Engineer in Oil and Gas Industry

I work in the oil and gas industry, specifically in the chemical process domain. My typical day consists of planning and executing scheduled maintenance activities and working on multiple projects as a part of the maintenance team. The maintenance team predominantly handles troubleshooting of equipment. A typical oil & gas plant uses chemical processes to convert and extract various petroleum by-products. Two main teams are vital for the functioning of an oil and gas plant - the operations team (60% - mostly chemical engineers) and maintenance team (40%- typically comprised of mechanical engineers). Besides, there are also other project teams and technologists in the plant, which are lower in number.

Let me explain a sample project at my work. Most pipes in plants are insulated to prevent corrosion, maintain temperature etc. The pipes are examined for corrosion using X-RAY scanner. This is done by measuring the thickness of the pipe at various places which helps in determining the level of corrosion (which should be within a threshold).

The entire process is managed using software (SAP). Whenever there is an issue, an operator will raise a request (through the software). The maintenance coordinator will then assess the priority level of the request. Once approved, people in the maintenance team will attend to the issue, which may typically take up to 1 week for resolution.

My choice of stream in school (taking the science group) was largely shaped by peer influences. I ended up choosing mechanical engineering by the process of elimination (As I did not have a computer science background.) Upon graduation, I was initially working in a non-engineering role before making a switch to the oil and gas industry.

The technical knowledge required for my role is very industry specific and is not typically taught in university. The companies in my industry usually look for a solid understanding of fundamentals. In this industry, you must be willing to learn on the job. Also, there are times you must visit the plant as you will be dealing with large equipment. This makes my job quite physically demanding as well. Oil and gas is a niche industry, which means moving between companies within the industry is relatively easy. Once you have acquired technical expertise, you can become a manager as the industry values technical experience a lot more than business aptitude. A keen interest in physics and mathematics at the school level is a pre-requisite to becoming a mechanical engineer. In mechanical engineering, you have the choice to pursue a wide range of specializations, and oil and gas is a popular choice as most of the big corporations in the world are from this industry.

Based on conversation in March 2019
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