The New Engineer Paradigm and the Emergence of Investigative Engineering
- Keith K. Millheim (Amoco Production Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 1989
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 788 - 794
- 1989. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements, 7.5.4 University Curricula, 5.6.1 Open hole/cased hole log analysis, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 7.6.6 Artificial Intelligence, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 5.6.9 Production Forecasting, 1.14 Casing and Cementing
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How is engineering practiced in the petroleum practiced in the petroleum engineering discipline? A new engineering paradigm that defines and distinguishes between three overlapping regions-operational, design, and investigative engineering-will help us understand. It introduces the concept of investigative engineering, the key to new engineering breakthroughs and innovations. Here, we investigate the impact of investigative engineering on the petroleum engineering discipline and discuss the roles of the university educator, company organizations and structures, and the individual engineer.
Two postulates are proposed. First, most engineers receive inadequate training in investigative engineering at the university level, so that they resist the concept later in their career. Second, most companies are structured to operate in the domain of operational and design engineering, with little or no emphasis on investigative engineering. This paper identifies characteristics necessary to achieve success in the investigative-engineering endeavor and proposes organizational structures that proposes organizational structures that will encourage investigative engineering in the corporate environment.
How can universities and companies revitalize the engineering professional to meet the challenges and changes that will occur during the next decade? Is it possible to make engineers more productive, innovative, and effective in maximizing the company's profits? What tools do engineers need to do profits? What tools do engineers need to do their jobs? How should they be trained and supervised? And finally, what type of organizational structure will optimize engineers' skills?
What about the engineers themselves? What should be their roles in the future? Can an engineer build a life-long career path around technical leadership? And what about technical obsolescence-what can be done to keep the 10- and 15-year experienced engineer up to date, motivated, and challenged?
To address these questions, one must investigate the way that companies, especially energy companies, use engineers' abilities and practice engineering. This identifies new ways in which engineering can be practiced and defines the characteristics of the engineer of the future.
This work is based primarily on my nearly 24 years of experience as a practicing engineer and as a technical supervisor and manager of both operations and research. It also draws from a 6-year in-depth study of engineering practices. My active involvement in SPE, which has provided me with many long and penetrating conversations with other engineers about the practice of engineering and their personal views of themselves as engineers, has strongly influenced this work.
The detailed basis and background for all the concepts presented are too lengthy to be explained here. Those readers interested in obtaining more background should explore Refs. 1 through 7. Many of the concepts are completely new and may be provocative, and to that end, I do not expect across-the-board agreement. I do not pretend to have all the answers and to know all the details. I am a student of this technology and can give only my cumulative insights at this point in time.
Current Engineering Paradigm
First of all, what does "paradigm" mean? This is a relatively new word in engineering that has drawn a great deal of interest and attention, as well as multiple definitions. In my opinion, the best definition comes from Fritjof Capra, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and Jay Ogilvy, director of research for the Values and Lifestyles Program at SRI Intl. They define paradigm as "a constellation of concepts, paradigm as "a constellation of concepts, values, perceptions, and practices shared by a community, which forms a particular vision of reality and collective mood that is the basis of the way the community organizes itself." In short, it is a model for describing how a selected group of people work together. In our case, the engineering community in general and the petroleum engineering community in specific are of interest. The community is made up of engineers, supervisors, and managers, including all upper managers who affect engineering practices. Fig. 1 depicts how the community organizes itself. Engineering generally can be divided into three major areas: (1) accounting, administrative, and assembly-line engineering, defined as operational engineering (OE); (2) design engineering (DE); and (3) investigative engineering (IE).
OE comprises all accounting, administrative, and assembly-line engineering tasks that can be reduced to a step-by-step procedure with known rules, procedures, procedure with known rules, procedures, calculations, reports, and practices. Examples of these tasks are material-balance calculations; decline-curve analyses; many economics calculations; basic pressure-transient analyses; hydraulics pressure-transient analyses; hydraulics calculations; cementing volumetrics; and generation of various intercompany forms, forms for agencies, morning reports, and other periodical reports.
DE comprises all engineering tasks that pertain to designing any practice, system, structure, or set of equipment, no matter how complex.
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