Petroleum Engineering Overview

Overview - The Field - Preparation - Day in the Life - Earnings Employment - Career Path Forecast - Professional Organizations

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. Petroleum engineers rely heavily on computer models to simulate reservoir performance using different recovery techniques. They also use computer models for simulations of the effects of various drilling options. Because only a small proportion of oil and gas in a reservoir will flow 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 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.

The Field
The word petroleum generally refers to crude oil or the refined products obtained from the processing of crude oil (gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, etc.) We find petroleum products in every area of our lives. They are easily recognized in the gasoline we use to fuel our cars and the heating oil we use to warm our homes. Less obvious are the uses of petroleum-based components of plastics, medicines, food items, and a host of other products. The United States consumes over 20 million barrels (840 million gallons) of petroleum products each day, almost half of it in the form of gasoline used in over 200 million motor vehicles with combined travel over 7 billion miles per day.

"Petroleum Engineering Overview" Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (

enabling them to transport different grades of gasoline or petroleum products. changing the molecular structure of the input with chemical reactions. The tanks in these trucks. the truck operator unloads each grade of gasoline into the appropriate underground tanks at the station. In some areas. it must be removed and trucked back to a refinery for further processing. The characteristics of the gasoline produced depend on the type of crude oil that is used and the setup of the refinery at which it is produced. The truck tank is where the special additive packages of gasoline retailers get blended into the gasoline to differentiate one brand from another.000 gallons.and different hydrocarbon components boil off and can be recovered as they condense at different temperatures. residual fuel . Whenever the product fails to meet local. and many other products. These remains were covered with layers of sediment. which was formed from the remains of tiny aquatic plants and animals that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. This is why the quality of the gasoline and other products must be tested as they enter and leave the pipeline to make sure they meet appropriate specifications. or federal product specifications. refineries break down these hydrocarbons into different products. the products must be distributed to consumers." Since these batches are not physically separated in the pipeline. The majority of gasoline is shipped first by pipeline to storage terminals near consuming areas. some mixing or "commingling" of products occurs. gasoline is typically held in bulk storage terminals that often service many companies. The performance of the gasoline must meet industry standards and environmental regulations that may depend on location. These "refined products" include gasoline. When the tanker truck reaches a gas station. Crude oil is heated and put into a still -. and then loaded into trucks for delivery to individual gas stations. diesel fuel. After shipment through the pipeline. some in the presence of a catalyst.careercornerstone. which over millions of years of extreme pressure and high temperatures became the mix of liquid hydrocarbons (an organic chemical compound of hydrogen and carbon) that we know as crude oil. ethanol may be "splash blended" in the tanker to meet environmental requirements. some through variations in heat and pressure. a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed in the reaction. usually have several compartments. Distribution After crude oil is refined into gasoline and other petroleum products. Gasoline characteristics are also impacted by other ingredients that may be blended into it. Gasoline and other products are sent through shared pipelines in "batches.Gasoline is made from crude oil. Additional processing follows crude distillation. state. jet fuel. liquefied petroleum gases. "Petroleum Engineering Overview" Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (www.a distillation column -. heating oil. such as ethanol. which can typically hold up to 10. Refining Basics The most basic refining process is aimed at separating the crude oil into its various components. At these terminals the gasoline is loaded into tanker trucks destined for various retail gas stations. Because crude oil is made up of a mixture of hydrocarbons.

