Petroleum engineers are vital to the global economy. Involved in all stages of hydrocarbon extraction, development and production, they ensure that the end-to-end process is safe, efficient and cost-effective.
Petroleum engineering is a branch of engineering related to the exploration and production of hydrocarbons such as crude oil or natural gas. This field predominantly operates within the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry.
Petroleum engineering is certainly an exciting field to work in right now, with many diverging career paths open to workers. As a petroleum engineer, you can travel the world and work in far-flung overseas drilling sites to develop previously untapped oil and gas reserves. You’ll also be able to learn useful multidisciplinary skills from a range of geoscientists, engineers and platform labourers.
Despite the rise of green energy across the Western world in recent years, the petroleum engineering field remains a desirable place to forge a career. Few industries can offer such competitive salaries, opportunities for travel, flexible working arrangement, longevity and choice.
Petroleum engineering jobs
Given the vast amounts of money and resources invested in the global oil and gas industry, petroleum engineers are in high demand across the globe.
From exploration, drilling and reservoir to production, storage and transportation, a broad range of employment opportunities are open to petroleum engineers in the nebulous oil and gas sector.
Given that the sector involves the input of thousands of highly specialised workers across a number of phases in widespread locations, recruitment methods and job titles vary from company to company, too.
Types of petroleum engineer
There are many different types of petroleum engineers, each of which are involved throughout the stages of the hydrocarbon extraction process.
- Petroleum geologists work to discover new oil and gas deposits. By applying geological and geophysical methods, they analyse the subsurface of potential drilling sites.
- Reservoir engineers determine how to best exploit each new discovery, ensuring precise well placement, production rates and enhanced oil recovery techniques. They use advanced computer modelling and imaging programs to identify risks and make forecasts on the potential of an oil reservoir.
- Completions engineers oversee work to complete the building of wells so that oil or gas will flow up from underground. This can involve the use of tubing, hydraulic fracturing, or pressure-control techniques.
- Drilling engineers manage the technical aspects of drilling both production and injection wells. They work closely with other engineers, scientists, drilling teams and contractors.
- Production engineers develop processes and equipment to optimise oil and gas production. They manage the interface between the reservoir and the well, performing tasks such as perforations, sand control, artificial lift, downhole flow control and downhole monitoring equipment.
At the entry level, some employers do not distinguish between the different types of petroleum engineering roles. Instead, they are likely to hire based on a candidate’s potential and then deploy them in positions that combine previous experience with the company’s strategic goals.
Petroleum engineers are among the highest paid engineers, with the median annual petroleum engineer salary in the UK standing at £51,513. Of courses, this depends on the years of experience you have. Starting salaries for petroleum engineers are in the region of £25,000 to £35,000.
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Petroleum engineer responsibilities
Though responsibilities vary depending on the employer, location or seniority level, a typical petroleum engineer can expect to:
- design equipment to extract oil and gas in a profitable manner
- develop plans to extract as much oil and gas as possible from drilling sites
- liaise with geoscientists and other specialists to interpret well-logging results and predict production potential
- compile detailed development plans of reservoir performance using statistical models
- manage contractor relationships in relation to health, safety and environmental performance
- liaise with separate departments to ensure projects are on track
- ensure oilfield equipment is installed, operated and properly maintained
- liaise with clients and key stakeholders to keep them informed of progress
Engineers may also be involved in research and development (R&D) in the petroleum sector.
What qualifications and skills do petroleum engineers need?
As competition for petroleum engineer positions is high, many people looking to break into the sector gain work experience to supplement their relevant degree-level qualifications (e.g. petroleum engineering, aeronautical engineering, earth sciences, or mathematics). Having a PhD in a relevant subject can also increase a candidate’s chances.
Qualifications are only one prerequisite. To find employment as a petroleum engineer, you’ll need to show evidence of:
- technical expertise
- problem-solving skills
- strong communication
- teamwork skills
- analytical and creative skills
- a willingness to work internationally and in offshore environments
- IT skills
Of course, the skills and experience needed will largely depend on the requirements of the employer, as well as which subsector they operate in.
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