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Industry Overview

What is the upstream oil & gas industry?

How are oil & gas resources discovered?
Seismic surveys
Canada’s comprehensive database
Surface and mineral rights
What jobs are involved in drilling a well?
How are wells drilled?
Making a hole
Drilling stages
Cores & cuttings
Logging & testing
Completion & servicing
Coiled tubing
Pipeling & processing
GIS Saskatchewan

What is the upstream oil & gas industry?

When you fill up your car with gasoline or pay your natural gas heating bill, you are the final link in a
long chain of businesses that make it possible for us to enjoy these clean, convenient and economical
forms of energy. The entire chain is known as the petroleum industry. However, the industry is usually
divided into three major components: upstream, midstream and downstream.

The upstream industry finds and produces crude oil and natural gas. The upstream is sometimes known
as the exploration and production (E&P) sector. Because Alberta accounts for more than 80 per cent of
Canada’s oil and gas production, many upstream businesses are based in Alberta and most have their
head offices in Calgary.

The midstream industry processes, stores, markets and transports commodities such as crude oil,
natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs, mainly ethane, propane and butane) and sulphur. The midstream
provides the vital link between the far-flung petroleum producing areas and the population centres where
most consumers are located. In Canada, transmission pipeline companies are a major part of the
midstream petroleum industry. Most of these companies are also based in Calgary, although their
activities extend across the country, into the United States and sometimes abroad.

The downstream industry includes oil refineries, petrochemical plants, petroleum products distributors,
retail outlets and natural gas distribution companies. Although many downstream companies are
headquartered in Calgary, the largest centres of activity are near Sarnia, Ontario, and Edmonton,
Alberta. The downstream industry touches every province and territory-wherever consumers are located-
and provides thousands of products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, asphalt, lubricants,
synthetic rubber, plastics, fertilizers, antifreeze, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, natural gas and propane.

The upstream petroleum industry in Canada includes more than 1,000 exploration and production
companies as well as hundreds of associated service businesses such as seismic and drilling contractors,
service rig operators, engineering firms and various scientific, technical, service and supply companies.

Upstream industry revenues totaled $63 billion in 2000, of which 53 per cent came from the sale of
crude oil. The remainder was from sales of natural gas, natural gas liquids and sulphur. About half of
Canada’s oil and gas production is exported to the United States. Canada is self-sufficient in natural gas-
supplying virtually all domestic markets with domestically produced natural gas-but imports of crude oil
into Eastern Canada account for about 40 per cent of the nation’s oil supply.

The Canadian upstream petroleum industry has attained an international reputation for excellence in
many areas including:

 high-tech exploration and production methods

 cold-climate operations
 development of oil sands, heavy oil and sour gas
 gas processing, sulphur extraction and heavy oil upgrading
 construction and operation of pipelines
 specialized controls and computer applications
 services, equipment and training for environmental protection and safety
 more

How are oil & gas resources discovered?

The search for oil and gas begins with aerial surveys and surface observation by geologists and
geophysicists to see if an area has the kind of the rock formations that might contain petroleum.
Companies then conduct seismic surveys or purchase seismic data from other companies to get a better
picture of the underground rock formations.

Seismic surveys
In a seismic survey, the geophysical contractor’s crew lays out a line (or several lines) of sensitive
receivers, called geophones or “jugs,” on the ground. Then explosions or mechanical vibrations are
created on the surface. The geophones record the energy reflected back as seismic waves from rock
layers at various depths. Geophysicists use powerful computers to process the data from digitally
recorded seismic surveys. Computer-assisted processing of the data creates a picture of the sedimentary
structures below and ideally shows the location and extent of porous layers within these structures.

Geophysicists and geologists examine the seismic data for the presence of suitable traps and for
similarities with other petroleum-producing areas. If the results seem promising, they use the seismic
data to locate and drill a well.

Canada’s comprehensive database

Because of long-standing and close cooperation among industry, government and academic scientists,
Canada is regarded as having the most comprehensive information about its petroleum resources of any
country in the world. Early requirements to record accurately all kinds of information from the 650,000
wells drilled to date in Canada have given us an extremely valuable and reliable database that can be
used quickly and cheaply.

