Enviro & Petroleum Engineer

Enviro & Petroleum Engineer

Oil Comp Engr

38 Years Experience

Houston, TX

Female, 60

I recently retired from a major integrated oil company after 38 years. I have degrees in Civil and Petroleum Engineering. I worked with safety, health and environmental management systems and operations in the upstream (finding and producing oil and gas) and downstream (refining, chemicals and distributions) areas. I travelled all over world, enduring good & bad business cycles and good and bad managers.

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Last Answer on October 16, 2020

Best Rated

What the difference in majoring in Chemical engineering or Petroleum engineering? And what would you recommend?

Asked by Eli over 7 years ago

Chemical Engineering is going to focus on understanding chemical reactions used in industrial processes, how to optimize them, predict outcomes, understand potential hazards, etc.  Petroleum engineering will cover geology, well construction, estimating reserves, economics, some chemical reaction / surface facility design (but in less detail than in chemical engineering) and some tranportation/logistics.  Personally, I would recommend chemical engineering because it makes you appealing to a broader selection of jobs and companies.  However, if you KNOW you want to be in the Upstream Oil and Gas business OR if you know you want to go on to get a law degree and practice oil and gas law, then I would recommend Petroleum Engineering.    Starting salaries for Petroleum Engineers is hovering near the six figure mark right now, but Chemical Engineers are not very far behind.  After a few years on the job, that tends to even out and folks are paid based on their contributions not their degree.  Our business is cyclic and always has been.  The cycle is favorable right now BUT when there is a downturn, Petroleum Engineers are not in demand and the degree is not as favorable.  Upstream Oil and Gas companies will always want to hire and train chemical engineers but the reverse is not true - Chemical companies rarely want to hire and train Petroleum Engineers.  The ideal situation would be to get a chemical engineering degree and do internships at an Oil and Gas company to make sure this is the profession you want to pursue.

I am attending Penn State for P&NG engineering. If in the future P&NG "dries up"(due to political or (econ/eco)-omical forces), or I simply want to leave the field, how easily would it be to find a different type of engineering job with this degree?

Asked by Chanchetty over 7 years ago

It will depend on how much experience you have and what you want to do when /if you leave.  If you have, say, 10 years of experience wand have been promoted into management, then I would think your chances could be pretty decent of landing another management job in a technical field.  If you become very specialized in a technical area that is unique to oil and gas it could be more difficult. However e, there is always the option of pursuing a master's degree in mechanical engineering or getting an MBA.  Let's say you have a lot of experience in natural gas processing, working with compressors, piping design, corrosion engineering, etc., those skills will be very transferable to other fields.  If you specialize in well log analysislethal would be less transferable. If you love what you do and are good at it, you will make it through any downturns.  US educated petroleum engineers will always be in demand if they are willing to relocate.  I lived through the downturn of 1985 /1986 when the price of oil fell to around $9/bbl.  I only had about 5 years experience but had earned a reputation for being a hard worker who got along well with others And loved the job. 

Mam should I do my masters for petroleum engineering.?

Asked by sai darshan over 7 years ago

This is not an easy question to answer.  Getting a masters degree in any engineering area depends on why you want the degree.  In some fields, having a masters degree is a prerequisite for entry.  For example, if you want to do research, you need a masters or even a PhD.  This is generally not the case for petroleum engineers who want to do entry level work.  However, you also need to weigh the cost of pursuing the advanced degree with the benefits it will return.  In the USA, someone with a Masters in PE may start at a higher salary than someone with a bachelor's degree, but after 4 or 5 years on the job, the person who is a best performer may command the best salary.  Also, it depends on what the hiring environment is like.  During some of the down cycles, students may do better to stay in school and get a Master's degree if companies aren't hiring.  That's a gamble, but if you can get a good scholarship, it could be worth it.  Also, I have interviewed some students who did not get great grades as an undergraduate and they pursued a Master's degree in order to demonstrate that they had turned things around and could master the material.  Sorry, that I can't just give you a "yes" or "no" answer, but there are lots of factors you need to consider.

I am a 43 years old. I am returning for a degree in mechanical engineering (I currently have a degree in business). What obstacles do you see in me getting a position considering my age?

Asked by Frank over 7 years ago

The market is so good for engineers in the US, I don't really see any obstaclesm especially in the petroleum industry.  If you are willing to work hard and show how your prior experiences can benefit your employer, I think your chances are good.  We are all so concerned about the "big crew change", employers are doing everything they can to keep valued employees from retiring.  SPE has done some surveys on the demographics of engineers in the oil industry, so you might want to check that out.  Many oil companies are looking for folks that are willing to relocate, so be aware of that.  I can't really speak for companies outside the oil industry.  I won't sugar coat this, however, and tell you that every potential employer is going to welcome you with open arms.  Some will probably quiz you about why you made the change to engineering and whether you are going to stick with this, etc., but I got asked when I was interviewing about whether I was going to get married, start having babies and quit.  This was 30+ years ago and interviewers know that they can't ask those types of questions.  What I have learned in my career is that there are no "sure" things and that hiring decisions need to be made based on merit and whether there is a good fit between the company's culture and the potential employee's interests & personality.   Hope this helps.

I'm going into my senior year of high school and I want to major in petroleum engineering in college. I wouldn't graduate with a B.S. in PE until 2018. Do you think this would be a good long term career path?

Asked by Peter over 7 years ago

The future looks pretty good right now for petroleum engineering.  We older folks talk about "the big crew change".  In the next 5+ years, there are a LOT of people who will be retiring, which increases the demand for new graduates.  I would definitely keep your options open, however, and try to stay as general as you can freshman year (math, physics, etc.) and part way through sophomore year.  See if you can take courses that satisify the requirements for Mechanical, Chemical or Civil in case the market changes or you don't like Petroleum. The best way to really find out is through summer internships, so be sure to apply for those.  Also, check out the scholarships offered by the Society of Petroleum Engineers.  Historically, they have been pretty good.

What are the chances of us hitting peak oil

Asked by Eli over 7 years ago

Whole novels have been written about peak oil, so I could not do it justice here.  I would just say that because petroleum delivers an unbeatable amount of btu's per unit volume as compared to other energy sources and because there is a mature and highly functioning infrastructure to refine and deliver it to the market, it can continue to command high prices.  The high prices fuel technological motivation to find more oil.  Horizontal drilling combined with fracturing is a splendid example of how we have now economically unlocked reserves that we knew were there.  Because we can drill multiple wells from one surface location, we are able to produce the oil (and gas) with a smaller impact on the environment than previously.  I think more breakthroughs will come in the future so it is hard to predict when/if we will hit peak oil.

Hi there,
I am 47 current and have a degree in civil Engineering having worked as a civil engineer and construction safety for 15 years. If I did a masters in petroleum engineering, can I get into the oil and gas industry as a reservoir Engineer?

Asked by Shahid about 7 years ago

Yes, you might be able to get a job as a reservoir engineer, but be aware that while companies are not allowed to discriminate based on age, they may feel obligated to pay a competitive salary to you based on your 15 years of work experience.  This may or may not make price you out of the market.  That said, starting salaries for petroleum engineers probably meet or exceed the salary of a "typical" civil engineer working for a municipality.   You should be very candid with potential employers regarding the starting salary you desire.  The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) regularly conducts salary surveys so you should be able to see the current starting salaries.  Last time I checked, a BSPE was getting around $90k.   Also, keep in mind that the industry can change quickly, so it is always a bit of a gamble if you decide to go to school full time and give up your current job.  If you can go to school at night while working, it will take you longer but could be less risky.  Best of luck to you.