What Is Reservoir Engineering?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 13 January 2020
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Reservoir engineering is the evaluation of hydrocarbon and geothermal deposits to estimate their size and production capacity. This information can determine how a deposit is used, and also appears in reports issued by energy companies to provide information about their activities. Degrees in geology, geophysics, petroleum engineering, or related subjects are usually necessary to work in this field, along with experience in the industry. Advanced college education may be required to work as a team leader or supervisor.

Numerous technologies can be used to gather information about a reservoir of geothermal energy or hydrocarbon deposits under the ground. The goal of reservoir engineering is to find out how much is present, determine the rough shape and size of the reservoir, and calculate where to position production wells. Testing can include seismic evaluations, injection of tracer materials, and other survey techniques. Engineers pull together data to generate a profile of a deposit, determining if it’s worth using and providing information about how much to expect from production.

As deposits are developed, a reservoir engineer can compare anticipated and actual production. If there’s a substantial difference, there may be a problem with the original calculations, extraction method, or management of the site. Reservoir engineering specialists can look over the data to determine the cause of the error and develop some proposals for fixing it. For example, production wells may not be positioned in the optimum location to extract resources efficiently.


Simulations can also be a key component of reservoir engineering. Computer software can simulate the shape and structure of deposits to create a virtual reconstruction of a site under investigation or use. Using this information, engineers can explore various scenarios to determine the best way to extract resources with a minimum amount of waste and high productivity. They need to consider the cost of investigating, developing, and maintaining a site, contrasted with how much it can yield in the long term.

Working environments in reservoir engineering can be highly variable. An engineer may need to do field work, exploring potential sites, collecting data, and meeting with personnel. Some time in the lab may be required to test samples and run simulations, and in the office, a reservoir engineer can prepare reports, conduct meetings, and perform other administrative tasks. Energy jobs can come with benefits like paid vacation and health care, especially for large firms, and if the company requires someone to move, it may pay relocation costs to help people move efficiently.


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