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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Petroleum Engineers(2145)

Petroleum engineers conduct studies for the exploration, development and extraction of oil and gas deposits; and plan, design, develop and supervise projects for the drilling, completion, testing and re-working of oil and gas wells. They are employed by petroleum producing companies, consulting companies, well logging or testing companies, in government, and research and educational institutions.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read short text entries in forms. For example, they read short entries in reporting forms to determine the type of statistical information being requested. (1)
  • Read memos and notices. For example, they may read memos from managers to learn about operational matters such as changes to policies and procedures. They may read notices from regulatory bodies such as the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta to learn about changes to certification processes. (2)
  • Read product brochures to learn about new products and innovations. For example, they may read brochures to learn about innovations in multi-phase pipeline analysis and behaviour modelling software. (3)
  • Read policy and procedure manuals. For example, they may read their organizations' policy and procedures' manuals to learn the procedures that govern decision making, general operations and human resource practices such as holiday pay and travel authorizations. They may read procedure manuals which outline work and environmental protection practices and provide instructions for sequencing project start-up activities. (3)
  • Read magazines and other trade publications to learn about industry trends and new products. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out well stimulation services may read articles in trade magazines such as Oilweek to learn about dwindling gas reserves in the western Canadian sedimentary basin. (3)
  • Read technical papers and journals to stay abreast of engineering advancements. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out work on heavy oil extraction projects may read technical papers and journals such as the Journal of Petroleum Technology to learn about oil recovery methods. (4)
  • Read reports and proposals. For example, petroleum engineers who are responsible for reservoir development may read reports prepared by geologists to learn about approaches to engineering and environmental challenges. Petroleum engineers who are responsible for well stimulation projects may read fracture optimization reports to learn about the outcomes of fracturing activities. Petroleum engineers who are responsible for oil and gas well completions may read proposals submitted by contractors to learn about efficiencies which could be achieved through changes in fabrication processes and investments in capital equipment and training. (4)
  • Read Acts, regulations and rulings. For example, they read provincial oil and gas conservation Acts to learn about statutes governing start-up, production and shut-down of oil and gas projects. They read guidelines issued by regulatory bodies such as the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta to learn the criteria for practicing as a petroleum engineer. They may read energy resource conservation board rulings to learn the outcomes of pipeline and well site applications. (4)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Identify colours, designs, phrases and symbols on signs. For example, they identify signs posted at well sites which indicate risk of exposure to noxious gases such as hydrogen sulphide. (1)
  • Locate data in forms. For example, they locate projects' names, geographical coordinates and start dates in surface location forms. (2)
  • Locate data in tables. For example, they extract field data such as production levels, porosities, viscosities, pressures and flows from oil and gas production tables. (2)
  • Complete a variety of entry forms. For example, they complete exploration permits, applications for licenses and other forms required by environmental, energy and utilities boards. They complete forms to request the abandonment of wells and release of capital expenditures. They complete reporting forms to capture well completion data such as perforation intervals, hydrogen sulphide levels, pressures, porosities, and gas and oil production statistics. (3)
  • May locate data in schematics and scaled drawings. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out well completion services scan process schematics to understand the various processes used to separate natural gas from other chemicals. Petroleum engineers who carry out waterflooding projects scan scaled drawings of well sites and equipment such as hydraulic production packers to locate dimensions. (3)
  • Extract and interpret data in complex graphs. For example, production engineers may locate and interpret data in decline analysis graphs in order to forecast the recovery of reserves over time and to determine the effect of steam quality on bitumen recovery. They may locate and interpret data in material balance graphs to estimate the sizes of reservoirs. They may scan lithologic strip logs to locate different rock strata within the formations penetrated by boreholes. They may also scan radiographs to detect pipeline flaws and welding defects. (3)
  • Extract and interpret data from a variety of maps and models. For example, they extract data from two-dimensional topographic maps to locate surface features such as roadways and points of access. They interpret data from geological and seismic models to learn about the geology of subsurface strata and reservoirs. (4)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write short notes and daybook entries. For example, they may write notes as reminders of upcoming meetings and project deadlines. (1)
  • Write memos and e-mail. For example, they write memos to inform clients and managers about ongoing projects. They write e-mail to coordinate meetings and, to request and provide information. (2)
  • Write short activity reports. For example, they write reports in which they describe production activities and summarize other information needed by managers and clients. (2)
  • May write work instructions and procedures. For example, they may write detailed instructions for data gathering and, oil and gas processing operations. They may write procedure manuals to specify sequenced start-up and shut-down procedures for processes and equipment. (3)
  • May write tenders. For example, they may write tenders for drilling services which specify locations, directions, depths and other features of proposed oil and gas wells. (3)