Reservoir Fluids. United States. chemistry. Courses of Study Bachelor's degree programs in engineering typically are designed to last 4 years. and Physical Geology during these years. Petroleum Project Evaluation. Above the hole. and computer and information technology. Geostatistics.Oil Sources Crude oil is a smelly. if the site seems promising. This provides students with first hand experience in the industry and the opportunity to contribute to a real-world program or project. but many students find that it takes between 4 and 5 years to complete their studies. When finished. Co-ops Internships and Coops provide students with a great opportunity to gain real-world experience while still in school. In a typical 4-year college curriculum. Russia. and social sciences. the first 2 years are spent studying mathematics. the drilled well will bring a steady flow of oil to the surface. geometry. trigonometry. In the last 2 years. social studies. and calculus) and science (biology. Well Performance. a structure called a 'derrick' is built to house the tools and pipes going into the well. basic sciences. The world's top five crude oil-producing countries are: Saudi Arabia. Measurements are taken. Scientists and engineers explore a chosen area by studying rock samples from the earth. Many universities offer co-op and internship programs for students studying Petroleum Engineering. Iran. a petroleum engineering program might include courses in Drilling and Production Systems. and New . Petroleum Engineering Systems. Alaska. humanities. and China.careercornerstone. "Petroleum Engineering Overview" Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (www. The top crude oil-producing states are: Texas. Admission Requirements Admissions requirements for undergraduate engineering schools include a solid background in mathematics (algebra. and physics). Engineering Ethics. Preparation A bachelor's degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. introductory engineering. Petroleum engineering students may also take courses such as Reservoir Petrophysics. and courses in English. Over one-fourth of the crude oil produced in the United States is produced offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Note: Some resources and graphics in "The Field" section are provided by the Energy Information Administration (www.eia. drilling begins. and Well Completion and Stimulation. and. yellow-to-black liquid and is usually found in underground areas called reservoirs. California. humanities.

They might focus on economics. The Workplace The type of job a petroleum engineer has will often determine whether how much they work inside or outside. may spend most of their time working in an office setting. testing. helping a team determine the optimum number of wells appropriate for a given operation. • • • • • • • • University of Alaska Fairbanks Colorado School of Mines The University of Kansas University of Louisiana at Lafayette Louisiana State University and A&M College Marietta College Missouri University of Science and Technology Montana Tech of the University of Montana • • • • • • • • New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology The University of Oklahoma Pennsylvania State University Texas A & M University University of Texas at Austin Texas Tech University The University of Tulsa West Virginia University Day in the Life A degree in petroleum engineering can lead to many career paths. for example. and implementing methods for improving oil and gas production. (ABET).careercornerstone. . ABET accreditation is based on an evaluation of an engineering program's student achievement. curricular content. A petroleum engineer may focus on safety issues. "Petroleum Engineering Overview" Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (www. identifying and planning upgrades of equipment or systems. facilities. There are strong international travel opportunities for petroleum engineers. the options for work are broad and cross over many industries. A consultant to the financial industry. or maintenance support. or to serve as a consultant to investors. and institutional commitment. identifying. banks. The following is a partial list of universities offering accredited degree programs in petroleum engineering. program improvement. but others work in an office setting. While most work directly for oil and gas production companies.Accredited Programs Those interested in a career in petroleum engineering should consider reviewing engineering programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Many petroleum engineers work on job sites. as it is very much a global business. or other financial services firms. A petroleum engineer may choose to teach. Job Duties Petroleum engineers focus on a wide range of projects and activities. Inc. Some focus on production challenges. Many companies have offices and sites in multiple countries and transfers are common. Programs The following is a current list of universities offering degree programs in Petroleum Engineering.

