Canadians consume more than 1.8 million barrels of crude oil per day, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). That’s a lot of oil, and the more we consume, the harder it’s getting to find, which is why a career as a petrophysicist is such a huge opportunity for today’s youth.
Petrophysics is the study of the physical and chemical properties of natural resources such as rocks, soils and fluids. A petrophysicist is someone who studies and measures these natural materials, most commonly for the petroleum industry, to help engineers determine the best areas for drilling and excavation. With oil and gas having been forecast as the world’s main energy sources for the next 20 to 30 years, the demand for petrophysicists is at an all-time high. “There are fewer individuals doing this work now than 20 years ago and demand is strong because oil prices are high,” remarks petrophysicist Bruce Crowe, who currently works as a contract advisor to a number of large oil and gas companies on the capabilities of various oil wells. If you’re interested in geology and looking for a demanding and lucrative career similar to Crowe’s, read on.
YT: What exactly does a petrophysicist do?
BC: As a petrophysicist you study and measure rock and fluid properties, most commonly for the petroleum industry. . . to quantify the amount of oil and gas present [in a well]. A petrophysicist determines the capability of [a] well before additional money is spent to test the well.
YT: How do you determine an adequate amount of oil or gas in a well?
BC: By coring and logging. Coring refers to the act of recovering rock from a portion of a drill hole (typically only 20 cm in diameter and generally a kilometre to several kilometres below ground) for later measurement in the laboratory, whilst logging refers to measurements made for the entire depth of the hole. The measurements attempt to capture the properties of the rock: rock type, amount of fluid (porosity), fluid type (oil, gas and/or water) and flow capability (permeability).
YT: Describe a typical day.
BC: Short meetings/discussions with geologists, engineers, geophysicists and managers to discuss plans for drilling, logging, coring or completing wells. Most of the day is then spent using software programs to interpret available core, log and production information for existing wells near the proposed drilling area (or prospect).
YT: What are your hours?
BC: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
YT: What is the most exciting project you’ve ever analyzed?
BC: Discovery of “Bypassed Oil and Gas Pay” is always exciting and, fortunately, I’ve done this many times. It feels like searching for black gold and hitting the motherlode! Bypassed pay can occur because when the wells were originally drilled – sometimes decades earlier – there may be zones not tested or considered for potential. As technology and oil prices have improved, these shallower zones become economic. The best petrophysicists can identify these zones called bypassed pay.
YT: What is the average salary for this position?
BC: Over $100,000.
YT: What training is necessary for this job?
BC: A degree in geology, geophysics and/or engineering and several years of on-the-job training.
YT: What kind of person would enjoy this career?
BC: An honest and detail-oriented individual with an interest in math, computers and geology.
YT: Why is this career worth pursuing?
BC: Oil and gas has been forecast as the world’s main energy source for the next 20 to 30 years. . . demand is strong because oil prices are high. The job can be very lucrative and fun for those with the right skills.