  • Write lengthy proposals and reports. For example, they may write proposals which outline plans, actions, rationales, timelines and costs of exploration projects. They may write lengthy technical reports to describe drilling projects, to outline methodologies used and to present findings and recommendations. They may write reports to regulatory bodies to explain the reasons for non-compliance and to describe the measures being taken to meet regulatory requirements. (4)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Money Math
  • May calculate expense claim amounts for travel and supplies. For example, they may calculate reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses, per diems and the use of personal vehicles at per kilometre rates. (2)
  • May calculate invoice amounts and verify invoice totals. For example, self-employed petroleum engineers may calculate charges for hours worked, and materials and supplies used. They add applicable taxes such as the Goods and Services Tax. (3)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • May establish maintenance, repair and replacement schedules for exploration, drilling and processing equipment. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out waterflooding projects may schedule repair and maintenance tasks for non-compliant wells to meet deadlines established by regulatory bodies. (3)
  • Establish production and start-up schedules. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out well stimulation activities consider projects' lead times, regulatory requirements and availabilities of staff, contractors, equipment and supplies when planning well fracturing activities. Petroleum engineers who carry out extraction activities create complex start-up schedules which factor in times, approval processes, availabilities of staff and equipment, and access to sites. (4)
  • Establish and monitor budgets for exploration projects, productions operations and capital expenditures. For example, they may establish operating budgets using historical, general and administrative cost data and projected royalty fees and revenues from the sale of hydrocarbons. They may prepare budgets for new multi-million dollar capital projects. They may factor in equipment, installation, labour and training costs. (4)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • May take measurements using common measuring tools. For example, they may operate probes and gauges to measure temperatures, pressures and flows of hydrocarbons. They may use striding tapes to measure distances between well site fixtures and equipment. (1)
  • Calculate quantities of materials needed for exploration, extraction and processing projects. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out well stimulation activities calculate the amounts of proppants needed for projects by factoring pressures, densities and the dimensions of rock fractures. (2)
  • Calculate distances, pressures, capacities and other physical features of petroleum exploration, extraction and processing activities. For example, they may calculate oil well production volumes and the specifications for downhole equipment such as injectors using advanced mathematical methods and control algorithms. They may calculate the capacities of storage tanks by factoring in elevations, inclines, pressures and rates of production. They calculate hydrostatic pressures in oil and gas wells using pressure gradients. (3)
  • Calculate reservoir sizes and operating specifications. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out exploration activities calculate the sizes and dimensions of oil and gas reservoirs using mathematical equations, scientific principles and pressure, porosity, density and flow measurements. Petroleum engineers who carry out well stimulation activities calculate water, steam and proppant injection rates using equations which describe relationships among variables such as temperatures, porosities, times and rates of expansion and heat loss. Petroleum engineers who carry out extraction activities use trigonometry to establish the well bore orientations needed for directional drilling. (4)
Data Analysis Math
  • Compare measurements to specifications and regulations. For example, they may compare measurements of moisture and hydrogen sulphide to specifications to ensure the safety and usability of natural gas. They may compare well head pressures to allowable pressures mandated by energy conservation boards. (1)
  • Calculate operating statistics. For example, petroleum engineers who are responsible for reservoir development calculate expected rates of production by factoring pressures, viscosities and porosities. (2)
  • Analyze data to establish process control settings. For example petroleum engineers who carry out waterflooding projects analyze wellhead pressure means to determine required adjustments to injection rates. (3)
  • Collect data and develop statistics to describe petroleum exploration, extraction and processing operations. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out waterflooding projects collect and analyze water injection rates, porosities, viscosities and distances to determine the equipment needed to meet maximum wellhead pressure requirements. Petroleum engineers who carry out well stimulation services collect and analyze pressure readings, equipment capacities, distances and volumes to determine the amounts of proppant, sand and water needed to complete well fracturing projects. (4)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate the times required to complete tasks such as drilling, completion and well stimulation activities. They consider times taken to complete similar activities in the past. (2)
  • Estimate the net present values of projects by forecasting production rates, commodity prices, production costs and rates of flows and depletions. (3)
  • May estimate the increases in production achievable through well stimulation and waterflooding activities. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out well stimulation and waterflooding projects consider the results of similar projects and data such as pressures, porosities, viscosities, densities and flows to establish production estimates. (3)
  • May estimate the probability of successfully finding oil and gas reserves. They consider geological, geophysical, thermodynamic and petro physical data and the rates of success in adjacent areas. (4)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Discuss specifications, prices and delivery times with suppliers. For example, they may phone oil field equipment dealers to learn the specifications for in-string hydraulic production packers. (2)
  • Direct, train and advise workers and contractors. For example, they may describe job duties to technicians and explain how to set up drilling, extraction and processing equipment. They discuss job tasks with contractors such as drillers and provide technical advice. (3)
