Petroleum is a field of engineering that is deals with activities that are related to hydrocarbon production. The gist of petroleum engineering is the production and the exploration of crude oil; it places a lot of attention on the recoverable volume of the resources to understand the physical behavior of oil, gas and water. The profession of petroleum engineering started in the year 1914 and the first degree in the field was conferred by University of Pittsburgh in 1915. Since its inception, the degree has undergone evolution. The profession has been enhanced probability analysis, application of statistics and the emergence of new technologies such as enhanced oil recovery and horizontal drilling. Today, with the increased explorations of natural gas, several universities offer courses in the field. Petroleum engineering is considered as one of the most paying professions but often a risk one since there can be probability of layoffs in case oil production declines. There are several types of petroleum engineering; these are: Drilling engineers, production engineers and reservoir engineers (The University of Texas at Austin 1).
Modern petroleum engineers use advanced technologies in their analysis of exploration data and in the reservoir behavior simulation. The field has also been advanced by increased automation of drilling operations and in oilfield production. The field of petroleum engineering can be full of challenges as well as opportunities. They therefore have to develop sophisticated technologies to extract hydrocarbons from the oil shale, offensive gas and oil fields and tar sands. They, therefore have to develop techniques aimed at recovering oil that is left on the fields or on the ground. Because oil exploration activities are conducted worldwide, petroleum engineers are provided with the prospect of travelling all over the world because of their international assignments. This makes the profession a most rewarding profession. Petroleum engineers develop and design methods that are used in the extraction of gas and oil from the deposits below the surface of the earth (United States Department of Labor (The University of Texas at Austin 1).
Petroleum engineers mostly specialize in the production and discovery of natural gas and oil. With the help of geologists, they search the world for natural gas and oil reservoirs. Petroleum engineers also perform various other tasks which include determination of the best drilling methods, monitoring and supervising the extraction and drilling activities, using computer models and other specialized technologies to simulate reservoir performance and to design equipment and processes aimed at achieving profitable gas recovery. They also work as consultants in various offices. The profession of petroleum engineering is highly dependent on gas and oil prices because it is an international career (CnnMoney 1).
Problems/issues in petroleum engineering job
There are several problems that confront profession of petroleum engineering. This is because of the nature of the work and the environment that they operate.
In order to function differently and efficiently, petroleum engineers should be geared to work differently. There are several ranges of emerging technologies from seismic to smart wells to deep water and hence it needs petroleum engineers to have an integrated and a broader knowledge for effective functional application. Non-technical developments will impinge of engineering activities. The nature of petroleum industry is changing with the emergence of several players and increased societal expectations. There is therefore the need for petroleum engineers to keep abreast of the technological changes which will be the solution to the problems they experience. Petroleum engineers should also endeavor to add new skills in order to meet the challenges of the next century.
The biggest problem of petroleum engineers is their work environment. Petroleum engineers work all over the world in different kinds of environment such as high seas, plains, vast deserts, jungles and mountain ranches. They are assigned to work in remote regions of the world and in other foreign locations. These people may be separated from the rest of their families for over a long period of time or they may also be required to settle their families when they get new assignments. This is considered as the biggest challenge experienced by the petroleum engineers.
Petroleum engineers such as drilling engineers only work in the field or new the drilling sites and hence they are exposed to harsh work environments. This work environment can also be dirty and dangerous which is contrary to the fact that duties like conducting data studies, writing reports and analyzing costs should be performed in office. To the contrary, with the new work environment that petroleum engineers are exposed to, these responsibilities are carried out in temporary work trailers (Green 2).
Furthermore petroleum engineers often work in buildings, refineries and in laboratories. Some are also required to work outdoors at off shore oil rigs and on construction sites. This work often involves several period of long standing, physical activity and walking, extensive travel and regular field work. This is not an easy task but a common one for petroleum engineers. They work for long hours and these long periods of work can at times be irregular since during construction or excavation projects and other emergencies, these working hours are often extended, but this depends mostly on the employer (OilGrad 1).
The field of petroleum engineering is not considered to be technical but their work environment has been enhanced and eased by the use of highly sophisticated technological equipment, team management philosophies, high speed computers and the use of innovative materials. The field of petroleum engineering is considered as an excellent one and the engineers are held in high regard. Deep water drilling operations can only be compared to space travel due to the technical challenges involved. Petroleum engineers must therefore implement the use of high technology, using man power but in the most dangerous work conditions. Work condition is therefore the major problem associated with the profession of petroleum engineering (Cunha and Cunha 2).
How the problem affects work
Poor work environment is often considered to be treacherous and it exposes the petroleum engineers with high risks of occurrence of casualties. The poor working conditions that the engineers are exposed to often result in the reduction of their productivity. Hazardous working environment often result in the reduction of employees morale and hence they will not be able to effectively perform their duties. If work conditions are therefore extremely severe as to cause injuries or illness to workers, the consequences may be devastating. Work environment is only considered favorable when it provides the workers with a health atmosphere to enable them produce maximum returns. Petroleum engineering involves hazardous tasks and dangerous work processes which can have serious health ramifications for the workers and a lot of efforts should therefore be utilized to ensure that petroleum engineers serve various functions. Among the factors contributing to the poor work environment include high temperatures during excavation activities; dust during exploration, ionizing radiation from the equipment’s used in the process. All this agents severely affect human health and thus reducing the productivity of the petroleum engineers. There are therefore permanent consequences of working in a heavily polluted environment (Green 4).
The poor work environment van only be managed through the use of engineering and technological controls such as isolating the operations from the personnel or by ensuring the engineers wear up tp date safety gear (Cunha and Cunha 6).
The entire world heavily relies on gas and oil deposits for their energy. These deposits have to be extracted and located; petroleum engineering therefore makes this process of extraction and location possible. Petroleum engineers are very critical in getting the gas and oil reservoirs up and running and as a career; petroleum engineering has international and promising application for future growth. Petroleum engineers work on certain functions that are related to petroleum production; they also work to solve various problems and challenges within an organization. They apply their skills in off shore drilling, shallow and deep drilling. Petroleum engineers work with nature and they rely on manmade materials in their exploration and discovery process. This field of engineering is considered to be very lucrative but with several challenges. Though petroleum engineers have been considered as the highest paid, the field is often faced with the prospect of layoffs in the event of decline in oil prices and it is furthermore an hazardous profession due to the hardship nature of its work environment.
CnnMoney. Best Jobs In America, Petroleum Engineer. Web. 7th March 2014, http://money.cnn.com/pf/best-jobs/2012/snapshots/32.html
Cunha and Cunha. Looking Ahead: Challenges For Petroleum Engineering Education. Web. 7th March 2005. http://www.ogbus.ru/eng/authors/Cunha/Cunha_1.pdf
Green, Willard. Workforce Challenges Facing the Petroleum Industry. Web. 7th March 2014. http://dpa.aapg.org/testimonies/2007/07_11NovENRHearing.pdf
OilGrads. Answer the challenge. Web. 7th March 2014. http://www.oilgrads.com/artPEngBG.asp
The University of Texas at Austin. What is petroleum engineering? Web. 7th March 2014. https://www.pge.utexas.edu/about/petroleum
United States Department of Labor. Occupational outlook handbook; Petroleum Engineers. Web. 7th March, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/petroleum-engineers.htm