What do Mechanical Engineers do in Oil & Gas? Where they end up.

What do Mechanical Engineers do in Oil & Gas

What do Mechanical Engineers do in Oil & Gas? Where they end up.

Mechanical Engineers do a myriad of jobs in Oil & Gas. There are many whom I have met doing things that I have never could have imagined at university. This is why experience makes you more mature and open minded.

Mechanical engineering itself is a very broad engineering discipline. It covers the application of physics, material science, manufacturing, maintenance, etc. Therefore, covering the items related to only Oil & Gas is not exhaustive with just a blog post.

However, I would like to simplify some of the sub disciplines that Mechanical Engineers do involve in. For Oil & Gas, that means the application of this into either Upstream or Downstream.

Many will find that each sub discipline has so much to offer. A person spending time long enough under one will not be able to perform in another. However, since the basics are similar, they relate to each other and changing responsibilities would not be impossibly difficult. Although some time would be needed.

If you are a Mechanical Engineer practicing in Oil & Gas, I would like to hear your views after reading this article.

What Mechanical Engineers do in Projects


DesignHere, Mechanical Engineers do involve in a lot of stress analysis. This is thankfully done using Finite Element software which is a norm these days. Furthermore, 3D CAD projects might also be a possibility where a detailed model of a product is created. This discipline involves a lot of creativity and heavy computer performance usage.

One of the interesting projects that one might land in this area is platform design. For example, drillships, semi-subs, permanent platforms to name a few. There is a cross between structural and mechanical at this point. However, you will be concentrating on the machinery and equipment on the platform.


ConstructionA Mechanical Construction Engineer usually involves in the physical construction of platforms at site or yard. This follows the design that has been created in the previous stage.

I have seen engineers from both clients and contractors particularly at a shipyard in Korea. They are responsible in managing the manpower at site. Supervising the technicians on what to do and by the deadline is key.

Often, all contractor activities will be monitored using Checksheets. Any issues found will be punched and should be closed before proceeding to the next level.

Final quality of the job will be ensured by the QAQC engineer.


Responsible in ensuring the smooth startup of machinery and static equipment. The activities relate to “giving life to the platform.”

Usually mechanical engineers representative from vendors would come and demonstrate that their equipment works on site. This is what some would consider as Site Acceptance Test (SAT).

It is normal to see Vendors’ HQ to provide with a checklist for the representatives to perform. This is usually a formal Checksheet and is signed by both the reps.

A commissioning job can take several hours up to a few months. This depends on the size and complexity of the machine or equipment.

What Mechanical Engineers do on Plant & Platform Maintenance

This is related to the engineers working in an operational plant, where they are usually called on demand basis.

Generally, people who are working in an established plant ensures the integrity of the assets. This is done by maintaining the asset either through preventive or predictive methods.


Mechanical Static Engineers Looks after columns, vessels, boilers, furnaces.

Often, they are always aware of the different standards of the industry such as ASME. It involves a lot of material understanding, welding methods etc.


Mechanical Engineers doMechanical Rotating Equipment Engineers look after pumps, compressors, engines, and turbines primarily.

I myself as one, am responsible for ensuring the health of these equipment and prevent catastrophic failures.

Understanding the auxiliaries of the equipment can be interesting. Such as the bearing, lubrication and wear of the equipment. This also necessitates the comprehension of the support systems such as the lube oil flow system and seal system.

Conditions Monitoring

Reads the value of vibration and temperature using the correct tools and methods.

Once a Cond. Monitoring Engineer told me that this area encompasses a lot more. For example, using our eyes to oversee the plant is one form. During my studies, I recorded the value of friction and this is also a monitoring form. However, plant specific methods are restricted due to ease of data collection and instrumentation capabilities.


Further analyses the data obtained by the Condition Monitoring Engineer.

I have seen Reliability Engineers who started off from other areas. Particularly Rotating Equipment and Condition Monitoring Engineers. I think the best Reliability Engineer should have basic understanding on these two. Thus, analysis of equipment health and sound recommendations could be made.

A reliability engineer estimates and manages the uncertainties and risks of equipment failure. This could be done by statistical methods. Furthermore, these have to be compared against safety and cost parameters, before any maintenance recommendation is made.


What Mechanical Engineers do in E&P

Drilling Engineer

Drilling EngineerThis is in the Exploration and Production (E&P) business.

