The oil and gas industry is critical to the economy and is split between government oil companies and private players. The bulk of business globally happens in the government sector in the field.
The oil industry and gas industry can be broadly divided into two sectors: upstream (exploration and production, which means you dig into the earth and look for oil). Downstream includes petroleum refining and other downstream issues such as transportation, storage, wholesale marketing of oil, retail, sales, distribution and marketing value-add products.
Petroleum engineers can specialise and find opportunities in this entire spectrum. In the upstream sector, in addition to exploration and production, one can also specialise in geosciences which equip you to study about what happens below the earth’s surface and then arrive at where you want to drill.
“A chemical engineer with specialisation in refining engineering can join the downstream sector, which mainly involves taking crude (oil) to create finished goods like LPG, petrol, diesel, kerosene, aviation turbine fuels, etc,” says Utpal Ghosh, CEO and president, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.
With the advent of modern day technology, drilling can happen under the sea, over land, over difficult terrain like deserts and jungles. With the old technology, you could have drilled as much as 500 meters below sea level, for instance. Now, one can drill as much as 5 to 7 kilometers vertically down.
“To be a petroleum engineer you need to have knowledge of disciplines like computer science, instrumentation and control and safety, health and environment management among others. Petroleum engineers, especially those working in the upstream sector, need to be as sensitive towards the environment as an environmentalist would be. In your quest to find oil, you should not harm the environment,” says Ghosh.
After few years of experience, one can also go ahead and pursue a business degree in oil and gas and work in areas like upstream asset management, manage sales and marketing and distribution, supply chain and logistics functions. Those with inclination towards legal aspects of the industry can specialise in energy laws.
Knowledge of basic sciences is fundamental to any engineering programme. Petroleum engineering as a career might not interest those with limited interest in sciences and mathematics.
As a petroleum engineer, you should be ready to move out of your comfort zone and work in rough weather conditions, out in the deserts or snow,” says Ghosh.