Innovation driving future of energy-industry engineering
October 15, 2012
The future of petroleum and chemical engineering is very bright with new technologies on the horizon that will bring energy to the world in a safer, cleaner and more efficient way, said Emil Peña, executive director, Global Energy Safety Institute, adjunct professor at Rice University, and former deputy assistant secretary, Department of Energy.
"There are also many new and exciting specialty areas arising in chemicals, material science, and nanoscience and nanotechnology, all of which is meaningful to exploration, production, water purification, fracturing for shale oil and gas, and liquids. These new specialty areas are very relevant to companies today," Peña said.
Nanoscience and nanotechnology offer important new tools to work toward a sustainable environment with environmental remediation, energy production and environmental security.
"Because nanotechnology is a reality in the market place and will have increasing importance, the industry needs to understand how these powerful materials behave in the environment. This need is not unique to nanotechnology, but relevant to any new material, chemical or technology", said Prof. Dr. Hyung Gyu Park, Institute of Energy Technology, Zurich.
Today, many of these specialties are found under new engineering programs, which were not on university schedules a few years ago. In fact, it was rougly 15-20 years ago that petroleum engineering disciplines and degree programs were created. Prior to that, those interested in the energy industry received chemical engineering degrees. Today, chemical engineers have a wide variety of specializations and programs from which to choose, and as new technologies evolve in energy companies, new types of engineering programs will be added at universities and colleges.
One of the main focal points of companies today is safety, both domestic and international, which is a relatively new discipline for engineering programs, along with environment engineering.
"It is not just safety of people that companies are concerned about, it is also the environment … at the Global Energy Safety Institute, we are transferring the knowledge base from NASA, (which) has the best safety and quality assurance program in space, to the energy industry," Peña said.
Safety is one of the main focuses of companies today and it will continue to play a large part in the future. Peña suggested students and those in the workforce take courses at the GES Institute, which offers a certification in safety programs.
"Safety in the nano realm is also very intriguing to younger engineers, and learning more about this is essential for the future," Peña said.
Companies are searching for better ways to do exploration, production and drilling techniques to bring energy to consumers.
"Drilling deeper and in more extreme conditions offshore is providing more challenges than going to the moon, but we can meet these challenges with better equipment, technology and science, and applying skills learned to these new applications," Peña said.
The Offshore Technology Conference has programs that highlight where and how energy companies are moving into the future.
"All in the energy industry, students, new graduate and those working in engineering now, should attend OTC, and go through the exhibits, talk to the companies and enroll in the programs and seminars. These programs provide a lot of information about where the future of the energy industry is going," Peña said.
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