What does a Reservoir Engineer do?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2019
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A reservoir engineer researches, inspects, and evaluates underground oil and gas reserves to determine the most efficient means of extracting resources. He or she typically works on-site at an established well or a new drilling project, analyzing schematics and compounding scientific data. The information gathered is used to develop cheaper, more fruitful collection methods. Most reservoir engineers work for major petroleum corporations, though some are independent contractors or employees of government research or oversight committees.

The daily job tasks of a reservoir engineer can vary depending on the project at hand. If a company plans on starting a new well, the engineer may first consult with surveyors and petroleum geologists to make sure the prospective reserve can supply enough oil or gas to make the job worthwhile. He or she then considers different drilling and extraction methods, and determines which will be the most cost-efficient. The resulting data and ideas are usually presented to supervisors for approval.

Once a project is underway, the reservoir engineer helps to oversee drillers, construction workers, and scientists until completion. The finished well is monitored carefully in the first few days to make sure the amount of oil or gas extracted meets predictions. If problems arise, the engineer reviews schematics and orders repairs or changes to equipment. He or she typically checks on production numbers throughout the drilling phase, which may last months to years, to ensure good results.


Since a reservoir engineer is among the most knowledgeable of oil company employees in regard to day-to-day operations and drilling goals, he or she may be asked to represent the company when dealing with partner corporations and government authorities. The engineer may need to present findings in technical documents or give in-person presentations. Strong written and oral communication skills are essential in order to convey highly detailed, complex information in a manner which can be understood by non-experts.

Most reservoir engineers hold bachelor's degrees or higher in petroleum, chemical, or mechanical engineering. Depending on the location and company, a prospective reservoir engineer may need to pass licensing exams and participate in an internship or junior assistant program before he or she can start working independently in the field. A new engineer can expect to work alongside other experts and perform relatively basic job tasks until he or she has the experience necessary to lead operations. In time, many workers advance to supervisory positions within their companies and become responsible for overseeing the work of other reservoir engineering crews.


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Post 4

@OeKc05 - For reservoir engineering, the courses you will need to excel at include math, physics, engineering (obviously), science, and economics. You will also need to be computer literate, and you will need to understand business ethics.

I am currently studying to become a reservoir engineer, and I knew when I started that it would involve a lot of math and science. I just happen to be great at those subjects.

I hadn’t taken into account the need for an understanding of economics and business administration, though. I guess I didn’t realize that I would one day be serving as a type of manager, and I would have to set cost estimations for projects. I now have a greater understanding of the full job description, and I feel that my education is fully preparing me for it.

Post 3

This sounds like a great career choice. I wonder if I have what it takes, though. What sort of subjects do you need to be really good at in order to succeed as a reservoir engineer?

I know I’m good at writing and communicating my thoughts to others, so this won’t be an issue. I was definitely better at reading and writing in school than most of the other students.

Post 2

I have a cousin who works as a reservoir engineer. He has a ton of responsibility, but he makes well over $100,000 a year.

In addition to all the technical stuff that you need years of study to understand, he has to determine the costs of the operations. He has to manage a staff of workers. He must set their schedules and handle their concerns.

While he must focus on the project at hand, he has to be a boss simultaneously. It can be pretty stressful at times, but I don’t think he would want to do anything else in life. I could never handle all that pressure, but he seems to thrive under strain.

Post 1

My brother-in-law is a reservoir engineer, and it is at once a challenging and rewarding career. The hours are long, but the pay is great.

He worked for years under the supervision of others before progressing to a higher position. He relocated to take on a better paying job with more responsibility. Now, he makes about as much per year as a medical doctor.

My sister is glad he has such a great job, but she wishes he didn’t have to be away from home so much. He has to travel to drilling sites, and sometimes he must stay away for long periods of time.

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