Petroleum Engineering is a steam of engineering which deals with production of hydrocarbons in the form of either crude oil or natural gas. It also involves study of extraction techniques of hydrocarbons and processing it further to a more usable form. The Petroleum Engineers are primarily responsible for finding ways to extract more oil and gas in profitable way by designing and implementing drilling plans, extraction strategies, involving latest tools and technologies for support activities, computer monitoring for extraction, installing devices and other engineering tasks across different geographies of the world.
What are the key responsibilities of a petroleum engineer-
- A Petroleum Engineer is responsible for deciding the drilling plan:
Equipment are critically required for all the following activities without which the extraction of oil and gas cannot be completed:
- Drilling of rocks and hard layers of earth
- Removing muds while drilling
- Pumping equipment for sucking soil and rocks underneath the ground
- Piping Tools for inserting pipes
- Power units to provide electrical power for machineries and hydraulic equipment
- Well logging equipment for constructing the well
- Refining equipment for filtering and purification of rudimentary petroleum oil.
Implementation of all the above devices are extremely important for the successful completion of drilling process, well logging, extracting, filtering and examining the residual resources and to obtain the desired results. A petroleum engineer actively monitors and support in device implementation and is responsible to get the task done by the workers at site.
- Analyzing the geographical structure of rock and mines:
A geographical structure of rocks and mines could be different at different locations and therefore careful study and examination of each segments to support the drilling, piping and well logging process. A petroleum engineer studies the topological, geometric and geographical properties of the location and document the same for designing the drill plans, well logging plan and decides on how to implement devices and equipment. The Petroleum engineer may also use many techniques to complete the analysis and research.
- Identify the origination of oil wells by conducting various tests and analysis:
Identification of oil beds and natural gas involves lots of techniques and skills, so a petroleum engineer is responsible for spotting the exact location for drilling and presence of oil wells. He may sometime have to perform various tests to ultimately recognize the original reservoir of oils and gas. This process is also called as Well Test, which basically involves the study of hydrocarbon properties of the underground reservoir. Examining the hydrocarbon properties helps to identify if sufficient amount of hydrocarbons are trapped in the ground. These tests also confirm the capacity of the well to produce high amount hydrocarbons in the form of:-
Oils: Liquid state of hydrocarbon. These are basically elementary oils which are process further to convert into more usable forms
Natural Gas: There are the gaseous state of hydrocarbons and are processed to produce natural gas.
Condensates: These are the condensed form of hydrocarbon gas and are of low density. There are also called as gasolines as it gets boiled on the temperature at which gasoline gets boiled.
- Use latest technologies and devices for extracting oils and gas in an efficient (both time and cost) manner:
A petroleum use modern techniques to extract hydrocarbons and make sure that the cost of each stage- like drilling, well logging, extraction, filtrating does not overshoot the pre-defined limits. Using latest techniques might requires some training for the technicians, so a petroleum may also have to get involved into conducting training programs for technicians to execute the process effectively. This is one way the petroleum engineer can save time money and help to generate more revenue for the company.
- Sketch designs for drilling, extracting, reserving and any custom equipment's:
Sketching designs at various stages of extraction is an essential part of whole engineering process, it helps to understand the challenges and come out with a solution, this may sometime also be needed for reporting purposes. If multiple stakeholders or customers are involved, a well-designed sketch can clearly reflect the potential problem at early stage and therefore increase the chances of picking up right strategies from the beginning which ultimately saves both time and money.
- Monitor and support the complete extraction process extensively:
A petroleum engineer is also responsible for monitoring and supporting the hydrocarbon extraction process (from exploration to postmining). From testing the capacity of reservoir to execution of drilling process and finally to the extraction and postmining activities, a presence and active support of a petroleum engineer is highly required. All the small level tasks performed by the technicians are controlled and supervised by the engineers who are ultimately responsible for the successful execution of all the activities involved in the extraction process. Close monitoring helps a petroleum engineer to determine any failure upfront and allows him/her to take precautionary measures beforehand and avoid loss of effort, time and money. Petroleum engineers also make sure the safety of human life against the production of harmful chemical, the graphical sensitivity of site, the damage to environment and keeps their eye on other critical safety points.
