The field of engineering is very wide and even though they all tend to have some very strong science based foundation, they also do vary greatly in terms of training requirements, job opportunities and remuneration. One of the most sought after fields in the engineering arena is Petroleum Engineering. Using a variety of chemical tests, rock samples and numerous measurements; this field is very critical when determining where exploration wells are located.
What is Petroleum Engineering?
Petroleum engineering is the exact study of how to initially locate and subsequently extract a variety of energy resources such as natural gas and oil from the earth’s surface. In simple terms, it is an engineering field that’s basically concerned with a wide range of activities which are generally related to the extraction and refining of fossil fuels.
It is worth mentioning at this stage that both exploration and production are usually considered to fall within the upstream sector in the gas and oil industry. Petroleum engineering is more concerned with the exploration bit and is more inclined towards maximizing the economic recovery of a variety of hydrocarbons from the subsurface reservoirs. Another area of focus for this field of engineering is on the actual estimation of the recoverable volumes of any hydrocarbons present. Engineers do this by using their highly detailed understanding of the physical behavior of gas, water and oil within a variety of porous rocks at very high pressure levels.
The field of petroleum engineering does determine, throughout the entire life cycle of hydrocarbons; its overall accumulation and most importantly, how the reservoir is depleted and developed over a period of time. Due to this fact, petroleum engineering tends to have the biggest impact on field economics for those doing the actual exploration.
The principles of petroleum engineering are also applied to the development and subsequent maintenance of processing plants and refineries so as to ensure that the oil or gas extracted is not only properly handled but also handled in a safe and secure manner so as to minimize instances of accidents and other mishaps.
Areas of Specialization in Petroleum Engineering
The field of Petroleum engineering does produce a variety of engineers who specialize in a particular area of expertise. These areas of expertise are broadly categorized as Reservoir Engineering, Drilling Engineering, Production Engineering and Completion Engineering.
Drilling engineering does produce Drilling Engineers who are the specialists relied upon to determine the best way of drilling a gas or oil well. They do take into consideration a variety of factors such as cost, safety and overall efficiency. They also ensure that the entire process of drilling has very little effect on the environment.
Reservoir Engineering is concerned with the estimation of how much gas or oil can be recovered from the noted reservoirs or underground deposits. They study the characteristics of the reservoir and come up with ways of getting the most gas or oil out of the reservoir. They also go ahead to monitor the requisite operations so as to ensure that the optimum levels of the fossil fuels are recovered at any given time.
Production engineering is concerned with monitoring the production of gas and oil from a well and these engineers usually take over once the building of a well has been completed. In case the well is not producing enough fuel, these engineers are tasked with figuring out how to increase the amount to be extracted.
Completion engineering is concerned with deciding on the most optimal way to complete building a well so as to allow for the easy flow of the extracted fuel from underground. This field of engineering does oversee the well completion works which normally does involve the use of techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, tubing and other pressure control methods.
What the field entails
This field of high level expertise does require some solid knowledge of a wide variety of other disciplines such as petroleum geology, geophysics, reservoir simulation, formation evaluation, well engineering, reservoir engineering and artificial lift systems amongst a host of other disciplines. Due to the inherent complexity of this field of engineering, it does require deep seated knowledge of computer science, mathematics, engineering and geology.
Well trained professionals in this field are usually employed in a variety of jobs which can broadly be categorized as those working to enhance the safety conditions of people working in wells and those who do the actual geological scouting for fossil fuels.
Petroleum engineering is a very well paying profession even though it does require some significant training which may take anything from five to ten years. Most petroleum engineers will spend a minimum of five years pursuing science based, mathematics and engineering bachelor degrees. Due to the scarcity of oil resources, there is a growing demand for these engineers to help in the process of finding additional sources of fossil fuels and the improvement of present extraction techniques so as to minimize costs and maximize the amount of fuels extracted from the ever more difficult extraction locations.