From a clients’ view, this relates to the design and construction of oil and gas wells. People who involve in design determine the trajectory, types of tools to be used, drilling mud etc. Whilst, the construction stays at site and ensures the planned design is put into action.

From service provider’s view, a drilling engineer could be the one advising the client on the abilities and limitations of the tools and technologies to drill. This also includes specialists of different types of machines or tools.

Though at first instance, this seems not a Mechanical Engineering discipline. I have walked across some Drilling Engineers and a Senior Advisor once remarked, “Mechanical Engineers do tend to pick up things faster compared with Petroleum Engineering Graduates in drilling. This is due to the fact that they are aware of multitude of aspects of physics and energy. For instance, thermodynamics, materials, stress & strain relationship, fatigue failure etc.”

Field Service Engineer

A Field Service Engineer often roves around the clients’ premises. This usually needs a lot of travelling. They have to ensure that their company’s products are repaired or serviced.

A person doing this job will be trained properly by their company. He is highly specialised and knows everything about a single product or service.

However, there is a downside. It may mean that he is lacking in the breadth of knowledge of other products.

I think for anyone to thrive, the most important trait is the perseverance.  This is especially in getting to difficult places and meeting people with different backgrounds, to conduct his job.

Often, the job itself is doable, but the effort to get there are always challenging with the tight schedule and heavy travelling.


R&DI was in research and I have seen many Mechanical Engineers do all sorts of R&D projects.

For example, in the area of tribology. A group of Mechanical Engineers do their research into creating a more competitive machine lubricants. They would want to make a more effective product by decreasing component wear, oil degradation and the lowest friction.

Another example is in the tools. This is where development is focused on creating a better tool which can withstand higher temperature and last longer. An example of application is in drill bits technology.

I have seen large R&D centres with Mechanical Engineers doing stuff that can become a department at a university at its own right.


Did I miss anything? If you are a Mechanical Engineer and work in the Oil & Gas, I would like to invite your story or comments. You may introduce yourself, the type of company you’re working at and tell us what you do.

7 characteristics of successful people who started up global businesses

Successful people


I found out that there are similarities among the successful people who started their businesses which now worth multi million or billion dollars. We shall see the 7 characteristics with some examples.

I was inspired to write what I learnt from reading a book How They Started Global Brands, edited by David Lester, Quest Publications.

I was inclined to pick and choose only a few people or brands to make it short. This also allows information continuity. However, the general points could be related to all successful entrepreneurs.

As such, the characteristics are presented below.


Successful peopleSuccessful People, Characteristic 1: Passion for their products or services

“To be a great motorbike racer, the most important thing is passion for the bike.” Valentino Rossi.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, passion is ‘a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.’ It is also ‘a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way.’

This in fact, explains why passion is always seen as a driver of success. This is what I think is the most important. These are what a few successful entrepreneurs are passionate about:

  • Adolf Dassler, founder of Adidas. He liked extreme sports, built his own ski jump, keen runner.
  • John Pemberton & Asa Candler of Coca-cola. Started creating mixtures initially for medicinal purposes. Sold only 9 glasses a day.
  • Harland Sanders of KFC. He enjoyed applying the cooking skills which he got from his mother. Left school at 12 for trying different businesses. Finally opened a restaurant at a petrol station in Kentucky.
  • James Dyson of Dyson Ltd. He loves engineering product design ‘perfection’, with revolutionary characteristics.
  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple. They were bound due to their passion for electronics, and building their own computers.


Successful people

Successful People, Characteristic 2: Innovative on strong and simple ideas

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. Steve Jobs.

  • Adidas patented shoes for different sports. Each was specially designed for different conditions.
  • Coca-cola was derived from the coca plant and kola nut which is caffeine rich. This was the basis of their product.
  • Harland of KFC found the demand for food. This was when his petrol customers asked for nearby restaurants. He then created the 11 herbs and spices recipe promising a home-cooked feel. With the incorporation of pressure cookers, he managed to expand his business, serving more customers.
  • Despite the saturated market, Dyson innovated a dual cyclone system. It was a breakthrough since the inception of vacuum cleaners in 1901.
  • Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google, innovated a better way of organising links. This was significant when compared with the existing Yahoo! and Alta Vista at that time. It focused on result accuracy, and relevance to the users’ search.


