Some Perspectives of Petroleum Engineering
- John C. Calhoun Jr. (A And M College Of Texas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- February 1962
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 129 - 134
- 1962. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 4.6 Natural Gas, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 2 Well Completion, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating
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This discussion views petroleum engineering from the viewpoint of its historical development, its relation to other disciplines in the engineering spectrum, its relation to science and management, and its activity as systems engineering. The petroleum engineer participates in a team effort for producing petroleum. Many other types of engineers are also used in the effort. The recognition of petroleum engineering suffers because the team effort and the particular part played by the petroleum engineer have not been properly portrayed. As a systems-engineering effort, petroleum engineering is a high order of engineering and an activity of which the profession should be proud. A recognition of this role, and its relationship to other professional activities, should be of tremendous assistance in promoting growth of the profession. The perspectives discussed lead to an enunciation of four areas where effort is needed: (1) the acceptance of responsibilities by petroleum engineering outside the petroleum industry; (2) the launching of basic and fundamental inquiry into the crust of the earth, the system within which petroleum engineering is practiced; (3) a better recording and analysis of successes and failures; and (4) an increased effort to interpret the role and potential of petroleum engineering to managers and to the public.
Petroleum engineers are showing an attitude of pessimism these days and are questioning their basic qualifications as engineers. There is a feeling of uncertainty about the future for the profession. College departments of petroleum engineering are definitely not drawing their share of students. A key fact is that the profession does not know itself well enough. The profession needs to establish a better self-identity and to demonstrate a pride in petroleum engineering. A better self-knowledge will be the springboard from which growth and recognition can proceed.
Need for Identity
The petroleum engineer has been gaining recognition steadily for some years, but it is easy to overlook this steady advance in the face of the rapid transitions imposed upon the entire engineering profession. Within the industry, the petroleum engineer gained recognition by finding his place in field operations, although he was not accepted by operating personnel with open arms. Within his professional society, the petroleum engineer also gained recognition slowly. This has culminated in the inclusion of "petroleum" in the name of AIME and in the establishment of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. A third advance in recognition took place within the framework of the Engineer's Council for Professional Development. That agency, through its accreditation activities of engineering curricula in the early 1950's, sought definitions for the various branches of engineering. There was serious questioning by ECPD as to whether petroleum engineering was an identifiable, separate branch of engineering. ECPD actually catalogued petroleum engineering as a fringe curriculum. Petroleum engineering has overcome this fringe label, principally in the period since 1953. Even with these advances in recognition, there is still a general lack of understanding of petroleum engineering. The layman may recognize the uniqueness of electrical engineering or mechanical engineering, but he has practically no knowledge at all of petroleum engineering. This lay public includes the high school and college students who are prospective engineers. It also includes industrialists, legislators, lawyers and public relations men working directly with the industry. But more significantly, this public includes even many within the petroleum-producing industry and many within the engineering profession. The situation is not helped by the lack of unanimity within the profession concerning its role and its characteristics. If the profession does not recognize itself, it cannot expect full recognition from others. So, it is desirable to talk about some things that will help in the process of self-identification for petroleum engineers. Petroleum engineering, when placed in perspective, actually is seen as an advanced type of engineering. The following discussion of perspectives outline the nature of petroleum engineering, demonstrates its relation to other engineering branches, to society and to industry, and points up some required areas for growth.
Petroleum engineering is relatively new and young among the branches of engineering. It is older than nuclear engineering but younger than chemical engineering.
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