What an Engineer Wants

Dear Geologist Friends,

We engineers have worked with you side-by-side on asset teams for years. Though we sometimes make the same old jokes about geologists, we really do appreciate what you do, and we know we have earned the jokes we’ve gotten. Geologists and engineers have been a great team. We’d like to work still better together, so we (read “I”) offer this insight to the way we engineers think and what we do.

First, engineers always want more data. We want more definition, more precise numbers, more exact facts. Unfortunately, that isn’t always what we need. Just like you, we are trying to paint a picture of a reservoir and its dynamics based on very sparse data, like making a whole puzzle from just a few pieces. It is tempting to want a single, fixed and final geologic interpretation as the starting point for our work. Getting a confident picture of truth from you simplifies our solutions. 

On the other hand, we engineers actually need to comprehend the uncertainty in your geologic interpretations. We need to understand the alternative could-be’s and the unknowns so that we don’t force an interpretation to fit where it shouldn’t or presume and plan on a guess contoured as a fact. Please challenge our immature need for exactness.

We also often want to ignore the hand-waving tales of the geologic history and postulations about paleo whatever. Please tell us anyway. Those stories will help us soon enough as we begin to encounter weird and unexpected behaviors. The geologic principles will guide us towards the possibilities to explain, or better yet to anticipate, the anomalies. Please tell us your stories.

Still, at the end of the day, we do need maps. Our work does begin with a single, complete realization, and if you will just explain, we are happy to have an imperfect product as long as it is more-or-less complete. After all, most analyses in this business (including ours) are wrong; it is just a matter of how large the error is. 

When you do show us maps, we may need some explanation. We don’t natively “see” the 3D scale and dimensions as quickly as you do. That’s why we often like cross-sections better. And you may need to explain some of the symbols. It would really help us to interpret your maps if the colors were simple, the clear title block and labels were present, and if the extra, unrelated data were kept to a minimum.  

Believe it or not, we also want you to disagree with us. We usually want to have the right answer ourselves, but we are taught to value the best answer above our egos. To get the best answer, we need your thoughts and creative insights.

To get the best insight from you, we also need for you to, please, learn a little bit of engineering. Please ask us about how pressure waves move through the reservoir, how drainage areas function, and how depletion and other drive mechanisms work. Please don’t think that an upstructure position is always better or that any open location in the middle of a field is likely to produce like the previous wells that have already been draining the field. Just ask. We love to hear ourselves talk.

At the end of the day, we engineers want a partner. We want someone to collaborate with us and to rejoice with us. And we thank you that you have been there with us for so long.

Here’s to making more oil!

(P.S. Please feel free to post below what you want from reservoir engineers!)