With the introduction of computerized commercial databases, new drilling prospects can be generated,
producing fields can be optimized and field operations scrutinized

Surface & mineral rights

Access to land, and the minerals beneath it, is required in order to drill a well. Oil company land
departments negotiate access with owners and federal or provincial governments. Specialized staff,
known as landmen (who may be male or female), are responsible for all these negotiations. No
exploration or production activity can occur without the necessary permissions.

What jobs are involved in drilling a well?

About 75 workers are directly employed by the drilling of one well, although only four to seven may be
on duty at the rig at any given time. The actual number can vary considerably, depending on the type of
well being drilled.

The personnel employed at various times during drilling might include:

 2 surveyors
 3 five-person rig crews and a supervisor
 1 wellsite consultant
 3 lease-construction workers
 8 truckers
 1 water hauler
 3 fuel dealers
 3 bit suppliers
 2 casing employees
 1 mud supplier
 1 welder
 2 coring workers
 4 well-logging employees
 2 testing employees
 4 camp caterers
 5 service-rig crew members
 6 reclamation services workers
 2 pumping equipment suppliers
 3 stimulators and perforators
 2 road and site preparation workers
 2 operator personnel
 2 equipment manufacturing workers
 Other personnel involved in safety, sales, accounting, clerical, computers and management

The rigs operate around the clock, seven days a week, and the crews typically work 12-hour shifts for
two weeks and then have a week off. The workers sometimes live in a temporary camp on site.

How are wells drilled?

The only way to determine whether a rock formation actually contains oil or gas is to drill a well. There
are about 690 active drilling rigs in Canada. Most rigs are owned by contractors who sell their services
to exploration and production companies.

There are many different types of drilling rigs. The smallest are mounted on trucks, while the largest are
installed on ships or offshore platforms. Some are specially equipped for sour gas exploration, Arctic
operations, slanted holes or horizontal drilling.

As a general rule, the bigger the rig, the deeper it can drill. Land-based rigs can be quickly assembled
and taken apart in sections for moving between locations, although this may require up to 50 semi-
trailers for the largest.

Making hole
Drillers call drilling making hole. The basic process is simple. A revolving steel bit at the bottom of a
string of pipe grinds a hole through the rock layers. The bit may be studded with tungsten carbide or
industrial diamonds to reduce bit wear and penetrate harder rock formations.

A fluid called drilling mud lubricates the bit, removes cuttings, conditions the well bore and stabilizes
the pressure in the hole. The mud, a suspension of chemicals and minerals such as bentonite clay in
water or sometimes oil, is pumped down the drill pipe. It circulates back to the surface through the space
outside the pipe, known as the annulus. The mud recirculates after cuttings are removed by a vibrating
screen called the shale shaker.

Occasionally, wells are drilled without mud to increase penetration rates and to avoid contacting
sensitive rock formations with water. In so-called air drilling, compressed air removes the cuttings.

Alternatively, drillers can obtain many of the same benefits through underbalanced drilling-using mud
lightened by the addition of nitrogen or other gas. Underbalanced drilling has become increasingly
common in western Canada because it minimizes damage to the producing reservoir. This is especially
useful in clay formations. Clays can collapse into the well bore or swell up when contacted with fresh-
water-based drilling fluids. Underbalanced drilling prevents the invasion of the drilling fluid into the
reservoir and allows oil to be produced more effectively.

As the bit penetrates deeper, the crew threads additional pipe onto the top of the string. Sections of pipe
are typically 9.5 metres long, but may be longer. Pipe diameters and wall thickness vary, depending on
well depth.

On most land-based rigs, a rotary table on the rig floor rotates the drill string to rotate the drill bit.
However, most offshore units and an increasing number of land rigs use top drives-hydraulic or electric
motors suspended above the drill string. In some situations, the bit can be turned by a mud motor, a
downhole hydraulic drive which is inserted above the bit at the bottom of the string. It receives power
from the mud flow. This is the technique used in horizontal drilling.

