A Professional Engineering Degree in Petroleum Geoscience to Satisfy Caribbean Industry

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Faced with industrial growth but an aging community of petroleum geoscientists, the petroleum industry in Trinidad and Tobago needs an injection of locally-grown graduates trained to the highest international standards to fill professional positions. To address this requirement, an undergraduate program in Petroleum Geoscience was introduced into the Faculty of Engineering at the University of the West Indies' Trinidad Campus in September 2001. This was done at the request or the Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago (GSTT), the Government, and the major upstream petroleum companies, all of whom assisted in the development of the unique, 3-year program by forming an industry advisory committee (the JIAAC). The program was taken through all its committee stages during May-July 2001. Subsequent progress has been phenomenal. All student intakes (limited to about 15 and comprising local citizens) have had excellent qualifications and have included some of the best science-based school performers. Industry has already assimilated three cohorts of students, totalling 43 graduates. Some have either been posted abroad by their companies for career development, or are abroad for further study, often sponsored by their company. A further 46 are currently progressing through the program.

This paper describes this undergraduate program in petroleum geoscience and engineering. It is one of the few university geoscience programs worldwide that (a) was created through a partnership of academia, government and industry, (b) focuses on the Petroleum Sector, and (c) has the potential to be recognized globally as an ideal setting for the recruitment of quality geoscientists for petroleum exploration, development and engineering. The partnership between industry, higher education, government, and professional bodies provides for prime development of human resources, which is the key investment in developing the next generation of local professionals.

BACKGROUND

Skilled people are fundamental to economic and employment growth. 'On-the-job' training is needed to equip graduates with the experience needed to take important decisions, but 'On-the-job' training is costly to the industry, both financially and in mentor time. It is advantageous if the link between learning and work can be developed early. To achieve this a university and one or more companies could split training between them. Worldwide, one major industry - the energy industry - is in a crisis, due to human resource mismanagement and a shortage of reserves. Energy is fundamental to the continued progress of humankind; for example, by 2030, despite efforts to develop alternative sources, nearly two-thirds of the world's energy will still probably be coming from oil, gas and coal. A direct consequence is a growing demand from industry for geologists and geophysicists to discover, develop and produce more oil, natural gas, tar sands, and even hydrates. However, global statistics indicate that the geological population in me industry is ageing (Bruni 2004; Paccolim, 2005) while the relative number of students entering universities to read geophysical and geological science is declining, with courses being discontinued. If current trends continue, the rate or decline in the universities suggests that by 2030 there will be no geophysics undergraduates in the UK to recruit by the professions (Khan, 2006).

THE NEED FOR PETROLEUM GEOSCIENCE FOR oil AND GAS EXPLOITATION IN TRINIDAD

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (TT) has sufficient oil and gas reserves, if exploited prudently, to create a financial climate that should secure for its citizens a wealthy supply of the necessities for life. Currently, TTs energy sector industry is in transition from an oil-driven industry to a gas-based economy that has tremendous growth potential. In 2007 TT is producing ~ 140,000 bbls/day oil, but new oil is being only slowly discovered. However, TT has emerged as a major player in the global natural gas business, gas production increasing from 1. …