SPE Salary Survey The Society of Petroleum Engineers conducts a global salary survey of members. and California.458. independent oil exploration. the median income for petroleum engineers is $98. For the most recent survey (2007).380. and petroleum refining. This represents 1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. analytical. production.834 in the 2006 survey. and retirement contributions raised total average compensation for 2007 to $167. the average starting salary for petroleum engineers who have earned a Bachelor's degree is $60. Louisiana. inquisitive. "Petroleum Engineering Overview" Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (www. Oklahoma.Teams and Coworkers Almost all jobs in engineering require some sort of interaction with coworkers. the average income increased with years of work experience. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well. professional.S. Petroleum engineers work mostly in oil and gas extraction. Not surprisingly. Salary Data According the U. as a group. and education. such as bonuses.1% of the 1.712. most engineers have to have the ability to communicate and work with other people. including offshore sites. Engineers should be creative. In terms of starting salaries. the average base salary of respondents worldwide was $ . Large numbers are employed in Texas. They are among the highest paid engineers. scientific and technical services. and detail-oriented. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Alaska. industry. both orally and in writing. or just asking for advice. engineers earn some of the highest average starting salaries among those holding bachelor's degrees. Earnings Earnings for engineers vary significantly by specialty. research institutes. For example. Whether they are working in a team situation. a petroleum engineer might be working on a team with geologists and contractors developing a design for a new drilling operation.careercornerstone. bachelor's degree candidates in petroleum engineering received starting salary offers averaging $62. Many American petroleum engineers also work overseas in oil-producing countries. car allowances.718.5 million jobs held by engineers in the U. and service companies. Employment According to the U. Even so.S. Employers include major oil companies and hundreds of smaller. Additional compensation.236 a year. housing allowances. Department of Labor. petroleum engineers hold about 17. According to a recent salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Communication abilities are important because engineers often interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering. an increase from the USD 116.S. Most petroleum engineers work where oil and gas are found.000 jobs in the United States.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Marathon Oil . Newfield Exploration Co. Apache Corp. Callon Petroleum Co. XTO Energy U. Occidental Petroleum Corp. ENI SpA Energen Corp. Forest Oil Corp. El Paso Corp. Koch Industries Inc.S.S. Citation Oil & Gas Corp. Chevron Corp.S. Canadian 88 Energy Corp. ConocoPhillips Co. Bureau of Land Management U. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. Petro-Canada Pioneer Natural Resources Co. Kerr-McGee Corp. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board U.S.S. Halliburton Houston Exploration Co. EOG Resources Inc. Anadarko Petroleum Corp.S. Chesapeake Energy Corp.The following is a partial list of employers of petroleum engineers: Oil/Gas Producing Companies and Equipment Manufacturers • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Amerada Hess Corp. Murphy Oil Corp. Shell Stone Energy Corp.S. Vintage Petroleum Inc. Devon Energy Corp. DOE Fossil Energy Program U. Equitable Resources ExxonMobil Corp. Unocal Corp. Denbury Resources Inc. Swift Energy Co. Department of the Interior Offshore Minerals Management U.S. National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center International Research Institutes Other Employers • • • • • • Consulting Firms Professional Associations Colleges and Universities Environmental Groups State Agencies such as Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission State Geological Surveys such as the Colorado Geological Survey "Petroleum Engineering Overview" Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (www. Geological Survey Research Institutes • • • • • • • • • • Argonne National Laboratory Brookhaven National Laboratory Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Los Alamos National Laboratory Natural Gas and Oil Technology Partnership Oak Ridge National Laboratory Sandia National Laboratory U. BP plc Burlington Resources Inc. Federal Government • • • • • • • U.careercornerstone. Eagle Plains Resources Ltd. CMS Energy Corp. Department of Energy U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.

org) Society of Petroleum Engineers ( petroleum engineers will increasingly be needed to develop new methods of extracting more resources from existing sources.careercornerstone. and meeting and conference opportunities. petroleum engineers are expected to have 5 percent employment growth over the projections decade of 2006-2016. and Exploration (www. the best employment opportunities may include some work in other countries. American Gas Association (www. in Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (www.aimehq. travel benefits. and Petroleum Engineers (www. Favorable opportunities are expected for petroleum engineers because the number of job openings is likely to exceed the relatively small number of graduates. These groups can play a key role in your development and keep you abreast of what is happening in your Society for Mining.Career Path Forecast According to the U. continuing education courses. Even though most of the potential petroleum-producing areas in the United States already have been explored. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Professional Organizations Professional organizations and associations provide a wide range of resources for planning and navigating a career in Petroleum Engineering. A broader list of professional associations is also available at www. Associations promote the interests of their members and provide a network of contacts that can help you find jobs and move your career "Petroleum Engineering Overview" Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center ( American Institute of Mining. Petroleum engineers work around the world .aga. more slowly than the average for all occupations. Department of Labor.smenet. American Petroleum Institute (www. American Association of Petroleum Geologists (www. They can offer a variety of services including job referral services. periodicals.aapg. insurance.

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