What does a Drilling Engineer do?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 12 December 2019
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A drilling engineer is in charge of all aspects of drilling operations from inception through completion. Her job will regularly require her involvement from land sites to offshore rigs and portable drilling units. She can be employed by a service organization, a specialty drilling contractor, or a domestic or international oil company.

Since she is responsible for the final success of drilling operations, the drilling engineer plans and develops projects from designing the preliminary wells through testing, finalization, and site closure. She projects costs, schedules work and supervises all drilling processes for gas and oil wells. The drilling crew depends on her leadership in each project phase, and she is in charge of service and drilling contract administration. The success of drilling engineering projects depends on her ability to effectively communicate and work with geologists, geoscientists, technical advisors, and other specialty engineers to track the evolution of drilling projects, ensure safety standards are maintained, and guarantee environmental protection guidelines are followed.

The drilling engineer is also responsible for the accuracy of well data sheets, selecting and often designing the appropriate equipment for specific projects and the development of drilling programs. She must have a full understanding of production flow rate expectations and be able to analyze related data and recommend appropriate actions. The drilling engineer is required to visit work sites, gather rig data, and prepare related well reports as daily costs and progress for each well are monitored.


When the drilling engineer is not working on-site, she is behind the scenes analyzing budget projections and comparing them to actual costs. If significant discrepancies are discovered, she must recommend changes to get the project back on track. This requires negotiating with in-house management as well as specialty contractors, vendors, and suppliers.

Regular communication with local government is often necessary to ensure compliance with regional requirements. The drilling engineer must constantly evaluate projects as they develop to make sure they meet the predicted levels of commercial viability. If drilling is found to be fruitless, the drilling engineer is required to take actions to return the drilling site to its original environmental state.

In addition to technical experience and related education requirements, the drilling engineer must have demonstrated ability in leading team efforts as well as working as an integral part of a goal-oriented team. She must also work well under pressure and be able to meet deadlines without compromising quality. Being comfortable in small spaces, on elevated platforms, and in helicopters and boats is also a requirement for a successful drilling engineer.


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Post 2

Some companies will merge the jobs of a drilling engineer and a driller, or at least blur the distinctions a bit. I am a petroleum engineering graduate and have been doing the work of a roughneck since I joined.

Most companies will give the DE some hands-on experience for the first few months.

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