Petroleum engineering is a branch of engineering that deals with the development and exploitation of natural gas and crude oil fields. The field began in the 1890s in California with mining engineering and geology. The petroleum engineer's job is to extract liquid and gas hydrocarbon products from earth and to deal with all areas that involve this process, including drilling, processing, producing and transporting.
Between 1900 and 1920, petroleum engineering focused on problems primarily dealing with drilling (including design and mechanical operations) and, in the 1920s, engineers focused on ways to improve these drilling practices. This type of petroleum engineering is called drilling engineering, according to Britannica.com.
In 1930, an economic crisis that resulted from numerous oil discoveries caused petroleum engineering to focus on oil-water-gas reservoir system instead of the individual well. Oil-water-gas system involved the study of optimum spacing of oil wells on a field and led to the development of another type of petroleum engineering called reservoir engineering.
Drilling engineering is a type of petroleum engineering that deals with the management of technical aspects of drilling and the production and injection of wells. Drilling for oil and natural gas has two basic requirements, according to "Drilling Engineering" by Jamal J. Azar and G. Robello Samuel. These requirements are manpower (drilling-engineering group and rig-operations group) and hardware systems. The drilling-engineering group provides support for optimum drilling operations (including design of mud program and rig selection, hydraulics, casing and cementing, drill bit, well control, and drill string). Once drilling begins, daily operation is taken care of by the rig operations group and consists of a tool pusher and several drilling crews.
Reservoir engineering deals with maximizing profit from oil and gas fields by optimizing the recovery of the oil and gas reserves. This field provides support and expertise to other aspects of production and facility engineering, according to exxonmobil.com. Certain job duties include evaluating oil and gas reservoir performance and depletion strategies, analyzing actual field data and recommending new projects for increasing reserves, developing engineering models for integrating well performance, conducting reservoir simulations to predict performance, and performing reserve evaluations in order to estimate reserves and recovery.
Production engineering is an area of petroleum engineering that involves the management of the interface between the reservoir and the well. This interface may include sand control, down-hole flow control and monitoring equipment, and perforations. Production engineering is found in all areas of engineering and basically involves the planning and control of the industry toward greater value and effectiveness.