A Definition of Petroleum Engineering
- John C. Calhoun Jr.
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 1963
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 725 - 727
- 1963. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 7.4.4 Energy Policy and Regulation, 4.1.6 Compressors, Engines and Turbines, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment
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CALHOUN JR., JOHN C.*, TEXAS A and M COLLEGE, COLLEGE STATION, TEX. SPE PRESIDENT-ELECT
The following three articles are slightly revised versions of opening remarks made at a panel discussion on "Objectives for Petroleum Engineering" during the Annual AIME Meeting in Dallas last February. In the discussion which followed presentation of the formal talks, several opinions pointed out the Society's obligation for the continuing education of its members - that possible the Society should do more at the Local Section level to improve and expand study group sessions. The need to develop management skills in the engineer was pointed out and a question was raised as to whether more training along these lines should be expected of the petroleum engineering graduate. Opinions endorsing John C. Calhoun's definition of petroleum engineering took special note of this recognition of the opportunities of the petroleum engineer for expanded service into broader fields of activity. L.P. Whorton, 1963 President
It is appropriate for the Society of Petroleum Engineers to be examining objectives for the profession. The SPE inquiry parallels similar activities of other engineering societies--of ECPD, ASEE and EJC--and even of such groups as the President's Science Advisory Committee. This ferment of appraisal attests to the growing recognition of the vital role which engineering plays in our culture. We are acknowledging that we really do not understand engineering, but that we must understand both its direction and goals before we can make use of it. Where does one begin? It seems logical to begin by defining the problem. The organizers of this panel discussion asked for a statement that would define petroleum engineering, but they certainly did not expect a single sentence or short paragraph that would encompass the full scope of the subject. Although, hopefully, such a short statement can be phrased it is first necessary to begin with a broad brush to delineate the bounds and limits within which petroleum engineers practice. Engineering is a many faceted subject. These many facets produce some of the difficulty, because each engineer tends to observe and analyze from the background of his own particular experiences. It is said that even the natives who live in the shadow of Mount Everest do not recognize its profile when they are moved to another locale surrounding the mountain.
Engineering's Many Dimensions
Engineering can be thought of as an entity having n-dimensions. There will be n-different spectrums, one for each dimension. It is legitimate to talk about engineering in terms of any one of these spectrums. The total meaning of engineering, however, requires vision that can take in all n-dimensions at one time. What are some of these dimensions? It is impossible to name them all, since the spectrum depends upon where one stands in order to get his view. I can speak only of some of the more familiar dimensions with which I have had some contact. One dimension concerns the kinds of jobs to be done. Is there a dam to be built? Is there a radio to be designed? Is there oil to be moved from the interior of the earth to its surface? Are there hydrocarbon molecules to be changed from one form to another? Another dimension recognizes types of work. Included within this spectrum are all kinds of construction, all kinds of processes, all kinds of manufacturing, the creation of all types of machines and the operations of devices. This dimension normally is broken down into broad categories such as design, construction, installation and testing, operation, control and evaluation of performance. Naturally, those who design for one kind of job may also design for some other job. Consequently, one who designs may eventually think of engineering entirely from his point of view, i.e., as a matter of design. In this way the spectrum that concerns the kind of job to be done and the spectrum that concerns the kind of activity applied to the job may often seem to be at cross purposes. Another dimension concerns the kinds of tools used. The tools may be massive, earth-moving types of machinery capable of handling large volume of materials in all shapes and forms. The tools may be complex circuits capable of moving electrons to and fro; or perhaps the tools are pipes, compressors, pumps and containers, by which fluids can be shunted, stored, separated and transported. One kind of job may demand many kinds of tools, and one kind of tool can be used on many kinds of jobs. This again illustrates the interlocking of the dimensional viewpoints that concern engineering. Another familiar dimension to engineering concerns the kinds of ideas and knowledge which are invoked. Does the job, the tool, or the function involve chemical ideas? Are the concepts primarily mathematical? Is it necessary to have a knowledge of geology? In one particular instance, the engineer may use the concept of entropy. In another particular instance he may use the concept of energy conservation.
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