Drilling stages
Wells are normally drilled in stages, starting with a surface hole drilled to reach a depth anywhere from
60 to 400 metres, depending on final well depth and area conditions. This is called “spudding in” the
well. The crew then pulls out the drill string and inserts steel pipe, called surface casing, which is
cemented in place to keep the wall from caving in. It controls the return flow of mud and other fluids
encountered during drilling and also prevents contamination of groundwater aquifers.

Blowout preventer (BOP) devices are typically installed on the top of the casing, below the rig floor.
BOPs are large valves that help contain the fluid and gas pressure in the well. One type of BOP can seal
off the space between the drill pipe and the casing (the annulus) if the drill pipe is still in the hole.
Another can shear off the drill pipe and thus seal off the entire well, while a third can seal off the well if
no drill pipe is in the hole. If the well is likely to encounter high pressures, several of these BOPs may
be mounted in a BOP stack.

Contrary to the image portrayed in old movies, drillers do their best to avoid uncontrolled releases,
known as “gushers” or blowouts. Blowouts waste valuable resources and often damage the environment.
Some blowouts could release foul-smelling sour gas containing toxic hydrogen sulphide, which would
be a major hazard for workers, nearby populations and environments. Blowouts can be enormously
expensive to bring under control. Crews are trained to use BOPs and drilling fluid to reduce the
frequency and severity of blowouts.

Some wells are designated as critical sour gas wells because they have the potential for releases of
hydrogen sulphide that might affect nearby residents. Companies and governments require emergency
response planning, public consultation, safety equipment and worker training for critical sour gas
operations. When the drill bit enters the critical zone in a well where sour gas will likely be encountered,
additional precautions may include providing breathing apparatuses for rig personnel and notifying
people living nearby.

After setting surface casing and installed the BOPs, the crew resumes drilling. A probe for shallow gas
or heavy oil in eastern Alberta or Saskatchewan may require only two or three days to drill 450 metres
through soft shale and sandstone to the target depth. However, a rig may work eight months or more to
penetrate 4,500 metres or more through hard, complex rocks in the foothills of the Rockies.

The drill bit column may be several kilometres deep by the time high-pressure gas deposits are reached.
The weight of the drilling fluid can be increased by adding heavy minerals such as bentonite clay to the
mixture. Drillers try to keep the mud heavy enough to hold back gas from entering the hole, but not so
heavy that the mud will penetrate into the reservoir enough to damage it.

If the reservoir pressure is higher than the pressure exerted by the mud column, some gas may enter the
well bore. This is known as a kick and must be controlled to prevent a blowout. Kicks are detected by
sensitive instruments which monitor the mud flow and composition and the mud tank levels. Drillers
control most kicks simply by managing the mud flow and increasing the weight of the mud.

Cores & cuttings

When a well is drilled, small rock chips called cuttings are recovered from the drilling fluid. These are
pieces of rock ground up and broken off by the drill bit as it cuts into the earth. Geologists, geochemists
and paleonologists (scientists who study pollens and small fossils) examine the cuttings to learn more
about the age, chemistry, porosity, permeability and other properties of the subsurface rock formations.

Larger, more continuous cylindrical rock samples, called cores, can also be cut using a special coring
bit. Although coring adds to the cost of the well, laboratory analysis and visual examination of the core
provide additional important details about the basin’s history, the composition and physical
characteristics of the rock and any fluids contained within it.

Logging & testing

Throughout drilling, various logs are plotted to record the well’s progress, like a ship’s log. The record
includes data about the type and thickness of rock layers, based on the wellsite geologist’s examination
of cuttings brought to the surface during drilling. The speed of penetration is another indicator.

The first sign of possible success is usually an increase in the rate of penetration followed by the
appearance of oil or gas traces in cuttings. If more information is needed about the rocks, a special
cylindrical bit may be used to cut a core sample for analysis by geologists, reservoir engineers,
geochemists and paleonologists.

