What is a Petroleum Engineer?

A Petroleum Engineer is a specialized type of Engineer. Also known as: Oil & Gas Engineer, Petroleum Production Engineer, Completion Engineer, Subsurface Engineer, Drilling Engineer, Reservoir Engineer.

A petroleum engineer is someone who locates reservoirs of natural gas and crude oil beneath the earth's surface, and then determines if the effort of extracting the product will be worth the time and money for the company he/she works for. After the decision has been made to drill, it is the job of the petroleum engineer to find the best and most cost efficient way to extract the product. Basically, petroleum engineers are concerned with four main areas: finding oil, evaluating whether it has potential, recovering the oil, and transporting/storing it.

What does a Petroleum Engineer do?

A petroleum engineer helps to keep our world running by providing manufacturers the oil and gas needed to produce more than three hundred products we use everyday - from cosmetics, medicines, plastics and textiles. Examples of products that are derived from petroleum are: kerosene, propane, heating oil, diesel fuel, jet fuel, gasoline, plastic, clothing fibres, car tires, and food wrap, just to name a few.

A petroleum engineer will study the engineering and geological data to determine the most likely areas that oil can be sourced. They often have to travel to foreign countries and reside there for a time, as a petroleum engineer is involved in nearly all phases of production, from finding the oil or natural gas, right through to refining and distributing it.

There are two primary ways of getting oil and gas to the surface - by 'drilling' (creating a tunnel down to the reservoir and creating a system of pipes to bring it up to the surface), and by 'producing' (coaxing reservoirs that are already under pressure to emerge above ground).

A petroleum engineer's role will vary depending on the company worked for, and whether the engineer will be working on land or offshore. There are several specialties:

Reservoir Engineers -
will conduct studies in order to determine development plans for gas and oil reservoirs, which may include well placement, field development, oil recovery techniques, and proper production and injection rates. They often work in conjunction with the production engineer.

Drilling and Completion Engineers -
will plan, design and implement drilling and completion programs for all types of wells, keeping economics and safety in mind at all times.

Production Engineers -
will evaluate artificial lift methods and develop surface equipment systems to separate water, oil, and gas. They will also analyze and optimize the performance of individual wells.

Subsurface Engineers -
will select equipment that will be the most suitable for the subsurface environment. Once the hardware is selected, the engineer will monitor and adjust the equipment, ensuring the reservoir and well are producing under ideal circumstances.

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What is the workplace of a Petroleum Engineer like?

Many petroleum engineers travel the world and/or live in foreign countries. Their travels can lead them to the deserts, mountains, high seas, and extremely cold regions of the world in order to find untapped sources of energy for the world's population.



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Further Reading

  • What Petroleum Engineers Can Expect www.petroleumengineer.at

    Petroleum engineers are involved in all phases of oil exploration, from choosing prospective sites through taking down the drilling rig after extracting the oil.

  • Society of Petroleum Engineers www.spe.org

    SPE is the largest individual member organization serving managers, engineers, scientists and other professionals worldwide in the upstream segment of the oil and gas industry.

  • What Does a Petroleum Engineer Do? www.wisegeek.org

    A petroleum engineer is employed by an oil company to design, test, and implement methods to extract petroleum products from the earth and sea floor.

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