Petroleum engineers can expect varied experiences when working in the petroleum industry.
In order to maximize hydrocarbon recovery, petroleum engineers must be involved in all stages of petroleum development and production. Such a broad range of responsibilities guarantees a multi-disciplinary working environment that requires expertise in a wide range of areas including petrophysics, drilling and product operations, reservoir engineering, production geology, production technology, and field development economics.
As their careers progress, petroleum engineers must also expand in other areas of their work, such as liaising with geoscientists and other engineers; and interpreting well-logging results and predicting production potential with commercial managers. They are also responsible for compiling detailed development plans of reservoir performance using mathematical models to ensure maximum economic recovery. Permanent global mobility is also necessary.
Petroleum engineers are involved in all phases of oil exploration, from choosing prospective sites through taking down the drilling rig after extracting the oil. This can mean travel, long stays in unusual (and sometimes inhospitable) locations and often with uncertain working conditions.
The typical petroleum engineer works in the field. First, he/she scouts prospective sites that have a strong likelihood of containing oil or gas below. Then, he/she takes samples from the site and determines the amount and quality of the oil, the depth at which these resources lie, and the equipment that will be needed to properly extract them. The petroleum engineer then supervises construction and operations at the site and adjusts plan accordingly. Finally, when the well or pocket is exhausted, he/she supervises the removal of the drilling equipment and the safe return of the land to structural stability. He/she also oversees the removal of any waste (hazardous or otherwise) left at the site. These stages of work can be quick three month stints or extended to as long as several years. Patience, sound judgment and maturity are all required features for the successful petroleum engineer. Self-confidence is also crucial, as on site decisions have to be made quickly and surely. A Petroleum engineer must be able to handle failure. Speculative oil drilling is somewhere between a science and an art; expect to frequently plan rigs that prove barren or that yield only limited amounts of oil. Despite the frustrations that go with the petroleum industry, petroleum engineers seem to enjoy being out in the field where they can get their hands dirty. One big satisfaction for many that were surveyed was that they work with both their minds and their hands.