Feb 20, 2024  
2017-2018 Catalog 
2017-2018 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Petroleum Engineering Website

Petroleum Engineering

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Department Head: Dr. Burt Todd
  (406) 496-4834
  NRB 347
Administrative Assistant: Lana Petersen
  (406) 496-4197
  NRB 350
Department FAX: (406) 496-4417


The primary mission of the Petroleum Engineering Program is to prepare its graduates to enter and continue the practice of Petroleum Engineering at a professional level. The program is designed to provide both breadth and depth across the range of topics included in the curriculum.  The Bachelor of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org.

Petroleum engineers are concerned with the design and construction of wells and well systems for producing oil, gas, and other natural resources from the earth, and for conveying fluids into, out of, or through the earth’s subsurface. Responsibilities of the engineer include the design of the drilling, production, recovery, and field processing systems to provide the most economical recovery and utilization of crude oil and natural gas. Effective synthesis of these systems is based on a comprehensive knowledge of basic mathematics, science and  engineering principles.

The primary objective of the Petroleum Engineering curriculum is to impart knowledge of the physical and chemical laws of petroleum and their application to the analysis and solution of engineering problems. The challenges include increasing production rates, improving recovery and protecting the environment. The development of analytical problem solving and of verbal and written communication skills is emphasized throughout the program. An appreciation of the humanities and social sciences, together with a confident enthusiasm for a professional career as a petroleum engineer, are instilled in the student as they proceed toward graduation.

There are three primary sub-disciplines within Petroleum Engineering that deal with the specific aspects of producing crude oil and natural gases: Drilling, Production, and Reservoir Engineering. The curriculum is designed to give each student a working knowledge of all three and the skills to succeed in any of these areas.

Drilling Engineering

The study of drilling oil and gas wells. Students learn to design and drill shallow and deep oil and gas wells both onshore and offshore. Students learn the basics of drilling equipment, mud systems, wellbore hydraulics, pressure control, and directional drilling.

Production Engineering

The study of the principles and methods involved with the production of oil, gas, and water from subsurface reservoirs and the surface processing of oil and gas. Students learn to design efficient and cost-effective procedures for lifting oil and gas from underground reservoirs, installing oil and gas pipelines and surface facilities, and performing well stimulation treatments.

Reservoir Engineering

The study involves geological and physical properties of oil and gas reservoirs with the goal of maximizing recovery under economic constraints. Students learn critical rock and fluid properties, volumetric and material balance methods of estimating reserves, analysis of well logs, methods of projecting reservoir performance characteristics using analytical and numerical models, and perform economic evaluations of petroleum projects.  The program is designed to provide for specialization in Petroleum Engineering within a strong general engineering core. The specialization provides necessary skills to compete in the job marketplace. The general engineering, science, mathematics, humanities and social science courses provide a foundation to become an effective engineer and world citizen.


Curriculum and the design experience

The courses that make up the curriculum are chosen to encompass the broad array of topics which define petroleum engineering. Students are given ample experience in the design/problem solving process so that they can quickly become contributing members of the profession after graduation. The curriculum begins in the freshman year with a mix of basic science and mathematics courses. These courses provide background and understanding in the areas of chemistry, physics, geology, calculus and differential equations and a set of courses to hone communication skills (writing, speaking and computing). Students are required to take Technical Writing (WRIT 321W ) and Senior Technical Communication Seminar (COMM 4921W ) as prerequisites and corequisites to Engineering Design. Design is taught beginning in both the Introduction to Engineering Calculations and Problem Solving (EGEN 101 ) and in Elements of Petroleum Engineering (PET 201 ) with simple problems involving one or more elements in the design process. Design is then nurtured in each of the petroleum engineering courses as students move from drilling to production to reservoir engineering. In the final semester, the various aspects of petroleum engineering and the complete design methodology are brought to bear in the Engineering Design (PET 499W ) and Petroleum Project Evaluation (PET 446 ) classes. Students work in teams and discover the material they need to solve a field design problem and develop a design package. The required written and oral reports then build on the writing and speaking skills learned earlier. In addition, students are required to take the FE exam to complete the degree requirements. Results of the exam are used in the Petroleum Department as an assessment tool.

Petroleum Engineering Program Mission

To provide a quality education in Petroleum Engineering that combines theory and practice for undergraduate and graduate students. This education will produce Petroleum Engineers who provide value to employers and society immediately upon graduation and who can grow into the practice of professional engineering. Graduates will be prepared to meet the challenges of well drilling and completion, oil and gas production operations, and reservoir engineering management anywhere in the world. The program will emphasize service to the community and industry, dedication to continuous learning, and high ethical standards.

The Bachelor of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Petroleum Engineering Program Objectives

The objective of the Petroleum Engineering program is to produce graduates who successfully practice the Petroleum Engineering profession as demonstrated by:

1.  Continued professional employment,
2.  Job promotion,
3.  Expanding career responsibility, and
4.  Society membership and participation.

Petroleum Engineering Student Outcomes:

a.  An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
b.  An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data
c.  An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and
     safety, manufacturability, and sustainability
d.  An ability to function on multidisciplinary teams
e.  An ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems
f.   An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility
g.  An ability to communicate effectively
h.  The broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context
i.   A recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning
j.   A knowledge of contemporary issues
k.  An ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for
     engineering practice.

Additional student outcomes related specifically to Petroleum Engineering are:

(Pc1) Mathematics through differential equations, probability and statistics
(Pc2) Fluid mechanics, strength of materials, and thermodynamics
(Pc3) Design and analysis of well systems and procedures for drilling and completing wells
(Pc4) Characterization and evaluation of subsurface geological formations and their resources using geoscientific and engineering methods
(Pc5) Design and analysis of systems for producing, injecting and handling fluids
(Pc6) Application of reservoir engineering principles and practices for optimizing resource development and management
(Pc7) Use of project economics and resource validation methods for design and decision making under conditions of risk and uncertainty

Graduates will understand the role of engineering in society and their obligations to the profession and society by demonstrating:

  • An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.
  • An understanding of the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context.
  • A knowledge of issues facing contemporary society.
  • A recognition for the need for, and the ability to engage in, life long learning.

Students will be encouraged and assisted in obtaining summer internship industrial experience prior to graduation.


An assessment of the attainment of these goals will be used to update the goals and to modify the activities used to achieve them. This feedback process will ensure the continued improvement of the program and its graduates.

Assessment will include:

  • Survey of employers at specific times after graduation.
  • Survey of graduates at specific times after graduation.
  • Placement data for both summer and full-time employment.
  • Exit interviews of graduating seniors.
  • Monitoring of placement rates and starting salaries.

Students can also elect to take specialized courses in areas such as well stimulation, enhanced oil recovery, and pressure transient analysis. Five labs, equipped for studying drilling and drilling fluids; flow of oil and gas in pipes; computer assisted characterization and simulation of subsurface reservoirs; measurement of natural gas properties and flow rates; and the analysis of rock and fluid properties, provide essential “hands-on” experience.



    Bachelor of Science

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