- Travel to various location and geography for testing, examining and executing extraction projects:
A petroleum engineer may also be required to travel to various places around the world to examine the presence of hydrocarbon and extraction of oil and natural gas. He should be available or accessible at all the time for any emergencies, challenges or consultation. He may also take privilege to attend trainings on latest techniques and equipment across the globe. So, a petroleum engineer might have to travel to different locations for any of the reasons-
- To conduct an analysis on the presence of hydrocarbon beds.
- To execute an end to end (from exploration to postmining) the extraction process.
- To conduct trainings on latest procedures and practices in the industry
- To attend seminars relevant to petroleum engineering and explore different geographies
- To set a deal or purchase new devices, equipment, machinery, services arrived in the global market.
- Maintaining and Reporting various statistics of extracting and drilling activities:
Reporting is very important part in professional life of a petroleum engineer. A petroleum engineer might have to spend a lot of time analyzing data, studying graphs and solving equations for the purpose of reporting the key aspects of overall process to higher officials or the management. A petroleum engineer records the details across all the stages (i.e. exploration, drilling, mining, well logging, extraction, filtering, maintenance, postmining etc.). The records collected each day are transformed into daily or weekly status reports and are published on different trackers for reference or reporting purposes. The reports maintained by a petroleum engineer can be broadly classified as-
- Financial Reports
- Technical Reports
- Stage- wise status reports
- Recourse count reports and
- Test & analysis reports.
- Examine any potential threat or risk to the workers involved in the extraction process:
As the exaction of oil and gas may take place at hardship locations, safety of engineers and workers are the utmost priority of this industry. A petroleum engineer also finds out any potential risk to life of people working under him and may request to cease the activity temporarily or permanently based on the threat condition. Alternatively, he may choose to request for more efficient devices or techniques to continue with the process. Broadly, A petroleum engineer looks at potential risk of all the below categories:
- Project risk
- Environmental Risk
- Risk to any physical property or asset and
- Financial risk
- Co-ordinate with geo-scientists to understand the geographical structure of reservoirs:
Geo – scientist helps a petroleum engineer to understand the geographical structure of site, position of rocks along with chorographical, geomorphological, landscape, and topographical details. Geo-scientist are typically involved in the initial phases of the extraction and they provide a detailed handover to the petroleum engineer about the geographical details. This document may be referred in future in case of any challenges or change in extraction approach.
Geo-scientist also work together with petroleum engineer during the test and analysis process and help them to conduct effective tests and decide on the presence of hydrocarbons.
- Conduct various researches and find ways for efficient extraction process:
A petroleum engineer conducts various research to determine ways for effective and efficient extraction process. These extensive research helps to decide the extraction approach, correct use of instruments and invent new processes and technologies which can make a big change in the petroleum industry. As petroleum and hydrocarbons are the essential parts of modern life, new researches in this area is at-most required.
- Determine competent techniques to avoid wastage of oil and gas during the process:
During the extraction process, there are chances that a huge quantity of hydrocarbons may get wasted because of incorrect practices, wrong mining strategies or geographical location of the reservoir. A petroleum engineer makes every effort to avoid wastage of valuable natural resources by implementing correct extraction and collection mechanism. Moreover, the filtrating and refining stage also required dedicated attention to avoid further wastage of hydrocarbons.
Typically, the unwanted waste of natural resources are associated at every state of hydrocarbon production in the form of solid, liquid and gas. A petroleum engineer monitors the discharge of hydrocarbon in any of these forms and take precautionary measures to avoid such leakage.
- Optimize cost and resources for all activities involved in the extraction process:
A petroleum engineer is also responsible for optimizing the cost involved in different processes as well as the resources. The resources could be workers, skilled technicians, instrument, machineries, vehicles and all that are critical for the extraction process.
Optimizing the cost and resources are even more important when extraction takes place parallelly at multiple spots identifies at a large site.
A petroleum engineer therefore make sure that the efforts involved in drilling, extraction, logging well, filtration, transportation doesn’t get wasted which would otherwise raise the cost and time.
- Identifying techniques to design wells inside the ground to collect the oil:
Well designing required special skills and may be constructed in different ways based on geographical structure of the reservoir. Petroleum engineers are also responsible to figure out best techniques and processes for well construction and completion activities.
As construction of well is considered the most challenging task, this process requires high technical skills in combination with good mathematical and logical skills.
The design documents of previous similar sites may be referred anytime to derive the best approach for constructing well. Implementing correct technique from the beginning of the well logging process may save waste of effort, time and money.
