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Petroleum engineers are involved in the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas from new wells. They also find ways to improve extraction from older wells. Petroleum engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering as well as a good knowledge of other disciplines such as geophysics, well engineering, petroleum geology and reservoir engineering. Those who meet the qualifications can earn a good living. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, petroleum engineers earned a median year of $114,080 in 2010.
Well Control and Blowout Prevention
Well control and blowout prevention projects focus on the development of procedures that boost safety in oil exploration and extraction processes. Handling high pressure wells during drilling operations can pose serious danger to the workforce. A blowout, which is the most catastrophic outcome during a drilling operation, occurs at a rate of nearly one in 1,000 wells drilled or operated, according to a report from the University of Texas' Petroleum Extension Service. Petroleum engineers mitigate such risks by using computer software to model a well’s behavior using its parameters before drilling begins. They also draw emergency response plans and schedule safety training programs for operators.
Improved recovery projects are designed to develop better methods of locating and drilling large volumes of oil that remain underground. Two thirds of the United States oil reserves remain unrecovered due to lack of advanced technologies, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Petroleum engineers use reservoir simulation and reservoir field studies to develop programs and technology that can reach bypassed oil.
Petroleum engineers use computer models and analytical techniques to predict the flow of fluids through well rocks. They also optimize oil extraction from petroleum wells. A petroleum engineer in charge of a reservoir simulation project has to study the crude oil properties and rock parameters such as porosity. It is also their responsibility to analyze complex oil reservoirs.
Formation evaluation projects determine the ability of a well to produce oil. Petroleum engineers in charge of formulation evaluation projects develop interpretation techniques for oil wells data. They use technical evaluation methods to identify commercial wells after drilling. Such methods include mud logging, where petroleum engineers evaluate drill bit cuttings; and drilling mud for data such as penetration rate. They also evaluate any broken well formations to establish the safety and sustainability of drilling a well.
2016 Salary Information for Petroleum Engineers
Petroleum engineers earned a median annual salary of $128,220 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, petroleum engineers earned a 25th percentile salary of $97,430, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $179,450, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 33,700 people were employed in the U.S. as petroleum engineers.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Petroleum Engineers
- University of Texas: Blowout Prevention
- Unites States Department of Energy: Oil and Gas Research
- University Technology Malaysia: Fundamentals of Petroleum Engineering: Formation Evaluation
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Petroleum Engineers
- Career Trend: Petroleum Engineers