Engineering Professionalism: A Means of Growth and Change
- T. Scott Hickman (T. Scott Hickman and Assocs.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 1991
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 84 - 87
- 1991. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 7.5.4 University Curricula, 3 Production and Well Operations, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 7.5.3 Professional Registration/Cetification, 5.1 Reservoir Characterisation, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training
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At a time of shrinking employment, the pivotal role of technology in thepetroleum industry's future is widely acknowledged. This technological dilemmais discussed in recent presentations from the view-point of corporaterestructuring and the overhaul of the educational system. This paper exploresthe personal and professional growth required for an individual to meetprofessional growth required for an individual to meet tomorrow'schallenges.
The worldwide petroleum industry is widely diverse, not only geographicallyand physically, but also socially, culturally, and physically, but alsosocially, culturally, and politically. There is an emerging consensus,politically. There is an emerging consensus, however, that technology is thekey to the industry's future. Indeed, for many companies, technology is themeans of survival. Within the U.S., dwindling profit margins and lack ofexploration targets have made improved and enhanced oil recovery a necessity.All producing regions will eventually face a similar situation. In frontierareas, the very existence of production attests to the application of advancedtechnology. The recent SPE/U. of Houston Emerging Technologies Conferencere-emphasized the importance of technology for the future.
The collection, dissemination, and exchange of technical informationconcerning energy resources produced through well-bores has been SPE's mainactivity. Its success in this area can hardly be overstated and hasovershadowed completely the second part of the SPE mission statement, whichpart of the SPE mission statement, which involves individual careerdevelopment. The increased emphasis on technology combined with industryrestructuring has left fewer people to apply more technology. This people toapply more technology. This brings the competency issue to the forefront forthose concerned about the future. The SPE Education and ProfessionalismCommittee focused on competency and related topics in recent sessions at the1990 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. This emphasis grows out ofthe concern that the approaches and paradigms of the past are no longeradequate. Petroleum engineers may not be up to the technological challengewithout a conscious effort to reorient industry's attitudes both collectivelyand individually.
I contend that today's E and P companies are in the business of developing,managing, and applying technology. If this is so, then a company's mostimportant resources are the employees, not the hydrocarbon reserves.Recognition of this has been slow to evolve. For far too long, technicalemployees have often been treated as cogs in the wheel with little opportunityfor meaningful career enhancement and advancement. In the U.S., companies arereorganizing into lean, stand-alone business units where the survivingemployees are called upon to work smarter and more efficiently. The companiesthat prosper will be those with the most productive and innovative employees.This requires not only that companies create a different corporate environment,but that the individual employees be willing to improve technicalcompetency.
A steady stream of technological advances has occurred in the oil industrysince World War II. Those whose careers go back more than 30 years need only toreflect on improvements in logging, well stimulation, drilling, and reservoirmodeling to appreciate this statement.
New technology with immediate commercial applications is made available toindustry through service companies in an expedient manner. Some individuals orgroups within a company operate on the cutting edge of technology. Overall,however, industry has been slow to use available technology fully in routineoperations. This lack of utilization has generally been obscured by twoevents.
1. The success of SPE and other technical organizations in the disseminationof technology worldwide through publications, seminars, and meetings.(Unfortunately, technology transfer is not equivalent to technologyutilization.)
2. The rapid computerization of the industry to the point where a novice candefault his way to a casing or pumping-unit design with little knowledge orexperience. (A personal computer on every desk does not personal computer onevery desk does not guarantee the efficient application of advancedtechnology.)
This lag in applied technology can be seen by looking at the evolution inthe exploitation of the major oil reservoirs in the Permian Basin of west Texasand New Mexico. Permian Basin of west Texas and New Mexico. Most of thesereservoirs were originally developed in the late 1940's and 1950's on 40-acrespacing.
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