Petroleum Geochemist Spotlight

Petroleum Geochemists are detectives looking for the answer to a single question: where is the oil coming from? By understanding where the oil starts, how it moves and where it’s pooling, companies can make informed choices about their exploration, drilling and production operations.

What a typical day looks like:

Working in an office, Petroleum Geochemists gather data from a variety of sources to understand the underground puzzle. For example, they might design a program for geochemical sampling that provides information about source rocks and oil families. With the information they have, they maintain geochemical databases and track historical trends in oil wells. In the field, Petroleum Geochemists collect samples and have them tested.

At a senior level, a Petroleum Geochemist would be the one directing field studies, then providing compliance reports on emissions and other environmental factors to regulatory agencies.

Petroleum Geochemists also use their knowledge of geology, chemistry and mathematics to provide answers in oil and gas exploration, waste disposal, land reclamation or other environmental activities.

The kinds of problems Petroleum Geochemists solve at work:

The question they’re trying to answer may always be the same, but their approach isn’t. To understand an oil reservoir, a Petroleum Geochemist might analyze different kinds of organic matter to find distinct organic signatures. They might also look at “thermal maturity,” because organic matter must be a certain temperature to generate oil.

Sometimes, they need to understand if oil is found in one or two separate reservoirs. A company might drill one hole and produce an oil sample, and then drill a second and produce a different sample. A Petroleum Geochemist would then try to understand the factors that could cause these differences.

Skills used most on the job:

Petroleum Geochemists are analytical, curious and persistent. They are single-minded in their quest to unlock clues beneath the surface and dig out the answers, just like any good detective. They have a strong understanding of science, petroleum and geology that helps them unlock the puzzle.

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