The Digital Petroleum Engineer: Carpe diem!
- Mehrzad Mahdavi (Schlumberger)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- October 2008
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 16 - 17
- 2008. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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The digital age has dawned. When it comes to information technology (IT), many think the oil and gas industry has been slow to seize the day. But the truth is we embraced IT early on, beginning in the 1950s with reservoir simulation. Since then we have researched, developed, and deployed many additional technologies and applications, with most recent efforts toward full realization of the digital oilfield.
Although we have made progress, our industry is at a crucial juncture and needs more than incremental steps; we need a major transformation. It is time to take a deep breath and take the plunge into total emersion, to be like fish in water.
Computing technology is no longer the question; it is here and progressing faster than you can say “real-time data transmission and communication.” Now we need people with the right skills and vision to use the technology to transform our work. We need digital petroleum engineers.
This editorial defines a digital petroleum engineer in the energy industry, describes some roles for the digital petroleum engineer, explains why such a profession is necessary, and lays out the challenge for industry, academia, and SPE for making the profession a reality—now.
As the Chairperson of the SPE Information Technology Technical Section (ITTS), I have the honor of authoring this editorial. However, the ideas are based on many discussions over the years with many esteemed colleagues, especially those quoted below who are either members of the ITTS or advisers to the group. They have contributed significantly to the discussion and this editorial.
Who is a Digital Petroleum Engineer?
In the early days of industry software development, oil and gas professionals were teamed with IT professionals. While we have had some success with this approach, our industry also has a reputation for slow technology uptake.
IT is an integrative technology, so it only makes sense to take advantage of this catalyst and develop new roles around it. Because we can link systems from the different disciplines, the technology itself helps to transform the work processes and break down the traditional silos that emerged when, before IT, we had to break down complex problems into their smaller component pieces to solve them. Now IT is allowing us to integrate those smaller pieces together so that we can analyze, optimize, and resolve the whole.
At the very basic level a digital petroleum engineer combines IT knowledge with oil and gas content. Of course, we have many people in the industry now who have both of these skill sets. But the bottom line is we need more—many more—and we need them now. We also need to clearly define the skills required to be a digital petroleum engineer, how a person can acquire those skills, the roles they can play in the industry, and a clear career path and opportunities.
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