Further information is obtained by lowering a package of instruments, called wireline logging tools, into
the well bore. The instruments record and transmit information about the rock layers’ thickness, porosity
and permeability and the composition of the fluids (oil, gas or water) contained in them.

A logging instrument can also be mounted on the string above the bit to send information continuously
during drilling. It sends signals to the surface by means of pulses, like sonar signals, in the mud. Another
instrument, called a measurement while drilling (MWD) tool, can similarly measure the direction and
precise location of the bit while drilling horizontal wells.
Another common way to determine potential oil or gas production is the drillstem test, using a special
tool in place of the bit on the end of the string. The tool has valves and rubber sleeves, called packers,
that can be controlled from the surface. First, the packers are expanded to isolate the section of the hole
to be tested. Next, valves on the tool are opened, allowing liquids or gas from the formation to flow into
the empty drill pipe. This gives a good indication of the type and volume of the fluids in the formation,
their pressure and rate of flow.

If tests indicate the well is a dry hole, not capable of producing commercial quantities of oil and gas, the
drilling crew plugs the well bore with cement and cleans up the site. A similar procedure is followed if a
producing well is no longer economical to operate.

Completion & servicing

After exploration has located a reservoir of oil or gas, the operating company’s production department
takes over the task of supervising the services required to bring the resource to the surface. Oil is not
produced from underground lakes. Rather, the oil is contained in the pores of certain sedimentary rocks
in the same way that water is held in a sponge.

Completion is the procedure by which a successful well is readied for production. The first step for most
wells in Canada is the installation of production casing. Open hole completion, rarely used in Canada,
does not use production casing.

The casing-tubular steel pipe connected by threads and couplings-lines the total length of the well bore
to ensure safe control of production, prevent water entering the well bore and keep rock formations from
“sloughing” into the well bore. Production casing is cemented in place by pumping a cement mixture
into the casing and forcing the cement back up the annular space, between the casing and well bore. The
task must be done quickly but carefully, because a poor cement job can adversely affect the producing

Once the cement has set, the drilling rig is usually moved and a smaller, truck-mounted service rig is
brought in to complete the well. There are about 870service rigs in Canada. They also return to wells
periodically to perform maintenance, replace equipment or enhance production.

The second step is the installation of the production tubing. Production tubing is steel pipe smaller in
diameter than the production casing. It is lowered into the casing and held in place by packers which
also isolate the producing layers of rock. The tubing hangs from a surface installation called the
wellhead. The wellhead includes valves, chokes and pressure gauges, and makes it possible to regulate
production from the well.

The third step is to perforate the well. The casing prevents the hole from collapsing, but it prevents the
oil or gas from entering the well bore. Therefore, holes are made through the casing and into the
formation. This is usually accomplished with an explosive device that is lowered into the well on an
electrical wireline to the required depth. This device, a collection of explosive charges in a special
carrier, is called a perforating gun. An electrical impulse fires the charges to perforate the casing,
surrounding cement and reservoir rock.

While some oil wells contain enough pressure to push oil to the surface, most oil wells drilled today
require pumping. This is also known as artificial lift.

If a well requires it, a pump is lowered down the tubing to the bottom of the well on a string of steel
rods, referred to as the rod string. The rod string is hung from the wellhead and connected to a drive unit
and motor on the surface. The rod string conveys power to the pump either by rotating or moving up and
down, depending on the type of pump employed. Submersible pumps are used on some wells.

In many oil and gas wells, one additional step is required-stimulating the formation by physical or
chemical means so that hydrocarbons can move more easily to the well bore through the pores or
fractures in the reservoir. This is usually done before installing a pump or when the pump is removed for

Acidizing, one form of stimulation, is the injection of acids under pressure into the rock formation
through the production tubing and perforations. Hydrochloric acid, for example, is particularly effective
in dissolving portions of limestone and dolomite. This creates channels beyond the perforations for oil to
flow back to the well.

