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What Does a Petroleum Engineer Do?
A petroleum engineer works for an oil company and is someone who locates reservoirs of natural gas and crude oil to help produce products we use every day, such as medicines, cosmetics, plastics and textiles. Kerosene, propane, heating oil, diesel fuel, plastic and clothing fibers are some products derived from petroleum.
The petroleum engineer finds or evaluates oil to see if it has potential or to determine if it will yield a profit. They also find ways to transport oil, store it and determine how to distribute it.
These engineers spend a lot of time at digging sites and in offices and research laboratories. They oversee the removal and processing of the petroleum oil itself. They also work closely with geologists and other petroleum company team members to safely excavate oil.
Because they have to spend extended periods at drilling sites, they must be adept at traveling, especially overseas, and be comfortable in the deserts, high seas, mountains and frigid regions of the world to find untapped sources of energy.
The petroleum engineer also examines future drilling sites to plan the safest and most economical method of drilling and recovering oil.
Some other petroleum engineer responsibilities and duties include:
Designing equipment to extract oil and gas most profitably.
Installing and maintaining oil and managing the completion of wells.
Developing ways to inject water, chemicals, gasses or steam into an oil reserve to force out more oil.
Making sure that oil equipment is installed and maintained correctly.
Solving any operational problems that may arise.
Ensures that oilfield equipment is installed correctly and used properly.
Monitors operations at various sites on an ongoing basis.
Researches new ways of obtaining resources from existing wells.
How Do You Become a Petroleum Engineer?
Demand for petroleum engineers is increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 10% growth for the position through 2031 and a median salary of $171,470. Follow this guide for how to become a petroleum engineer.
A petroleum engineer candidate needs to earn at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in petroleum engineering, but a BS degree in chemical or mechanical engineering work too. While in college, they can focus on classroom, lab and field-study programs where they learn engineering basics, geology and thermodynamics.
License and certifications:
Pass the engineering exam. Once you complete your undergraduate coursework, you must take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. It is a six-hour online test. This is the first step in becoming a professional licensed engineer. Every state has specific requirements for independently employed or contracted engineers to be licensed. However, you can obtain a globally recognized credential from the Society of Petroleum Engineers, which offers a Petroleum Engineering Certification program.
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Petroleum Engineer Skills
The petroleum engineer monitors yield and develops modifications and stimulation programs to enhance oil during production. As such, they need to have problem-solving and analytical thinking skills.
Being a petroleum engineer also requires knowledge of how to interact with others from a wide variety of backgrounds, from engineers to scientists and gas workers to drillers, to resolve issues in design, testing or research.
Some other key petroleum engineer skills include:
Knowing how to interact with companies and businesses to find the best possible solutions for where oil can be deployed.
A strong interest in the petroleum industry.
A background in mathematics, physics and chemistry.
Strong oral and written communication skills.
Knowing how to organize and plan the work with specific goals in mind to accomplish it.
Insights from a Petroleum Engineer
In order to get an inside look at how to become a Petroleum Engineer, we talked to Islin Munisteri, principal Petroleum Reservoir Engineer at Islin Ventures LLC. Here’s what she had to tell us.
What should someone consider before becoming a Petroleum Engineer?
Are you ready to stomach the risk associated with the job? Are you prepared to be unemployed some years of your career? This is high risk, high reward. Manage your personal risk and uncertainty appropriately when looking at becoming a Petroleum Engineer.
What type of person excels in this job?
You need to be sharp and be able to hold your ground in the face of constructive (and sometimes not so constructive) criticism. You will have lots of responsibility early on in your career. You will be making recommendations for multi-million dollar applications for expenditures, based on your technical work from Day 1. You need to be able to make business decisions, figure out what is the root of the problem and work well with everyone else. This is a multi-disciplinary enterprise.
What are some of the most important skills for a Petroleum Engineer to Have?
The technical skills are key to getting past the first five years. Without good technical skills, you have no base on which to stand on for the rest of your career. These skills include having a knowledge of drilling, completions, production, and reservoir engineering, as well as the underlying economics. Then you need to go deep within your particular discipline. For me, that is reservoir engineering – so I need to know how to perform material balance, decline analysis, pressure transient analysis, and reservoir simulation to determine oil and gas rates and reserves.
The soft skills need to be developed at the same time as the technical skills and it is always a learning process. This includes negotiations, managing your manager, and learning how to form alliances not only across different technical disciplines but also across companies as well. I recommend getting involved with Society of Petroleum Engineers to get to know folks in different capacities across the industry.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Petroleum Engineer?
I take some refuge in the knowledge that without oil and gas, we would not be able to exist as first world countries. Oil and gas also empowers third world countries to accelerate their development. We power the world.
How Much Do Petroleum Engineers Get Paid?
Petroleum Engineers are typically paid on a yearly basis, with the median annual wage in the United States being $130,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-paid Petroleum Engineer makes about $74,900 a year, while the highest-paid can earn more than $187,200..
Top 10 States for Petroleum Engineers Salary
Petroleum Engineers in the following states make the highest median yearly wage in the U.S.
Petroleum Engineer Resources
We compiled this list of additional resources to help you continue exploring a career as a Petroleum Engineer.
Society of Petroleum Engineers
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.
Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers
Dedicated to the promotion of professional growth for Petroleum Engineers
American Institute of Mining Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers
A professional body for mining and metallurgy, with over 145,000 members.
Provides industry professionals worldwide with timely, in-depth and relevant resources required to stay abreast of energy topics
Enabling the world to make smarter oil and gas decisions.
A daily must-read source for news and analysis on the energy business
Energy In Depth
A research, education and public outreach campaign run by the Independent Petroleum Association of America
The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power
Called the best history of oil ever written, this is a Pulitzer Prize–winning account about the global pursuit of oil, money, and power.
Fundamentals of Oil & Gas Accounting
a very good resource about oil and gas accounting using the special terminology, complexity, and myriad issues associated with the oil and gas industry
Petroleum Refining in Nontechnical Language
An overview of key refining topics by using relevant analogies, easy-to-understand graphs, formulas, and illustrations