A petroleum engineer is involved in nearly all stages of oil and gas field evaluation, development and production. The aim is to maximise hydrocarbon recovery at minimum cost while maintaining a strong emphasis on reducing environmental impact.
Petroleum engineers are divided into several groups:
Petroleum geologists find hydrocarbons by analysing subsurface structures with geological and geophysical methods.
Reservoir engineers work to optimise production of oil and gas via proper well placement, production levels and enhanced oil recovery techniques. They use computer simulations to assist in the identification of risks and to make forecasts on reservoir potential.
Production engineers manage the interface between the reservoir and the well through such tasks as (but not limited to) perforations, sand control, artificial lift, downhole flow control and downhole monitoring equipment. They also select surface equipment that separates the produced fluids (oil, natural gas and water).
Drilling engineers manage the technical aspects of drilling both production and injection wells. They work in multidisciplinary teams alongside other engineers, scientists, drilling teams and contractors.
Typical work activities
The actual tasks carried out will vary depending on the specific role but may include:
liaising with geoscientists, production and reservoir engineers, and commercial managers to interpret well-logging results and predict production potential;
compiling detailed development plans of reservoir performance using mathematical models to ensure maximum economic recovery;
selecting optimal tubing size and suitable equipment within the well for different functions;
designing the completion - the part of the well that communicates with the reservoir rock and fluids;
designing systems that help the well to flow, for example using submersible pumps;
managing problems of fluid behaviour and production chemistry;
evaluating and recommending flow rate enhancement by using, for example, hydraulic fracturing (to force fluid into a well and fracture the rock) and acid treatment (to erode the rock and improve flow path);
managing and controlling wells with branches at the bottom (horizontal and multilateral wells);
using well and reservoir remote sensing technology and surveillance data to manage the value of the reservoir and decide on appropriate engineering interventions;
understanding and managing how a set of wells interact;
managing contractor relationships in relation to health, safety and environmental performance;
supervising well-site operations personnel and managing staff at all levels, including the training and supervision of crew members, to ensure that everyone works as a team in order to meet deadlines to clients' satisfaction;
liaising with separate departments to ensure correct progress with projects;
taking responsibility for the maintenance of equipment;
liaising with clients to keep them informed of progress.
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