Fracturing or “fracing” is another common method of stimulation. A fluid such as water or an oil
product is pumped down the hole under sufficient pressure to create cracks in the formation. A hard
material-like sand, glass beads, aluminum pellets, even walnut shells-is injected with the fluid. As the
fluid disperses, this material remains to prop open the cracks.

Coiled tubing
Coiled tubing has been an important innovation in well completion and servicing. Coiled tubing is a
jointless, high-pressure-rated hollow steel cylinder. Production tubing is traditionally made up of joined
sections of pipe, similar to the string of pipe used for drilling; but coiled tubing is now also used in this
application. It is brought to the wellsite on reels holding up to 19,000 metres. Special equipment is used
to insert the tubing through the wellhead into the well bore. This method is considerably quicker and
more efficient than joining sections of pipe.

Coiled tubing has also proved useful in other applications such as well stimulation and under-balanced
drilling. Coiled tubing can even be used with downhole motors (driven by mud circulation) for certain
kinds of drilling such as horizontal re-entries. On the Hibernia platform off Newfoundland, coiled tubing
is used for a variety of completion and servicing tasks.

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Pipelining & Processing

All natural gas production in Canada is connected to processing facilities and eventually to markets by
buried pipelines. Some crude oil production is trucked to the nearest processing facility (called a battery)
or pipeline terminal. Pipelines serving wells and facilities in the upstream petroleum industry are
referred to as flowlines or gathering systems.

Oil and gas companies operate more than 200,000 kilometres of flowlines and gathering systems in the
producing areas of western Canada. These are relatively small pipelines-2 to 24 inches, or 50 to 600
millimetres, in diameter. About 60 per cent of the gathering lines in Alberta carry natural gas and natural
gas liquids. Processing facilities separate the raw petroleum into marketable commodities and by-
products. If the oil or gas contains sulphur compounds, it is termed “sour” and requires special
equipment and procedures. Sulphur compounds are highly corrosive, so regular maintenance and
inspection of pipelines are particularly important. There are about 6,000 kilometres of pipelines in
Alberta carrying sour gas from about 2,000 producing sour gas wells.

At gas processing plants, sulphur compounds and liquids are removed from natural gas through
chemical and physical processes involving heat, cooling and catalysts. Plants handling large volumes of
sour gas include sulphur recovery facilities to produce elemental sulphur for sale to the fertilizer
manufacturers and other industries.

Of the nearly 300 gas processing plants in Alberta, more than 60 are large facilities that produce
elemental sulphur as a byproduct. The British Columbia sour gas industry includes three large sulphur
recovery plants, four smaller field plants and more than 4,600 kilometres of sour gas pipelines.

Found and produced along with crude oil are varying quantities of natural gas, known as associated gas
or solution gas. This gas may be directed to processing plants or flared if quantities are too small to
justify recovery. In the 1990s, there was a sharp reduction in the proportion of solution gas that is flared.
This has been done to conserve economically valuable product and to reduce air emissions.

Upstream (petroleum industry)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Upstream (disambiguation).

The oil and gas industry is usually divided into three major sectors: upstream (or exploration and
production- E&P), midstream and downstream.[1][2] The upstream sector includes searching for potential
underground or underwater crude oil and natural gas fields, drilling exploratory wells, and subsequently
drilling and operating the wells that recover and bring the crude oil or raw natural gas to the surface.[3]
There has been a significant shift toward including unconventional gas as a part of the upstream sector,
and corresponding developments in liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing and transport.

Upstream Industry has traditionally experienced the highest number of Mergers, Acquisitions and
Divestitures. M&A activity for upstream oil and gas deals in 2012 totaled $254 billion in 679 deals.[4] A
large chunk of this M&A, 33% in 2012, was driven by the unconventional/shale boom especially in the
US followed by the Russian Federation and Canada.
The aggregate value of Upstream E&P assets available for sale (Deals in Play) reached a record-high of
$135 billion in Q3-2013.[5] The value of Deals in Play doubled from $46 billion in 2009 to $90 billion in
2010. With ongoing M&A activity the level remained almost the same reaching $85 billion in Dec-
2012. However, the first half of 2013 saw approximately $48 billion of net new assets coming on the
market. Remarkably, the total value of Deals in Play in Q3-2013 nearly tripled over 2009 at $46 billion,
in less than four years.