Successful peopleSuccessful People, Characteristic 3: Opportunity seekers


A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Winston Churchill.

  • Adidas used scavenge items from war to create his first products. Started selling products to sports clubs and athletes. Subsequently penetrated the Olympics. Created new products for almost every major sporting event.
  • Coca-cola kicked off by expanding sales to other drug stores, initially in syrups. Ensured Coca-cola brand was hand painted on each bottle.
  • Steve and Woz showcased their first Apple computer design at the Homebrew Computer Club meeting of hobbyists. Found a local shop owner who agreed to resell 50 units, which led to other deals.


Successful peopleSuccessful People, Characteristic 4: Attract and allow investments


Being an entrepreneur is hard. Having supportive and caring investors helps. Fred Wilson.

  • Harland of KFC sold the company to an investment group for $2m in 1963. He remained as an ambassador and quality control custodian. This allowed a global franchising expansion in less than 10 years.
  • James sold rights to manufacture to a Japanese company. Managed to generate the startup of Dyson Ltd.
  • Google duos failed to sell their system to Yahoo! or Alta Vista. However, managed to get Sun Microsystem’s co-founder to write a check due to the strength of their product. They took off thereafter.


Successful peopleSuccessful People, Characteristic 5: Never give up


Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. Thomas Edison.

  • Adidas started immediately after the First World War. Undersized significantly during Second World War but kept on going. This was also despite the sibling dispute which led to separation.
  • A fire destroyed Harland’s restaurant business in 1939. Furthermore, Second World War forced him to close down. He reopened after the war.
  • James Dyson spent 5 years producing 5,127 prototypes under difficult finance before the arrival of his world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner. Also battled legal defenses and copyright issues.


Successful peopleSuccessful People, Characteristic 6: Clear Vision


Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. Jonathan Swift.

  • Produce the best shoe for the requirements of the job, protect the athlete from injury was Adidas’.
  • Committed to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful was Google’s.
  • Starting from Apple II, Jobs focused on delivering a sleek design. Then aimed at ease of use and simplicity, resulting in Mac.


Successful peopleSuccessful People, Characteristic 7: Age is not a limit


Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Mark Twain.

  • Harland Sanders founded the company at 56 years old in 1952.
  • James Dyson started at 45.
  • Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google at 24 and 25 respectively.
  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were at 21 and 26 when they founded Apple.



Successful father of many thriving companies started as simple steps and ideas.

If you have all these 7, then there is a high chance that you will be the next successful business leader.

These characteristics have proven to break boundaries and shall be a tool for anyone to realise his/her ambitions.

All that is required to drive your business are basic qualities, implemented into action.


Take Home Message

I would say, do the best that you can with your unique capabilities. Understand your potential and utilise the 7 characteristics presented above.

Make the intention to solve problems and help everyone around the globe. It seems that the more people you can (or intend) to reach, the more you can learn. Moreover, doors of opportunity will open wide.

I believe when you do good, greater good will come back to you. This is in line with Karma and even Quran made mention of it. Is there reward of goodness aught save goodness? 55:60.


Floating LNG (FLNG) – Technological Advances in LNG

Floating LNG (FLNG)

FLNG is a platform where an integration of a LNG plant with an offshore structure is made possible. This is a relatively new venture which has been in development since the early 2000s.

The pioneers of this has been struggling with some technological limitations. However, recent developments made it just possible for this project to take off.

For example, the transfer of LNG particularly from the FLNG platform to a carrier. This is achieved by using a specially modified loading arm. This arm accounts for the movements of both the FLNG, and the carrier. Mainly, this is due to the sea waves. At the extreme, the loading arm will break at a specially designed weakest link. Furthermore, LNG will be contained immediately and both vessels will be safe.

Other considerations are also accounted for. For instance, the suitability of the equipment to sustain operations during movements. In addition, smaller footprint machines or equipment are preferred to minimise the overall platform size.

The other driver for this venture is the increase in demand for LNG, and the corresponding higher gas prices pre 2014. However, with the recent fall in gas prices, the industry has seen a slight decline in this venture around the world. For instance, Woodside abandoned their plan for a $4bn FLNG.


One will inevitably ask this question and the answer is that it allows the exploitation of stranded fields. It eliminates the need for lengthy pipelines to bring the gas to an onshore plant. Think of the cost saving achieved for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the pipe network.

