Stefanie Tompkins

Transcript

Jennifer Miskimins: 

I get the question a lot: Is petroleum engineering going away? And I can firmly say, No, its not. No matter how you look at the future of energy and energy needs, petroleum aspects are going to play a role in that for a long time. We hear a lot about energy transition. Well, transition is not a snap of the fingers. It doesnt happen overnight. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

When we look at the energy transition, natural gas, oil is going to play an important role, but natural gas is extremely important. Its a very clean-burning fuel. Electricity has to come from some place, and natural gas, when you look at any projections, plays a big role in that. So, we see petroleum engineering being something thats very long-term and definitely still a positive career to get into.  

Jennifer Miskimins: 

My name is Jennifer Miskimins, and I am the petroleum engineering department head at the Colorado School of Mines. 

The Conveyor: 

You are listening to The Conveyor, the podcast that brings you the latest research, new discoveries and world-changing ideas from Colorado School of Mines.  

The Conveyor: 

How has petroleum engineering evolved over time? 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

Its interesting. We still drill wells. Thats what weve been doing for a hundred years. But how its changed, obviously, is in the technology and the extreme conditions, I would say, that we work under now. Were drilling wells in very unique locations, places that have some challenging areas, like deep sea, deep ocean, areas that were drilling wells in. Were drilling and producing in areas pretty much around the world. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

So, I think the basics are very much similar, but how we approach that has had to change over time, including areas like sustainability and license to operate. We have to be very cognizant of how were working in the environment and with the local communities. 

The Conveyor: 

What defines petroleum engineering? 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

What defines petroleum engineering? Petroleum engineering is really focused on the upstream production of hydrocarbons. And so, when we look at petroleum engineering, a lot of people think, well, refining or that type of thing. Thats really downstream. With upstream, we are involved in the drilling and the production of wells, along with the reservoir components and maximizing the recovery of hydrocarbons from different reservoirs. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

There is the midstream, which is the transportation of the fluids from wherever the oilfield is to the refinery. We do sometimes get involved in the midstream, but for the most part, petroleum engineering is focused on the upstream. 

The Conveyor: 

What falls under the umbrella of petroleum engineering education? 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

Petroleum engineering education, its pretty broad. We actually have one of the higher credit counts at school mines as far as the degree, mainly because theres so many different areas that we have to cover. So, we are looking at rock properties and fluid properties. We need to understand how the fluids behave under the ground. We also need to understand how those fluids flow through the reservoir. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

We need to focus on things like drilling, so we focus on the drilling and the mechanics of actually placing a well in the ground. We focus on maximizing then the production, and how we size pumps that go down into the wells. Then we also build our curriculum into the reservoir aspects, and even things like modeling the reservoir three-dimensionally. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

So, when you look at all those different components, we also have to have things like geology involved in our curriculum. We have to have things like programming, and quite a bit of computer knowledge in that. We have to integrate with other disciplines, like geophysics and geology, mechanical engineering. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

So, all these different aspects fall into the petroleum engineering education. Plus, some of the newer things like petroleum data analytics and carbon capture sequestration. We also need to make sure that our students understand about the environmental impacts, sustainability, and areas like license to operate. All of that is built into our curriculum, and a pretty packed curriculum over four years. 

The Conveyor: 

Thats a friendly reminder that petroleum engineering is a lot more holistic than one might realize. 

 Jennifer Miskimins: 

Very much so, yeah. People think that were very narrow. Actually, we have to have very broad skills, anywhere from understanding mechanics and materials, all the way through very strong engineering economics backgrounds, because we are dealing with a very broad type of discipline that has some very, very high dollar amounts associated with it. 

The Conveyor: 

What trends are you seeing in oil and gas today? 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

Overall trends that were seeing from an education standpoint, were seeing more and more interest in data analytics. Thats a huge component thats coming into play that were very focused onto try to increase that knowledge and expand that knowledge, I guess, of our students. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

Were also seeing more of a programming desires, which I think fit with the data analytics, but it’s also fitting with the ability of engineers to program the tools that they need. So, were seeing more and more movement toward things like Python and R, and interest in those particular areas. So, those are probably where were seeing a lot of expansion at this point in time. 

The Conveyor: 

Yeah. Its just staying up with the times and the technological innovations. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

Correct. 

The Conveyor: 

Why is it important for mines to continually be innovative through instruction and research? 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

Oh, I think we have to be innovative, because we have to stay competitive. You know, there’s not that many petroleum engineering departments out there, compared to other disciplines. But there’s enough, and we want to make sure that we are staying competitive, that we are offering our students not only what they need, but what they want, that are going to prepare them for a very long-term career in our industry or whatever industry they choose to go into. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

Our industry is constantly changing. Its constantly expanding, so we have to stay innovative, both in our curriculum and our research, to allow not only our current students, but our future students, that ability to be the most hireable and effective engineers they can be down the road. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

That being said, were expanding to make sure, again, that we honor the needs of people that are hiring our students, and our students. We’re making sure that we’re getting into areas, and we have been in areas like geothermal and CCUS, carbon capture and sequestration aspects. We can definitely, in these different areas like geothermal and CCUS, play a large role. So, were making sure that were offering courses in those areas. We have research projects in those areas. They make sense for us to play a role. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

And the energy needs are going to go up. I mean, we definitely want to see positive impacts on the environment also, and so we focus on that in our curriculum. We make sure that we’re not having negative impacts, but energy needs are going to continue to increase. Population is increasing, standards of living are increasing, and for somebody to have an improved standard of living they need access to cheap energy. And that’s definitely something that we can provide. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

I think were doing the right things. Were having to improve on a continual basis. We hope that we’re improving on a continual basis, but we do look for feedback from folks to make sure that we are doing that. Were excited for the next hundred years of petroleum engineering at Colorado School of Mines. Were very, very excited to be celebrating that anniversary. Hopefully, those that are listening to this look for some upcoming events in 2022, but we see a very, very bright future and an opportunity to provide for the needs of the world over the future. So, we’re excited about it. 

Jennifer Miskimins: 

If youd like to learn more about our research and programs, visit petroleum.mines.edu, and thanks for listening to The Conveyor. To learn more about how Colorado School of Mines is solving some of the world’s biggest engineering and scientific challenges, visit mines.edu and then join us back here for our next episode.

This episode of The Conveyor was produced by Ashley Spurgeon and was hosted and edited by Dannon Cox. 

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About the Podcast

The Conveyor brings listeners insights into the latest research, new discoveries and world-changing ideas from Colorado School of Mines.

The viewpoints and opinions expressed by featured guests do not necessarily represent those of Colorado School of Mines.