Petroleum Engineering is involved in the exploration and production activities of petroleum at the upstream end of the energy sector.


Upstream, refers to the source of the petroleum, the petroleum deposit, usually buried deep beneath the earth's surface supplying flow to consumers as a river supplies the ocean.

Technical profession[]

It is an increasingly technical profession that involves procuring reserves from places that predecessors deemed too difficult or not economic with the technology of the day or commodity prices. While not thought of as highly technical in some circles, this is a fallacy. The use of high technology equipment, high speed computers, innovative materials, team management philosophies, statistics, probability analysis, and knowledge management, is usually coupled with the reality of only indirect measurement of most essential facts due to being buried under miles of earth. One look at the number of patents held for use in the industry is testimony to the highly technical nature of this field.

Key aspect[]

One key aspect of this profession is excellence. Where mistakes are measured in millions of dollars petroleum engineers will be held to a higher standard. Deepwater operations can be compared to space travel in terms of technical challenges. Arctic conditions and conditions of extreme heat have to be contended with. High Temperature and High Pressure (HTHP) environments that have become increasingly commonplace in today's operations require the petroleum engineer to be saavy in topics as wide ranging as thermohydraulics, geomechanics, and intelligent systems.

Petroleum engineers must implement high technology plans with the use of manpower, highly coordinated and often in dangerous conditions. The drilling rig crew and machines they use become the remote partner of the petroleum engineer in implementing every drilling program. Understanding and accounting for the issues and communication challenges of building these teams remain just as vital to the petroleum engineer as ever.


Petroleum engineering education is available at dozens of universities in the United States and throughout the world - primarily in oil producing states - but not only top producers.

Topics covered[]

The diverse topics covered by petroleum engineering are closely related to the earth sciences. Petroleum engineering topics include geology, geochemistry, geomechanics,geophysics, oil drilling, geopolitics, knowledge management, seismology, team building, team work, tectonics, thermodynamics, well logging, well completion, oil and gas production, reservoir development, and pipelining.

Engineering discipline[]

Petroleum engineers have historically been one of the highest paid engineering disciplines; this is offset by a tendency for mass layoffs when oil prices decline. Petroleum engineering offers a challenging blend of earth sciences, geology, operations, politics, advanced mathematics and the opportunity to risk massive amounts of money. The rewards for successful engineers range from high paying jobs to the opportunities to start oil companies.

Professional society[]

The Society of Petroleum Engineers is the largest professional society for petroleum engineers and is a good source of information.

See also: engineering

External links[]