Petroleum engineering is a field of engineering concerned with the activities related to the production of crude oil or natural gas. Crude oil is a truly nontoxic, natural, and biodegradable product. It is the most important natural resource of the industrialized nations. It can generate heat, drive machinery and fuel vehicles and airplanes. Its components are used to manufacture almost all chemical products, such as plastics, detergents, paints, and even medicines. According to Carlyle Ryan, oil is a widely-traded, high-competitive commodity market; this explains why oil companies are some of the largest publicly-traded companies in the world (33). It is a job that provides workers with an opportunity to contribute to a vital part of the U.S. and world economy with the advantages it has, such as working conditions, salary, opportunities to travel around the world; but also faces some challenges.
Petroleum engineers help the world economy flourish by finding and refining oil. The job of most petroleum engineers revolves around the production of oil and gas. When a new reservoir is located, petroleum engineers analyze it to determine whether it can be profitably exploited. The major products produced directly from distillation processes include gasoline, kerosene, lubricants, and waxes. John Anderson reports that the heaviest products obtained directly from oil are lubricants, asphalt, and coke. These products have both domestic and industrial uses (944). Petroleum engineering focuses on estimation of the recoverable volume of resources using detailed understanding of the physical behavior of oil, water, and within rocks at high pressure. With crude oil being the most efficient source of energy, it is widely used for several purposes.
Vikram Janardhan and Bob Fesmire report that “today, close to 84 percent of crude oil is used for producing energy-rich fuels, mostly for transportation, and over 97 percent of automobiles run on petroleum; in the U.S., roughly two-thirds of the oil consumed each year is burned on the nation’s roads. Worldwide, motor vehicles number over 750 million, and that figure is expected to triple by 2050” (77). Also, statistics from Zachary Smith and Katrina Taylor show that the petroleum consumption in the U.S. from 2000 to 2005 has increased from 19,701.08 to 20,802.16 thousand barrels per day (192). Oil is about as important to the developed world as agriculture. It’s truly a condition for the continued existence of most of humanity today.
It goes without saying that petroleum engineering is a challenging and interesting job with advantages and disadvantages. According to Carlyle Ryan, “the industry has made huge strides in safety improvements over the past few decades by increasing automation, providing comprehensive safety training, and changing the work culture. This has made the accident rates to drop steadily since the 1990s”(32). In addition to this, the total recorded injury rate for rig operations is lower than that for real estate. This industry has many other advantages; petroleum engineers have many opportunities to travel all over the world and live in far-off locations. They work as a vital part of a team, interacting with a diverse group of people. The job is intellectually challenging, requiring creativity and problem solving-skills. However, this industry has some disadvantages. Crude oil is a limited resource; we are almost at the limit of the oil reserves of conventional sources in the world. Moreover, by extracting and processing, oil production contributes to environmental pollution and as a non-renewable resource, once consumed, it cannot be replaced.
There are some requirements and career options for people who wish to enter the petroleum field. Petroleum engineers should have natural abilities to make them successful. Personal attributes include strong mathematics and analytical skills to design equipment and solve problems in drilling. Creativity is also essential for the job, because petroleum engineers design different types of equipment to extract oil and gas in different environments. For most entry-level positions, petroleum engineers need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, but sometimes a master’s is required for research position. Also, typical engineers take courses in general engineering, math, design, and social science. It is a four-year program; often the first two years focus on core curriculum and the last two years are engineering-based. Rather than seeking a four-year bachelor’s degree, some petroleum engineers may choose to seek an engineering technology degree.
These programs focus mostly on hands-on training in most engineering application. Graduates of these programs often find jobs similar to bachelor’s grade; however, their skill level is usually lower, somewhere between an engineer and a technician. Employers value work experience, like cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured job experience. According to the _Campus Explorer_, petroleum engineers in the U.S. often work in Alaska, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and California. These are areas in which sizable petroleum deposits are located. In addition to this, petroleum engineers earn median annual salaries of $108,910 with a starting salary of $83,121, which is one of the highest starting salaries among bachelor’s degree graduates. According to the _Campus Explorer_, “employment for petroleum engineers is expected to grow at an average rate compared to all occupations and overall, job opportunities should be good”.
To conclude, petroleum engineers have a future full of challenges and opportunities. They end up working with a variety of people from around the world. They must develop and apply new technology to recover hydrocarbons from oil shale and offshore oil and gas fields. They must also develop new techniques to recover oil left in the ground after application of conventional producing techniques. Petroleum engineers typically are employed in two groups – companies that own oil and gas interests, such as BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil, and the service companies that provide workers to the industry, such as Halliburton and Schlumberger.
According to Grace Robert, oil drilling operations will likely become more complex and will require more engineers to work on each drilling operation. In addition, more petroleum engineers will be needed to help companies comply with new regulations for drilling in deep water(45). Pay also is a huge drawing card, with petroleum engineering being the highest paid of all fields of engineering. These exciting challenges combine to offer a petroleum engineer a most rewarding career.
Anderson, John. “Aerodynamics.” _Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy._ 2001:13-14. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.
_Campus Explorer._ California, 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.
Grace, Robert. _Oil-An Overview of the Petroleum Industry._ Houston: 6th Ed, 2007. EBook. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.
Janardnan, Vikram, and Bob Fesmire. _Energy Explained vol.2._ Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield, 2011. Print.
Ryan, Carlyle. “The Top Five Facts Everyone Should Know about Oil Exploration.” _The Chemical Engineer_ 2013:30-33. _Academic Search Complete._ Web. 23Feb. 2014.
Smith, Zachary, and Katrina Taylor. _Renewable and Alternative Energy Resources._ California: ABC-CLIO, 2008. Print.
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