 1 Business
 2 Upstream in ISO
 3 See also
 4 References
 5 External links

This categorization comes from value chain concepts, even before formal development Value Chain

 Integrated Oil & Gas Company:[6]

A company that has upstream as well as downstream operations. Examples include ExxonMobil, BP,
Royal Dutch Shell and ChevronTexaco.

 Independent Oil & Gas Company:[6]

A company that has either upstream or downstream operations, but not both. Examples include
Anadarko, Sunoco, Phillips 66, ConocoPhillips, and Murphy.

 Oil Service Company:[6]

A company that provides products and/or services to the oil and gas industry. Usually a combination of
labor, equipment, and/or other support services. Examples include Baker Hughes, Haliburton, and

 Oil Equipment Manufacturer:[6]

A company that specializes in the sale and distribution of equipment to the oil and gas industry.

 Security

Many major security companies take part in securing the industry.[7]

 Other:

Any other oil and gas related business not defined above. [6]
Types of Engineers
A variety of engineering specialties make great career options in the energy
industry. Read below to see job descriptions for some of the many options!
Do you like working with computers?
Digital engineering jobs combine information technology (IT) with oil and gas
disciplines, such as petroleum engineering, geology or geoscience. IT
knowledge for a digital engineer can include programming, networking,
system architecture and hardware. Digital engineers understand the
capabilities, potential and limitations of IT. They use this knowledge to
develop high-tech systems that find and retrieve oil and gas. They also must
understand oil and gas disciplines, such as petroleum engineering, to know
where new technology is needed and the best way to develop and apply the
technology. Some other names for this job are user support engineer,
software engineer, and engineering architect.
Do you like technology and economics?
The job of the drilling engineer is to design and implement a procedure to
drill the well as economically as possible. The well will confirm the presence
of oil or natural gas in the location selected by geologists and geophysicists.
Drilling engineers work closely with the drilling contractor (the operator of
the rig and its crews), service contractors and compliance personnel, as well
as the other members of his internal team. A drilling engineer must manage
the complex drilling operation, including both the people and technology.
Drilling a well can often cost several million dollars, and the drilling engineer
is responsible for making certain that costs are minimized while getting all
the necessary information to evaluate the reservoir, protecting the health
and safety of workers and any nearby residents, and protecting the
Do you like chemistry?
Individuals with chemical engineering expertise can play many different roles
in the energy industry. For example, they may work with facility or safety
engineers in designing and operating natural gas processing plants or other
field facilities. They may work with drilling or production engineers to
determine the optimum fluids for use in drilling or stimulation given the
subsurface properties. They help production engineers determine how to
keep wellbores free from contaminants and control subsurface microbes that
could create unpleasant byproducts. Many chemical engineers are engaged
in research—to develop a better drilling fluid, to improve carrying agents so
treatment chemicals can travel further into the reservoir, to devise new ways
to control treatment of wastes and emissions to improve environmental
performance, to more efficiently remove impurities from natural gas, or to
address other technical challenges.
Do you like electronics?
Electrical and electronics engineers work with some of the most high-tech
equipment in the world. They design electronic devices and systems for
everything from airplanes to laptops. Electrical engineering involves building
and testing electronics systems, wiring, lighting, and more; the production
and delivery of electricity; and modern concepts like robotics,
nanotechnology (controlling matter at the atomic and molecular level), and
microelectrics (very small electrical components).
Are you interested in protecting the environment?
Environmental and regulatory specialists may have engineering or geology
backgrounds, or they may come from one of the many environmental or
science disciplines, including biology, hydrology, and marine science, or they
may be lawyers. These personnel are typically part of a project team
responsible for assuring that all environmental requirements are met. In
some companies, they may be charged with developing innovative ways of
managing wastes or emissions that will enhance project economics as well as
environmental protections. Regulatory specialists often work closely with
government oversight agencies to assure that projects are conducted to the
satisfaction of the regulator. As oil and gas resources are developed in areas
far from existing infrastructure, environmental specialists may have
significant challenges to overcome to remain in compliance with
