UTPB trains oilfield engineers

·3 min read

Oct. 17—Engineers will always be required in the oilfield and it is a need that the University of Texas Permian Basin is pulling out all the stops to address.

Dr. George Nnanna, dean of the UTPB College of Engineering, and Amanda Benson of Midland, president of the Basin's Chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, say the work is interesting and the money appealing for those who master the curricula and get their degrees.

Dr. Nnanna said his graduates at the three-story, $55-million UTPB Engineering Building that was opened two years ago at 11105 W. Highway 191 are having no trouble getting jobs for as much as $140,000 a year and many are working as interns at area companies and making $25,000 to $32,000 a year before they get their diplomas.

"There are hiring opportunities in all four areas," Nnanna said, referring to the department's established petroleum and mechanical fields and its two-year-old chemical and electrical programs.

He and his 23 professors are schooling 563 students with 280 in mechanical, 139 in petroleum, 73 in electrical, 40 in chemical and 31 in the "intended" program to address deficiencies in subjects like algebra and calculus. "For the past two years, U.S. News & World Report has said we have the highest-paid graduates in the nation," Nnanna said, adding that the department has graduated 94 students this year.

"Many join the oil and gas industry. One of the key benefits for this region is having graduates stay here locally and help supply the work force."

He said mechanical engineers in the oilfield design machines and work in analytics, data collection, fluid flow and the piping networks that carry and distribute fluids.

Noting that the typical engineer doesn't think there is a problem that he or she cannot solve, Nnanna said petroleum engineers are involved in most aspects of production including the design of wells, the dynamics of fluids and gasses and the evaluation of petroleum and its economic aspects.

He said the chemical discipline entails such tasks as designing chemical plants, developing biomedical devices and working in the downstream field of the energy industry, converting oil and gas into gasoline, natural gas liquids, diesel and other sources of energy.

Nnanna said electrical engineering "is a very versatile field" concerning electronic devices, power systems and power generation, the design of sensors to monitor environmental conditions and the development of cell phones and computer systems.

Asked what makes a good engineer, he said, "Dedication and being passionate about the discipline.

"The knowledge of mathematics and physics is very important because their application is needed to solve practical problems," he said. "We're emphasizing new technology and automation as well as data analytics, which I think will be helpful to the oil and gas industry of the future.

"As a kid, if you're always wondering how things work, tearing things apart and trying to put them together, you may wind up being an engineer."

Nnanna's department is also looking at advancing the manufacturing uses of 3D and 4D printing and converting the brackish water from oil wells into irrigation water for non-edible crops.

Benson, a civil engineer who works in road-building and land development at the Parkhill Co. in Midland, said her chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers has 55 of the region's 450 working engineers as members.

The Texas Tech graduate said getting licensed by the Texas Board of Engineers and Land Surveyors entails passing its Fundamentals of Engineering Examination, working for four years and then passing the Professional Engineering Exam.

Benson said a PE license is not required unless an engineer's work involves direct contact with the public like civil engineering does.

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