A petroleum engineer may take also consult with geo-scientists to understand the physical parameters of the ground layers and decide the drilling and well construction approach accordingly.
- Ensuring that the drilling and extraction process is environment friendly:
Along with the extraction of hydrocarbons, a petroleum engineer should also make sure that the wastage and pollutants do not damage the environment drastically. He should take all the necessary steps to protect the environment as much as possible.
Production of toxic gas during the extraction process may affect the atmosphere and may cause damage to the environment. Similarly, continuous discharge of injection water in ocean may increase the water pollution and the life of sea animals may be in danger. So, a petroleum engineer should make sure that the processes and techniques used in the overall production process are adopted considering the environmental factors too.
In a longer term the petroleum engineer may have to conduct various test to check environmental parameter and if he finds that the production of pollutants is quite more and potentially cause long term damage to the environment, he may propose to postpone until best practices are in place or completely shut down the site to avoid further damage to the atmosphere.
- Implementing Retro techniques from previous sites in case of any challenges during the extraction process:
Retro-techniques are those processes and methods that have already been used at a different location with similar geography and the same need to be adopted for a new site. Retro-techniques may save lot of time in designing the drilling and extraction plan and therefore adds lot more value to the overall process.
These techniques may be further customized according to the requirement of current location and only those methods which can save time and cost should be retailed. A petroleum engineers is there required to document each learning and methods for future reference, these methods acts as a valuable source of information in future.
- Analyzing how much oil can be recovered from the reservoir and maximizing the extraction of oils and gas:
A petroleum engineer is also required to analyze the capacity of the reservoir. This analysis is required in the exploration and abundance process. Exploration is the begging phase of the production and knowing the capacity of a reservoir helps to decide if this site or location is good for extracting oils and gas. Similarly, abundance is the last phase in the production process, and a petroleum engineer should decide if sufficient amount of hydrocarbons has already been extracted or not. If further extraction is carried out, a very low quality hydrocarbons would be extracted which may increase the processing cost and mix more pollutants in the well. Abundance is also required for restoration of the land when huge amount of hydrocarbon has already been extracted and now the site lacks the hydrocarbons.
A Bachler's degree in Petroleum Engineering focus around all the above process and techniques and offers all the basic knowledge that a student should have to work in the Petroleum Production Industry.
What are the different roles of Petroleum Engineers?
- Completions engineers:
A completion engineers are basically involved in well development process and they are responsible for executive all the following activities –
- Planning the Well Development design
- Deciding the number of wells required in a location
- Determine the size and capacity of the well
- List the Materials required for well development process
- Implement the well development devices and process.
- Closely monitor the complete well development process
- And derive more effective process for extracting more gas and oil.
- Monitor the Cementing and finishing process of well
- Responsible for Servicing and Maintenance of Well.
2. Drilling engineers:
A drilling engineers are those engineers who are involved during the drilling process. They are responsible for drilling related activities and are broadly responsible for all the followings:
- Selection of appropriate equipment
- Carry out the analysis for the drilling activity at the site
- Prepare detailed Drill plans and sketch
- Managing cost involved in materials, equipment, workforce, fuel and so on.
- Co-ordinate with vendors who are responsible for cementing, painting etc.
- Ensue safety of the site during the drilling process
- Designing well patch and directions
- Prepare the engineering diagrams before and during the drilling process.
- Prepare daily or weekly drilling status reports.
3. Production engineers:
Petroleum production engineers are basically responsible for all the engineering task involved during the hydrocarbon production activities. The broadly contribute towards:
- Monitoring the hydrocarbon production activity
- Plan the overall production process
- Prepare the production plans
- Prepare daily and weekly report of petroleum production
- Evaluate the cost effectiveness of the production process
- Implementation of production process and change the same whenever necessary
- Identify risks during the extraction process
- Designing the production related equipment
- Managing the resources and time.
4. Reservoir engineers
Broadly a reservoir engineer is responsible for the maintenances and servicing of the reservoir and they usually involved in all the following tasks: -
- Performing reservoir development plan
- Estimation of cost in the reservoir maintenance and servicing
- Prediction of reserves at different locations
- Develop reservoir optimization plan
- Identify any potential risk to the reservoir
- Identify the reservoir capacity
- Co-ordinating with petroleum engineers involved in other stages and collect the details about condition of reservoir.