requirements developed for areas where laboratories (for testing) and
disposal sites are readily available. They may also have responsibility for
working with indigenous communities and nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs). In developed areas, they may have responsibility for community
outreach programs.
Do you like to design?
Facilities engineers design and implement all of the supplemental facilities
necessary to the separation, processing, and transportation of oil and natural
gas. They work with production engineers on all of the surface processing
equipment for a field. They design and build natural gas processing plants to
remove impurities from the gas and prepare it for transportation. They
design and build pipelines to move oil, gas, and produced water around
within a field, to processing or disposal facilities, and to the point of sale.
They also work on large interstate transportation pipelines for oil, petroleum
products, and natural gas.
Facility engineers also design offshore platforms. These enormous structures
are built at shipyards and then must be transported to the field where they
will be deployed. Offshore facilities must be designed to withstand heavy
seas and hurricanes, protect the hundreds of personnel who may work there,
and assure that all drilling and production operations can take place with the
utmost safety. The platform design must consider the number of wells that
will be needed for the field, the type and volume of hydrocarbons to be
processed, transportation of the oil or gas to shore, and possible future reuse
or abandonment. Designing an offshore platform is one of the greatest and
most rewarding challenges that a facilities engineer can encounter.
Are you interested in ecology?
Hydraulic engineering focuses on how to safely use and control moving
water. Engineers in this field may work on designing, building, and managing
dams, hydroelectric power plants, sewage disposal plants or other water-
related facilities and analyzing the impact these structures have on the
environment and the bodies of water they’re built on. Hydraulic engineers
may analyze water flow and hydraulic forces; study waves and design coastal
protection structures; manage systems for drinking water and runoff
floodwater; and many other important tasks. Environmental concerns are an
important aspect of a hydraulic engineer’s career; hydraulic engineers are
concerned with stream ecology, the protection of wetlands, the protection of
groundwater, and more.
Do you like to analyze and investigate?
Industrial engineers analyze and evaluate methods of production and point
out ways to improve them. They decide how a company should allocate its
limited tangible resources (equipment and labor) within the framework of
existing physical constraints (physical plant). Each company that hires an
industrial engineer, either as a consultant or as an internal manager, has its
own specific limitations. An industrial engineer must quickly become an
expert not only in the manufacturing and production processes of the
industry, but also in the specific culture, problems, and challenges that the
company faces. This may mean face-to-face meetings with executives,
extensive stays on manufacturing floors, and review of historical production
data. Industrial engineers receive information from others about what goes
on in the day-to-day work environment, but they must also make their own
observations of these activities. Many employees are uncomfortable being
“watched” by industrial engineers, and industrial engineers often walk a thin
line between being an analyst and being a detective.
An industrial engineer’s most difficult task is communicating his observations
and suggestions to company executives, many of whom are emotionally
invested in their traditional way of doing business. Industrial engineers must
be tactful in what they say and in how they say it. In addition to tact, being a
successful industrial engineer requires charm and the willingness to stand by
one’s recommendations even in the face of unresponsive management. The
large majority of industrial engineers—around 70 percent—work at
manufacturing companies, and many have specific areas of specialization,
such as assembly, raw-product processing, or administrative (paperwork)
practices. Most industrial engineers have good working conditions,
intellectually challenging work, and a high level of satisfaction. Hours can be
long, but this tends to be outweighed by the satisfaction derived from the
education that each different project brings.
Do you like to work on power-producing machines?
Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, manufacture, and test tools,
engines, machines, and other mechanical devices. Mechanical engineering is
one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Engineers in this discipline work
on power-producing machines such as electric generators, internal
combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines. They also work on power-
using machines, machine tools, material handling systems, industrial
production equipment, and robots used in manufacturing. Mechanical
engineers also design tools that other engineers need for their work.
