It may be hard to imagine how, where, and how the petroleum industry will look twenty years from now. Technology is changing how we explore for and drill for oil and natural gas, and it is making reserves accessible that were once too difficult to produce, too deep, or otherwise problematic. Should universities offer a multi-disciplinary MS in Petroleum Geology? This post is intended as a discussion piece — a point of departure.

 There is a need for a Master of Science degree that does not confine itself to a single discipline, but which takes a more integrative approach. This post proposes a plan of study that would be ideal for universities that want to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students, and also build capacity to meet the future requirements of companies involved in petroleum exploration and production.

 Technological “miracles” do not come without a price, however. Some of the technology-enabled plays – unconventionals and shales, for example — are very expensive to drill and produce, and there are numerous environmental considerations as well, from dealing with high pressures, disposing of produced water, possible contamination of ground and surface waters, and potential induced seismicity.

 Further, technological breakthroughs are complex and they are inter-related. A few new technologies that all professionals working at an advanced level in the petroleum industry should understand include geochemical analyses, 3D seismic, wide azimuth seismic, horizontal drilling, geosteering, microseismic monitoring, pore pressure determination, multi-staged hydraulic fracturing, top-drive drilling, cased hole logging, proppant selection, and advanced well log interpretation / petrophysics.

 As a result, the professional who works in the petroleum field must have a multidisciplinary background. A geologist cannot simply focus on geology and dispense with geophysics and engineering.

 To reflect and accommodate the new times, a master of science with an emphasis in petroleum geology could bring together different disciplines in the evaluation / analysis of a field, basin, or play.

 Proposed Core Curriculum: 21 hours (all 7 courses are required)

Advanced Petroleum Geology

3D Seismic in Petroleum Exploration

Engineering for Drilling and Completion

Advanced Well Log Interpretation

Geology of Unconventional Petroleum Resources

New Techniques in Old Fields

Risk, Reserves, and Business Decision-Making for New Plays and Field Development

Electives:  12 hours (choose 4 courses)

Advanced Geological Concepts / Field Studies

Geophysics for Sweet Spot Hunting

Drilling Fluids: Integration of Geology and Engineering

Advanced Completion Techniques: Integration of Geology and Engineering

Reservoir Engineering: Integration of Geology and Engineering

Geochemistry

 Capstone  / Thesis: 6 hours

The capstone can be a field, play, or formation study which brings together information from multiple disciplines to advance the understanding of exploration and production of petroleum.  The thesis could also examine new plays and compare them with established ones. In this case basin analysis would be incorporated as well.

The interdisciplinary Master of Science in Petroleum Geosciences is envisioned as a multi-faceted degree that prepares professionals to work with teams from different parts of the industry, and to be adaptive and flexible in the light of new advances and work.

What do you think? Post your comments — we’re interested! Let’s share our thoughts and ideas as a community.

If your university does not currently have a degree that fits a multidisciplinary degree plan, please contact AAPG Education to join in a discussion about developing courses and curriculum. We are exploring the possibility of taking a supportive role in a partnership with you that allows you to take advantage of AAPG’s resources in terms of publications, courses, research, and membership expertise.

Last 5 posts by Susan Nash

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