A reservoir engineer researches, inspects, and evaluates underground oil and gas reserves to determine the most efficient means of extracting resources. He or she typically works on-site at an established well or a new drilling project, analyzing schematics and compounding scientific data. The information gathered is used to develop cheaper, more fruitful collection methods. Most reservoir engineers work for major petroleum corporations, though some are independent contractors or employees of government research or oversight committees.
The daily job tasks of a reservoir engineer can vary depending on the project at hand. If a company plans on starting a new well, the engineer may first consult with surveyors and petroleum geologists to make sure the prospective reserve can supply enough oil or gas to make the job worthwhile. He or she then considers different drilling and extraction methods, and determines which will be the most cost-efficient. The resulting data and ideas are usually presented to supervisors for approval.
Once a project is underway, the reservoir engineer helps to oversee drillers, construction workers, and scientists until completion. The finished well is monitored carefully in the first few days to make sure the amount of oil or gas extracted meets predictions. If problems arise, the engineer reviews schematics and orders repairs or changes to equipment. He or she typically checks on production numbers throughout the drilling phase, which may last months to years, to ensure good results.
Since a reservoir engineer is among the most knowledgeable of oil company employees in regard to day-to-day operations and drilling goals, he or she may be asked to represent the company when dealing with partner corporations and government authorities. The engineer may need to present findings in technical documents or give in-person presentations. Strong written and oral communication skills are essential in order to convey highly detailed, complex information in a manner which can be understood by non-experts.
Most reservoir engineers hold bachelor's degrees or higher in petroleum, chemical, or mechanical engineering. Depending on the location and company, a prospective reservoir engineer may need to pass licensing exams and participate in an internship or junior assistant program before he or she can start working independently in the field. A new engineer can expect to work alongside other experts and perform relatively basic job tasks until he or she has the experience necessary to lead operations. In time, many workers advance to supervisory positions within their companies and become responsible for overseeing the work of other reservoir engineering crews.