Are you interested in the coal industry?
Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers find,
extract, and prepare coal, metals, and minerals for use by manufacturing
industries and utilities. They design open-pit and underground mines,
supervise the construction of mine shafts and tunnels in underground
operations, and devise methods for transporting minerals to processing
plants. Mining engineers are responsible for the safe, economical, and
environmentally sound operation of mines.
Some mining engineers work with geologists and metallurgical engineers to
locate and appraise new ore deposits. Others develop new mining
equipment or direct mineral-processing operations that separate minerals
from the dirt, rock, and other materials with which they are mixed. Mining
engineers frequently specialize in the mining of one mineral or metal, such as
coal or gold. With increased emphasis on protecting the environment, many
mining engineers work to solve problems related to land reclamation and
water and air pollution. Mining safety engineers use their knowledge of mine
design and practices to ensure the safety of workers and to comply with
state and federal safety regulations. They inspect walls and roof surfaces,
monitor air quality, and examine mining equipment for compliance with
safety practices.
Do you like chemistry?
Nuclear engineers develop the methods, instruments, and systems to
harness the power of nuclear energy and radiation. They search for efficient
ways to capture and put to beneficial use the tiny natural bursts of energy
from a disintegrating atom. They may work in production and transport of
fuel, operation and monitoring of nuclear power stations, or disposal and
containment of nuclear waste. While there are some risks to working with
radioactive material, there are excellent safety procedures to minimize those
risks. As a nuclear engineer in the energy sector, you may…
 Develop designs for nuclear plants for electric power and ships
 Operate and support nuclear energy systems to reduce environmental
 Develop and apply regulations to ensure safety in handling radiation
sources and operating nuclear systems
 Research and design fusion reactor systems
Do you like physics?
The production engineer works to analyze, interpret, and optimize the
performance of individual wells drilled for petroleum. The production
engineer is responsible for determining how to bring hydrocarbons to the
surface. The production engineer will determine the most efficient means to
develop the field considering the viscosity of the crude oil, the gas-to-oil
ratio, the depth and type of formation, and the project economics. The
production engineer is also responsible for developing a system of surface
equipment that will separate the oil, gas, and water. As the field matures, the
production engineer will be responsible for exploring additional technologies
to enhance production from wells that are declining. In doing so, the
production engineer will work closely with reservoir engineers and those in
other disciplines to determine the optimal approach for that particular field.
Do you like math?
Reservoir engineers are responsible for estimating the amount of oil or gas
that can be recovered from a reservoir. They determine the fluid and
pressure distributions throughout the reservoir, the natural energy sources
available, and the methods most useful in recovering the maximum amount
of oil or gas from the reservoir. The reservoir engineer may develop complex
computer-based mathematical programs to model the fluid flow and
formation pressures. Making good estimates of recoverable resources is
crucial to a company’s financial position since future recovery is a measure
often used by bankers and financial analysts of a company’s borrowing
power and future worth.
Are you interested in designs that keep people safe?
Safety engineers are certified professionals who apply math, science, and
engineering principles to the design of systems with inherent safety and fail-
safe features. Safety engineers often work as members of project teams,
advising on proper handling of chemicals and compliance with applicable
regulations, conducting safety drills for personnel, assuring that procedures
are documented, and performing myriad other tasks designed to assure the
safety of industry personnel and any nearby residents. Each day, hundreds of
thousands of oil and gas personnel work around highly flammable materials,
sometimes high above the ground or out in the middle of the ocean, yet the
oil and gas industry has an enviable safety record—one of the best among
industries in the US. The number of engineers with primary responsibility for
safety is expected to continue to grow. Something as simple as the design of
a hand-railing on a stair can be crucially important when you’re on an
offshore platform hundreds of miles from shore.
Are you interested capturing the world’s most abundant energy source?
Solar engineers focus on creating systems that put the sun’s power to work
for the planet’s energy needs. They study the properties of solar radiation
and how to build and test devices to collect solar energy and use it as
electricity, for heating water or in other valuable ways.