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Reassessment of Petroleum Engineering Education: Is It the End of an Era or a New Start?

Tayfun Babadagli

Abstract: Since emerging more than a century ago, petroleum engineering (PE) education has increasingly kept its popularity despite significant downturns in the industry. During these downturn periods, observed at least four times since the 1973 oil crisis, structural changes in university programs have been considered. On the other hand, during the "heyday" periods, institutions have had to tackle enormous demand from industry, severely increased enrollments, and reestablish resources to provide a proper service. In light of these observations and while experiencing the fifth downturn period over the last five decades, it is time again to ask the same question: "Shall we continue with the same PE education model or radically shift to a new model?" In this paper, after reviewing more than fifty articles published over the last 85 years reporting the attempts made towards reshaping PE education, an option of restructuring PE programs is discussed. This option is less oil industry (and oil prices) dependent and more of a "general" engineering education program with an emphasis on the "geoscience" or "subsurface" engineering aspects of the PE discipline. Detailed discussions focus on curriculum updates to address the industry practice of "subsurface" related engineering applications. Viability of this option was discussed from industry, academia, and students’ perspective. This restructuring option requires substantial changes to curricula, skill development, and teaching and learning styles. Fundamentals are essential to include in PE education similar to other general (or major) engineering disciplines such as mechanical, civil, chemical, and electrical engineering. The essential elements of engineering skills such as creative design, decision making, problem description and solving, management under high degree of uncertainty, and data collection and processing for optimization are to be included in the new model. Finally, the model proposed is critically discussed and analyzed from different perspectives (industry, academia, and students) considering current and prospected subsurface engineering applications.
Keywords: climate change / upstream oil & gas / educational setting / artificial intelligence / personnel competence / pe education / exhibition / undergraduate program / pe program / engineering discipline

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