that will make non-traditional types of fossil fuel accessible. At the forefront of all these efforts are the world’s petroleum engineers.
What is Petroleum Engineering All About?
Petroleum engineering is the science of locating and extracting fossil fuels, in the form of crude oil and natural gas from deep within the Earth. In the past, much of the work that petroleum engineers did was focused on finding underground deposits of hydrocarbons to be extracted. However, in the coming century it is believed that much of the effort in the petroleum engineering field will centre on finding new and more efficient ways to get the already discovered hydrocarbons out of the ground. Petroleum engineers are skilled at locating and developing both crude oil and natural gas, although some professionals in the field may focus more exclusively on one over the other.
What is the History of Petroleum Engineering?
Petroleum engineering first emerged in the early 1900s. The American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers, based in the United States, is believed to have been the first professional association of petroleum engineers in the world. It was founded in 1914; by 1915, the University of Pittsburgh began to offer the first degree in petroleum engineering. The 1930s and 1940s saw a tremendous expansion in the world of petroleum engineering as the British and U.S. militaries both required millions of gallons of oil a day for combat operations. Today, the U.S. Department of Defence remains one of the world’s largest oil consumers at more than one hundred million barrels a year — other militaries throughout the world are also major consumers.
What Kind of Education do Petroleum Engineers Have?
Many of today’s petroleum engineers hold graduate degrees from prestigious institutions throughout the world. Although Texas and Pittsburgh remain top locales for receiving an education in petroleum engineering, there are also extraordinarily effective programs in Europe and the Middle East. Many of these programs are affiliated with international and national energy companies, allowing students to obtain internships more easily. Some programs encourage job shadowing experience at oil rigs and other facilities. Petroleum engineers are universally expected to have an excellent understanding of science, including mathematics, physics and geology. as well as engineering fundamentals such as fluid dynamics and thermodynamics.
Where and How Do Petroleum Engineers Work?
There are many different types of petroleum engineer — not all of them work in the offshore oil rigs with which many people are familiar. Speaking generally, there are three main specializations within the profession. These are reflected within the duties and the job title that an individual engineer may hold. They are described in greater detail below:
Reservoir Engineers: Reservoir engineers focus on optimizing overall production by finding the best places to situate oil and natural gas wells within a subsurface reservoir. Once the wells are placed, these specialists are also responsible for finding innovative ways to enhance production rates over time by implementing new oil and gas recovery technologies.
Drilling Engineers: Drilling engineers are principally responsible for the design and construction of drilling, production and injection wells. They are increasingly responsible for finding new ways to facilitate the production of crude oil in conditions historically felt to be unsuitable — such as the harsh climate of the Arctic.
Production Engineers: Production engineers are responsible for ensuring that the oil reservoir and the oil well interact in an effective fashion. They are in charge various technologies to maximise the production from a well such as “artificial lift”, which allows crude oil from to be produced at a faster rate or over a more extended duration than would be achieved from natural flow.
Petroleum Engineering is one of the AWT core business disciplines. With daily advances being made in the global energy sector it is now more important than ever to have a firm grasp of the different roles of petroleum engineers and the industry.