Drilling Engineer Job Description
A drilling engineer is responsible for planning and executing operations that drill for gas and oil. They are involved in the entire drilling life cycle, from initial well design to testing to supervising a drilling crew. Drilling engineers often work on teams of geologists, drilling contractors, and other construction managers. People with good communication and engineering skills who are willing to travel can succeed in this role. Most drilling engineers work full time both in the office and the field. Their shifts can include long, late hours since drilling is a 24/7 operation. They may work in onshore or offshore drilling environments.
Drilling Engineer Duties and Responsibilities
While a drilling engineer’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities are determined by where they work, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:
Design Drilling Plans
Drilling engineers plan all activities related to resource extraction. They are normally involved from initial design to the final abandonment stage of a project. When needed, a drilling engineer recommends other drilling design alternatives using specialist techniques such as hydraulics, casing design, cement design, etc.
Evaluate Drilling Sites
Drilling engineers evaluate the desirability and feasibility of a well site. They collect a significant amount of data to project daily output levels. Drilling engineers forecast how long a site would produce desired quantities of resources, such as oil or gas. The reports and suggestions they produce from their evaluations help optimize drilling operations.
Calculate Overhead Drilling Costs
Calculating the total cost of additional drilling expenses – such as heavy machinery, rig construction, and other structures – is a key duty of drilling engineers. They perform constant budget and benefit analysis. Every day, they closely monitor drilling and extraction operations to make sure work is going according to schedule and that project objectives are being met.
Maintain Stakeholder Communication
Drilling engineers serve as a key liaison between internal and external parties to help support the success of a drilling operation. When conflicts arise, they get multiple stakeholders to agree on needed change and approve a new plan. In some cases, drilling engineers ensure that a project is adhering to environment standards and legislative requirements.
Monitor Drilling Processes
When a drilling project is being executed, engineers monitor all phases of the operation. They perform benchmarking, identify areas that need improvement, or find ways to apply new technologies for efficiency. To keep drilling operations on track, drilling engineers may make daily operational calls, check the accuracy of reports, run risk assessments, or adjust logistics. They make cost-effective changes that keep complex drilling projects on time and on budget.
Drilling Engineer Skills and Qualifications
Drilling engineers should have strong math and communication skills. Employers seek candidates with at least seven years of drilling experience, a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and the following skills:
- Engineering expertise – drilling engineers use analysis, mathematical calculations, and engineering principles to get their job done
- Drilling design – planning and executing drilling designs and operations is essential to this role
- Data analysis – engineers who drill must conduct thorough analysis on relevant data obtained from drilling sites to make their plans
- Budgeting – drilling engineers prepare project budgets and carefully monitor costs
- Analytical skills – analyzing drilling performance and factors that affect project cost and effectiveness is an essential skill for drilling engineers
- Writing – drilling engineers are often required to write reports suggesting necessary actions or recommendations
- Interpersonal skills – to successfully complete drilling projects, engineers must work with geologists, specialists, and project partners, and so need strong communication skills
- Leadership skills – the ability to lead engineering project meetings and problem-solving efforts with clients is crucial for drilling engineers
Tools of the Trade
Drilling engineers are comfortable using the following tools and equipment in a typical workday:
- Microsoft Office
- Casing and well design software
- Drilling machinery and equipment
Drilling Engineer Education and Training
It is common for drilling engineers to have a bachelor’s degree in petroleum or mechanical engineering. These degrees study a combination of science, math, and engineering. Students learn how to design systems that extract minerals, oil, and gas from beneath the earth. Many engineers choose to gain a master’s degree in petroleum engineering to advance their career.
Drilling Engineer Salary and Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for petroleum engineers (including drilling engineers) is $132,280. The lowest 10 percent of earners make less than $74,400. However, the highest 10 percent of earners make more than $208,000.
Industry employment of drilling engineers is expected to grow 15 percent through 2026, which the BLS notes is much faster than average for all occupations. Oil prices are a major determinant of employment growth in this sector.
We searched the web for the best industry resources to help you continue exploring a career as a drilling engineer. Here are more ways to learn whether becoming one is right for you:
American Association of Drilling Engineers – AADE is a national organization for drilling engineers. It provides its more than 6,000 members with local chapters, industry news, and networking opportunities
International Association of Drilling Contractors – IADC is an international organization for people in the petroleum industry. Visit its website to get free training and resources to help advance your career
Fundamentals of Drilling Engineering – this must-have book for beginners will teach you the basics of drilling engineering and includes insight from experts in the industry and academia
Applied Drilling Engineering – see real-world examples of drilling engineering and get answers to common questions from experts in this field
Society of Petroleum Engineers – SPE is a professional association with more than 158,000 members in 143 countries who are engaged in oil drilling. It offers a free career certification
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