Petroleum Engineering is an engineering discipline concerned with the activities related to the production of hydrocarbons, which can be either crude oil or natural gas.

In many years to come, world’s energy consumption will go up by 50% to 60%. We need to find new sources of oil and petroleum to meet the growing energy demands. To find such sources we need new and improved technology like super computers and most importantly, competent people.

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Oil refinery at sea

According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study, the energy industry will need 6,180 trained petroleum engineers for exploration operations alone in the next five years. Membership in the Society of Petroleum Engineers has been graying for most of the past decade. Two-thirds of the membership is over 40. More than half of all oil-field professionals will reach retirement age during the next decade, according to CERA’s calculations. Meanwhile, the low oil prices of the 1990s turned many petroleum engineering schools into near ghost towns.

A petroleum engineer might be a:

  • Reservoir engineer– optimizes production of oil and gas via proper well placement, production levels, and enhanced oil recovery techniques.
  • Drilling engineer– manages the technical aspects of drilling exploratory, production and injection wells.
  • Production engineer– Production engineers design and select equipment to extract and treat oil and gas well fluids.
  • Subsurface engineer– selects equipment that will best suit the subsurface environment in order to best produce the hydrocarbon reserves. Once the hardware has been selected, a Subsurface Engineer monitors and adjusts the equipment to ensure the well and reservoir produces under ideal circumstances.
  • Mud engineer– works on an oil well or gas well drilling rig, and is responsible ensuring the properties of the drilling fluid, also known as drilling mud, are within designed specifications.

The boom in oil exploration is related to growing demand in developing nations like China and India.

To become a petroleum engineer, you must have a keen interest in science and mathematics. You must be creative and imaginative because what you study in petroleum engineering is mostly about subsurface of the earth and it is not always possible to get on-the-field training. You must be adventurous and easily adjustable to different kinds of environments.

In the petroleum industry, demand exceeds supply by a very big margin. Petroleum engineering has historically been one of the highest paid engineering disciplines. In a June 4th, 2007 article, reported that petroleum engineering was the 24th best paying job in the United States. The 2010 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey showed petroleum engineers as the highest paid 2010 graduates at an average $125,220 annual salary. For individuals with experience, salaries can go from $170,000 to $260,000 annually.

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