Petroleum engineers seek oil from the earth.
A classic stereotypical dream is to strike it rich drilling for oil. For petroleum engineers, it’s not a dream, it’s a daily responsibility. Petroleum engineers study manipulate the earth’s resources and tap into materials hidden deep within the earth, all while maintaining the environment. Becoming a petroleum engineer requires a minimum of four years of postsecondary education, though prospective engineers may drill longer for advanced degrees.
The petroleum engineering field is an advanced occupation, requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. As of February 2011, the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology accredited 17 schools teaching petroleum engineering. To compare, the board accredits more than 200 schools in general engineering and some of the more common engineering specialties such as mechanical and electrical engineering.
All petroleum engineering programs require classes that provide an introduction to the career and a foundation for the work. At Texas Tech University, these courses include introduction to petroleum engineering, engineering analysis and petroleum development design. West Virginia University, which calls its program petroleum and natural gas engineering, requires courses in thermodynamics, fundamentals of chemistry, introduction to electrical engineering, structural geology for engineers and elementary differential equations.
Getting into the nitty-gritty of the subject requires courses such as Texas Tech’s reservoir fluid properties design, reservoir engineering, petroleum production methods, petroleum engineering, petroleum property evaluation and management, enhanced oil recovery processes, special problems in petroleum engineering, natural gas engineering and petroleum geology. At Marietta University in Ohio, topics include petrophysics, hydrocarbon phase behavior, drilling and reservoir engineering, enhanced recovery, formation evaluation and transient pressure analysis. At West Virginia University, courses include oil and gas property evaluation, production engineering, petroleum engineering ethics, natural gas engineering, fluid mechanics and petroleum properties and phase behavior.
Some accredited schools offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees in petroleum engineering. Texas Tech offers master’s and doctorate degrees, which require course work in petroleum environmental engineering, advanced drilling techniques, advanced artificial lift methods, hydrocarbon reservoir simulation and pressure transient analysis. Prospective petroleum engineers at West Virginia University cover required topics such as petroleum engineering problems, secondary recovery of oil by water flooding, fluid flow in porous media, reservoir simulation and modeling and environmental issues in petroleum engineering.