A petroleum engineer is employed by an oil company to design, test, and implement methods to extract petroleum products from the earth and sea floor. These engineers are involved in locating the dig site, building the machines that perform the extraction, and overseeing the removal and processing of the petroleum itself. They work closely with geologists and other petroleum company team members to safely execute oil and gas extraction and refinement.
The development of tools, machines, and equipment used to extract petroleum products is part of the job description. Operating software used to control and run the machines is also frequently written with contributions by a petroleum engineer. On site, machines used to remove oil and gas are often operated by engineers themselves. Experienced engineers may oversee individuals and teams employed on a job site, and manage a job site's overall production.
Engineers develop methods to safely and efficiently extract as much oil and gas as possible while working to keep costs low. This typically includes a financial analysis to make sure the operation is profitable to incur the expenses of removing the crude materials, relative to the money earned from selling the refined products. A petroleum engineer uses methods of data organization and analysis to accomplish this task, and may present the research and report findings to company management to aid with the decision making process.
Field work and extensive travel are both usually necessary for this profession, as much of the job may need to be completed on-site at remote oil and gas repositories that are located in many different regions and countries. Job requirements will vary depending on the company and individual position, and some work may be completed in an office or laboratory environment. Engineers also work in academia, teaching university classes and conducting research on new methods to locate and remove petroleum products.
Education requirements to become a petroleum engineer include earning an undergraduate engineering degree from a college or university. Some positions and companies may require additional education in the form of a master's degree or doctorate in petroleum engineering. It is important for engineers to have a strong background in geology, physics, mathematics, and computer programming. Career progression typically involves starting out working for a company building equipment and conducting field research, and then moving up to the location, operation, planning, and management of a job site.