LSU PETE Program: Boosting the Petroleum Engineering Talent Pool
Written by Kelli Lauletta and published by OilOnline Industry News October 9th, 2014.
With the predicted great crew change around the corner, the oil and gas industry continues to brace for a recruitment struggle in the years to come. The projected talent gap is even wider when it comes to petroleum engineers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a startling 26% growth in the number of open petroleum engineer positions from 2012 to 2020. While oil and gas companies continue to launch their own initiatives to encourage STEM education and usher in the next generation of talent, one educational institution is also doing its part.
The LSU Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering (LSU PETE) program, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has discovered its own balance between academia and industry. While it brings all the latest knowledge to the classroom, it also offers up practical industry experience to students. Through its oil & gas internships, a faculty with industry “street cred” and its unique PERTT lab, LSU is carving out a distinctive contribution to the future of the oil and gas engineering talent pool.
What is it? The PERTT lab (Petroleum Engineering Research & Technology Transfer Laboratory) is a hands-on lab for students, faculty, and oil & gas companies. It is a facility (pictured) that provides a research environment to perform multiphase flow experiments on field-scale tubulars at high pressures. The lab houses six wells and associated surface facilities and is used for education, training, testing, and research.
OilOnline had the chance to speak with a 4th-year petroleum engineering student, Marcus Smith, to get his perspective on the program. Marcus is a student worker in the PERTT Lab who spends time with representatives from various oil & gas companies from around the country who come in to test equipment. Marcus appreciates his lab position, where he can interface with the industry and get hands-on experience. Marcus said, “The PERTT lab is a very important part of our program. It really is a one-of-a-kind lab where oil & gas customers can test equipment and ideas.” Specifically, he mentioned that they focus on well control, pressure drilling, blowout prevention research, and more.
The LSU PETE program also stays in tune with industry needs through other efforts. Karsten Thompson, chair, LSU Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering, said, “the LSU PETE program is partnering with the industry in a number of ways, the most prominent being industry-sponsored research, industry testing and training at the PERTT Lab, a very active Industrial Advisory Group, and industry-sponsored field trips and guest lectures.”
Internships, Faculty & More
The LSU PETE program emphasizes students gaining work experience through internships. Last summer, Marcus had the opportunity to participate in an internship with a Houston-based oil and gas company. During his internship, he was able to apply a lot of his learning from working in the PERTT lab and connect practical applications in the lab to real scenarios in the workplace. The experiences have served him well, as he has a job waiting at the same company when he graduates next spring.
Many of the LSU PETE professors have backgrounds in oil and gas industry. Marcus commented, “The professors are really great. A lot of them have industry experience and offer real-world examples in the classroom.” Students also have the opportunity to participate in professional groups, such as the Society of Professional Engineers (SPE) and the American Association of Drilling Engineers (AADE), while attending LSU.
The program is growing in size—by head count and number of buildings. The number of fall semester enrolled PETE undergraduates continues to increase, growing to 733 in 2014 from 285 in 2009. Regarding LSU Engineering’s future plans, Rick Koubek, Dean, LSU College of Engineering responded, “In the last five years, LSU Engineering’s overall undergraduate student body has increased by 59% and graduate student enrollment has increased by 19%. To accommodate our growth, this November, we are breaking ground on a US$110 million renovation and expansion of our engineering campus. Also this fall, we launched a major faculty hiring initiative, with plans to bring 50 additional faculty positions into the College over the next 3-5 years. These faculty hires will predominately focus in the areas of energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, computation, and biotechnology.”
The growing LSU PETE program is part of the solution to provide the next round of qualified petroleum engineers. Its strong connection to the oil and gas industry has been critical to its success in equipping graduates to hit the ground running when they start their careers.