UTPB expanding petroleum-related courses

UTPB expanding petroleum-related courses

The oil and gas industry contains substantial risks and not just the risks of job-related injuries that first come to mind.

“That’s why we teach well control and safety and health,” said Susan Schrader, assistant professor of petroleum technology in the University of Texas of the Permian Basin’s Industrial Technology department. “There’s also, in the industry, the risk of jobs not being there in the future.”

She added, “My belief is we’re at a point where the industry is stable for awhile.”

Of course, the New Mexico native said, younger workers who watched their parents suffer the downturns of the 1980s and several peaks and valleys in the 1990s may wonder why they should go through four years of college if engineering or other industry jobs won’t be available upon graduation.

“The common phrase is ‘The easy oil is gone,’” she said. “Though we can debate right and left how much oil remains, there is a need for more technology in the industry and for technology to produce that harder-to-get oil. With higher commodity prices, the amount we can spend on that hard oil is also higher.”

Schrader said her department offers a “fairly broad curriculum” that could be considered comparable to the typical course of study for petroleum engineering except “with less mathematics and more hands-on oriented.”

The thinking is, she said, that the course could grow into a traditional petroleum engineering field of study in the future.

“We offer courses in drilling, production, formation evaluation and petroleum reservoirs; we also offer courses in natural gas, pipelines and also an overview of the industry, which I’d recommend for anyone who lives out here.”

The curriculum, she said, targets two basic audiences: Students currently working in the oil and gas industry who want to upgrade their skills or position themselves for promotions and student interested in working in the industry, say those graduating from high school. It also offers students who take additional math courses the opportunity to prepare for graduate studies in engineering. The department also has an engineering transfer program with the University of Texas at El Paso whereby students attend the first two years at UTPB and then transfer to UTEP for two more years to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

The school just broke ground on renovations to its Industrial Technology building and Schrader said the improvements will include additional classroom space, a drilling fluids lab and a computer lab.

“We also acquired a couple of well control simulators so we can offer courses in well control,” she said.

Virtually everyone in the Permian Basin, she concluded, realizes the oil and gas industry needs more people.

“It’s still a vital business,” she said. “I’d tell someone that it’s a good career if it’s something that interested them.”

Information from: www.mywesttexas.com

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