TRAINING and PREREQUISITES
A petrophysicist is at once a scientist, a magician, and a diplomat. The analyst has extensive scientific knowledge of geology, geophysics, thermodynamics, mechanics, atomic physics, sedimentology, petrology, mathematics, chemistry, electrical and electronic engineering, reservoir engineering, petroleum economics, and in the near future, probably astronomy and comparative planetology. After all, the largest accumulations of natural gas (methane) are in outer space.
Most undergraduate degree candidates can put some of these courses together in a four year program, but it is pretty tough to cover all the bases. Petrophysics or log analysis may be as little as a 3 hour lab or up to a one semester course, or maybe nothing at all. In-house and commercial courses can overcome this deficiency, and on-the-job training is a powerful tool. See Course Outlines for typical specialized seminars that cover the intensive petrophysical topics needed to cover all facets of the subject.
A good petrophysicist will have strengths in physics, chemistry, reservoir engineering, reservoir geology, and exploration geophysics. It's difficult to get all this with a single degree program. A brief overview of these topics is covered in Chapter Two of this Handbook.
The synthesis of these subjects requires a bit of magic, supplied by the analyst's imagination, inspiration, experience, and inventiveness (usually called hunches or "gut feel"). Much of our work is based on empirical relationships between observed facts, some of which can subsequently be proven rigorously; others cannot yet be proved. The hunches provide the link between the known and the unknown.
Diplomacy is needed at several levels. At the well site, you are often dealing with many people, not under your control, who have their own opinions and priorities (and getting good log data or answers is seldom one of their priorities). In the office you will present opinions to people who know absolutely nothing about any of the sciences mentioned above, or who may know a great deal more than you do in a particular science, or who may not yet trust your judgment or hunches. An understanding of modern Machiavellism in business is also a must.
It's a tough tightrope to walk on a windy day.
CAREER PATHS IN PETROPHYSICS
In either case, good communication skills and the ability to determine the real problem or request from all the surrounding chaff is necessary. The analyst must be able to form rational opinions in the face of incomplete and contradictory information. Knowledge of programmable calculators and computer programming is essential.
The specialist log analyst must understand what the end-user of the analysis does with the data. The specialist exists as an advisor or staff member in an operating organization. The specialist may be a consultant hired for a specific task, such as well site log analysis or a pool study, on a day-to-day basis. The specialist is expected to know more about logs, logging tools, and analysis methods than any one else in the organization.
The casual log analyst cannot be casual about his/her knowledge of logs, but may not use the information all day, every day. This log analyst is usually in a line position in the organization, as opposed to the staff function of the specialist, and performs some function in support of exploration, development, or production of oil and gas. This may include supervision of people who perform log analysis as specialists, or other casual analysts.
A career as a specialist should not be chosen lightly - it's hard work, requires constant updating and re-training, and the patience of a saint to survive. Attention to detail can make the job boring. It may be a "dead-end" job unless you are skilled at job hopping. Casual users should recognize that their career can be enhanced by knowledge of log analysis, but should also recognize the limits of that knowledge and get expert advice when needed. Remember that logging is a "service" business, and that often means being "on call" 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The training required to become a competent logging engineer is quite different than that described above. Usually electrical or mechanical engineering graduates are hired and given intensive training by the service company on the operation and calibrations of the logging equipment. Log analysis is a secondary consideration and is taught in-house as an isolated subject during the first few years of the logging engineer's career. The long list of non-engineering subjects itemized earlier is usually missing; the competent and aggressive engineer, who wishes to become a log analyst, will have to pick up some or all of this material by extension courses, late night reading and inquisitive interaction with contacts in the industry.
The logging engineer's in-house training emphasizes efficiency of the logging process - that is, to maximize the profit of the employer (the logging company). The log analyst's goal is to maximize the profit of his employer (the oil company). Sometimes these two goals coincide.
The complexity and multi-disciplined nature of petrophysics cannot be over emphasized. It is hard work and demands continuous learning - not the case with every job, but certainly true of many. If you plan to be a petrophysicist, you should decide fairly early in your career whether you want to be a full time or part time analyst, as your career path will be quite different and the market for your service will vary differently with the economic times, depending on your choice.
Regardless of your choice, a good command of petrophysics will serve
you well in all facets of the oil, gas, and mineral industries.
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