  • Explain work procedures to clients and address their complaints. For example, petroleum engineers employed by consulting firms may explain technical processes and expected project outcomes to clients. They may talk to clients about cost overruns and explain the steps being taken to meet budgets. (3)
  • Discuss ongoing work with geoscientists, managers and other engineers. For example, they may talk to petroleum geologists about the results of seismic surveys and the interpretation of data. They may discuss projects' specifications, processes, timelines, hazards, and regulatory and reporting requirements with managers. (3)
  • Lead meetings and presentations. For example, they may lead meetings on topics such as environmental protection, safety and production. They may present the outcomes of drilling, extraction and processing projects at meetings attended by managers, clients and representatives from regulatory bodies. (3)
  • May negotiate contracts, concessions, project extensions and timelines. For example, petroleum engineers who are self-employed may negotiate contracts with clients. Petroleum engineers who perform waterflooding projects may negotiate with regulators to extend the deadlines to remediate non-compliant wells. (3)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • Cannot meet drilling and production targets due to inclement weather, equipment breakdowns and shortages of parts, materials and skilled labour. For example, when faced with late spring snowstorms, petroleum engineers may shut down construction operations. They notify clients and managers about weather delays. To catch up, they ask employees to work overtime and ask human resource departments to hire additional workers. (2)
  • Find that measurements and instrument readings for drilling, extraction and processing projects do not meet regulatory requirements. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out waterflooding projects may find that wellhead pressures are below the minimum requirements specified by regulatory bodies. They inform managers and regulatory bodies about the non-compliance and assemble teams to assess causes and determine solutions. They effect repairs and report outcomes. (3)
  • Lack the data needed for exploration, extraction and processing tasks. They review the data which is available and make statistical estimations to fill gaps. They request that additional data be collected if the information gaps are significant. They build models to simulate project outcomes using known and estimated data. (3)
Decision Making
  • Decide which tasks to assign to technicians, contractors, geoscientists and other engineers. They consider certification and regulatory requirements and workers' skills and abilities. (2)
  • Select the equipment and processes for exploration, extraction and processing projects. For example, they may select the horizontal drilling equipment for deep wells after considering projects' specifications and budgets. Petroleum engineers employed by well servicing companies select hydraulic and chemical fracturing processes after considering depths of wells, types of subsurface strata and costs. (3)
  • Decide to start, halt and reactivate work at well sites. For example, they may decide to start new drilling projects after concluding that sizable oil reserves are accessible using low cost drilling practices. They may decide to halt drilling activities after measurements and equipment readings indicate resource sizes are too small to commercialize. They may decide to reactivate abandoned wells after learning about new fracturing processes. (3)
  • May select workers and contractors. For example, petroleum engineers with supervisory responsibilities may select workers for particular job tasks. Petroleum engineers with project management responsibilities may select contractors. They consider regulatory requirements, prices, expertise and the contractors' equipment capacities. (3)
  • Choose locations and drilling methods for injection and extraction wells. They use geological, geophysical, thermodynamic and petro physical data to select locations for injection and extraction sites and the depths and angles of bore holes. (4)
Critical Thinking
  • Evaluate the suitability of workers, contractors and equipment. For example, they may evaluate the suitability of workers and contractors by reviewing information from resumes, job interviews and references. They may evaluate the suitability of equipment by considering costs, specifications and job requirements. (2)
  • Judge the condition of parts and equipment. For example, they may judge the condition of equipment such as downhole tools by noting signs of unusual readings and vibrations. (2)
  • Evaluate the quality of oil and gas reserves. They consider the compositions of gases and oils being produced and the amounts and concentration levels of contaminants. (2)
  • evaluate the viability of exploration, extraction and processing operations. They consider costs of leases, royalties, site development, transportation routes, labour, drilling and well completion. They consider geological, geophysical, thermodynamic and petro-physical data to determine the potential sizes of oil and gas reservoirs. They make commodity price projections to estimate cash flows. (3)
  • Evaluate the suitability of drilling strategies and resource recovery methods. For example, petroleum engineers who carry out extraction services may evaluate the suitability of drilling strategies by considering budgets, timelines, equipment specifications, and types and thickness of subsurface strata being penetrated. Petroleum engineers who carry out well stimulation services consider factors such as depths, temperatures, pressures, porosities and rates of flow when evaluating the fracturing processes best suited for well sites. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Petroleum engineers are responsible for planning and organizing their time to efficiently meet projects' deadlines. They must frequently adjust their work schedules to assist other team members and to address delays caused by regulatory bodies, adverse weather conditions, equipment failures and shortages of materials, supplies and labour. Their ability to work on several projects at the same time and determine priorities is critical to their job success. (3)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Petroleum engineers may plan, coordinate and monitor the activities of workers, suppliers and contractors. They do so to safely and efficiently meet project deadlines and regulatory requirements. (3)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Recall details of policies, operating procedures and regulatory requirements.
