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petroleum engineering[pə′trō·lē·əm ‚en·jə′nir·iŋ]
The technologies used for the exploitation of crude oil and natural gas reservoirs. It is usually subdivided into the branches of petrophysical, geological, reservoir drilling, production, and construction engineering. After an oil or gas accumulation is discovered, technical supervision of the reservoir is transferred to the petroleum engineering group, although in the exploration phase the drilling and petrophysical engineers have played a role in the completion and evaluation of the discovery.
By the use of down-hole logging tools and of laboratory analysis of cores made during the drilling operation, the petrophysical engineer estimates the porosity, permeability, and oil content of the reservoir rock that has been sampled at the drill site.
The geological engineer, using the petrophysical data, the seismic surveys conducted during the exploration operations, and an analysis of the regional and environmental geology, develops inferences concerning the lateral continuity and extent of the reservoir.
The reservoir engineer, using the initial studies of the petrophysicist and geological engineers together with the early performance of the wells drilled into the reservoir, attempts to assess the producing rates (barrels of oil or millions of cubic feet of gas per day) that individual wells and the entire reservoir are capable of sustaining. One of the major assignments of the reservoir engineer is to estimate the ultimate production that can be anticipated from both primary and enhanced recovery from the reservoir. See Petroleum reservoir engineering
The drilling engineer has the responsibility for the efficient penetration of the earth by a well bore, and for cementing of the steel casing from the surface to a depth usually just above the target reservoir. The drilling engineer or another specialist, the mud engineer, is in charge of the fluid that is continuously circulated through the drill pipe and back up to surface in the annulus between the drill pipe and the bore hole.
The production engineer, upon consultation with the petrophysical and reservoir engineers, plans the completion procedure for the well. This involves a choice of setting a liner across the formation or perforating a casing that has been extended and cemented across the reservoir, selecting appropriate pumping techniques, and choosing the surface collection, dehydration, and storage facilities.
Major construction projects, such as the design and erection of offshore platforms, require the addition of civil engineers to the staff of petroleum engineering departments, and the design and implementation of natural gasoline and gas processing plants require the addition of chemical engineers.
Relational databases and advanced computer graphics are used in petroleum exploration. There is a heavy emphasis on facile gathering of data and extraction of selected items to provide effective displays and interpretations. In general, petroleum computing can be viewed on three levels: geological computing, geophysical computing, and engineering applications. Geological computing trends have focused on database and spatial system configurations, with specialty applications such as cross-section balancing or geochemical modeling. Geophysical computing tends to be computer-intensive; interpretive installations are, like all interactive workstation environments, driven by graphics. Engineering applications are also computer-intensive; they are generally classified as either simulation or process types.