  • Remember specifications such as normal ranges of pressures and flows.
  • Remember formulations to prepare chemicals such as drilling muds and rock-fracturing solutions.
Finding Information
  • Find information about prospective suppliers and contractors by reviewing marketing materials and responses to tenders and by talking to references. (2)
  • Find information about new products, equipment and production techniques. They read trade magazines, technical papers and journals. They talk to suppliers, co-workers and colleagues and conduct research over the Internet. (2)
  • Find information about exploration, extraction and processing projects. They read proposals and review specifications. They locate data from geological, geophysical, thermodynamic and petro-physical surveys. They review historical production data and speak with clients, colleagues and managers. (3)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • Use graphics software. For example, they may use presentation software such as PowerPoint to design and create slide presentations for clients, regulatory bodies and co-workers. They use advanced features to insert and highlight data tables, charts and graphs created in other software applications. (2)
  • Use financial software. For example, they may use their organization's accounting software to track projects' costs and generate financial reports. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example they may use intranets and e-mail applications to exchange messages and electronic files with co-workers, clients, colleagues and managers. (2)
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacturing and machining software. For example, they may use AutoCAD to retrieve and print scaled drawings of equipment and facilities. (2)
  • Use other computer and software applications. For example, they may use global positioning system devices to locate directions and well site grid coordinates. (2)
  • Use word processing. For example, they use basic editing and text formatting features in word processing applications such as Word and WordPerfect to write memos, letters and work procedures. They use more advanced formatting features to embed tables and diagrams and to create indices, columns and footnotes for reports and proposals. (3)
  • Use databases. For example, they may use a variety of industry-specific database applications to locate permits and data on well casings, perforation intervals, treatments, well tests and oil gravities. They input data such as names, wellbore identification numbers and readings. (3)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, they may create spreadsheets and enter data to track hours worked, costs and production volumes. They may embed formulae to prepare operating budgets and use advanced spreadsheet features such as graphing and trigonometry functions to create visual displays and complete calculations. (3)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they use browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox to access on-line databases, locate information about new products and product specifications from suppliers' websites and monitor real time well production readings such as casing pressures. (3)
  • Use statistical analysis software. For example, they may use industry-specific statistical analysis software to establish probabilities, complete mathematical calculations, estimate reserves and forecast production volumes. They may use modeling software to manipulate and analyze data, simulate processes, determine optimal production techniques, plot information onto graphs and build three-dimensional models of pipelines and reservoirs. (3)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Petroleum engineers work independently when analyzing data and reading and preparing reports. They co-ordinate their activities with co-workers, clients, suppliers and contractors when establishing work schedules and timelines for exploration, extraction and processing projects. They may work with clients, suppliers and contractors to determine responsibilities and budgets. (3)

Continuous Learning

Petroleum engineers learn continuously to maintain their accreditations and to stay abreast of changes to regulations, advancements in equipment design and changes to drilling, well completion and stimulation technologies. They maintain accreditations by participating in professional development activities. They stay abreast of changes by reading bulletins, rulings and regulations. They learn about new products and production processes by talking to suppliers, co-workers, colleagues and managers and by reading marketing materials, magazines, technical papers, journals and textbooks. (3)

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