Also, this mobile plant offers the owner a flexibility on relocating their assets. Probably, this would allow the exploration of a company into new markets worldwide. At the end of a contract, the owner could reclaim the asset by towing it away to a new location. With which, lesser environmental damage and local residents intervention are possible.

Recent Major Projects

The two major FLNG projects are the Shell Prelude and PETRONAS FLNG. Some details are given below.

Capacity (MTPA) 1.2 3.6
Location Sarawak, Malaysia Browse Basin, Australia
Contractor Technip Samsung Consortium Technip Daewoo Consortium
Size L/W/H (m) 365/60/33 488/74/105
Dock inspection (years) 20 20 – 25
Approx. weight (T) 140 000 (DWT) 260 000
Expected production date 2016 2017


Shell Prelude









LNG Future in brief

LNG Future. Firstly, what is LNG?

I shall visit the medium and long term LNG future outlook in brief.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) refers to a liquid which typically contains more than 95% methane or CH4. It is odourless, colourless, non-corrosive and non-toxic.

It results in the cooling of natural gas down to -161 °C. Basically, just as any gas, the Ideal Gas Law states that the volume of air shall decrease corresponding to the temperature reduction. Secondly, at this very low temperatures, the gas will change its phase into liquid.

Thus, with the reduction in volume by 600 fold, storage and transportation are made more effective and viable. Furthermore, since LNG is in the form of liquid, it could be pumped along pipelines or in between tanks. This benefits in terms of the ability of handling a non-compressible fluid, as opposed to the gas phase.

Prior to liquefaction into LNG, the natural gas undergoes various separation processes. This is primarily to remove H2S, CO2, mercury, water and heavier hydrocarbons. Therefore, it is incorrect to believe that the natural gas is “naturally” harmless.


LNG has become a popular energy source. LNG future is considered as the safe and environmental friendly option. This is both for the many developing and developed nations alike.

For power generation, LNG is compared against coal for fuel source. In terms of air pollution, LNG produces 70% less lifecycle greenhouse gases compared with even the cleanest method of coal. Thus, replacing a 500 MW coal plant with a gas plant could equate to removing more than 500 000 cars from the road.

Table 1 evidently shows that natural gas is a winner compared with oil and coal in terms of pollutant emissions. For instance, the significant COx and NOx reduction from gas fuel offers great benefits in terms of environmental friendliness as well as a sustainable energy supply.

Emission Natural Gas Oil Coal
Carbon dioxide 117,000 164,000 208,000
Carbon monoxide 40 33 208
Nitrogen oxides 92 448 457
Sulfur dioxide 0.6 1122 2591
Particulates 7.0 84 2744
Formaldehyde 0.750 0.220 0.221
Mercury 0 0.007 0.016

Table 1. Pounds of Air Pollutants Produced Per Billion BTU of Energy. From Current Status and Perspectives of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Plant Design, Wonsub et. al.

Thus, the LNG future is a very strong candidate for energy source. Especially, in conforming with international emission standards.

LNG Future Business

The demand of LNG has been driven by the main importers, led by Japan. Others are South Korea, China, Taiwan, India, UK, North & South America and many European countries.

Furthermore, despite the lower oil prices around 2013, the LNG future market was still seen as promising. Figure 1 shows that demand for LNG will increase creating a demand for 15 new LNG trains by 2025. This shows, in the long run, decisions to invest in new projects are likely to be accelerated.

LNG Future
Figure 1. Global Gas Model & Global Energy Perspective Model

Environmental Issues of LNG Plants

Greenhouse gases

Although the LNG itself is accepted as the cleanest source of fuel, the production processes are not as green. The sources of emission are a few, and as such, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has mentioned the guidelines on this.

Firstly, an unavoidable emission comes from the combustion of either diesel or natural gas. This is particularly needed for operating the gas turbines or diesel engines for power generation or compression. Furthermore, there are vented gases from processes either intentionally, or unintentionally such as due to plant upset. These are considered as direct impact.

Thus, in countries where the emission is a sensitive issue, this poses a difficulty in kicking off new plant constructions. Project owners will have to choose a design which has the minimal emissions. This could be done in various ways such as using more efficient machinery for compression.

Wildlife Habitat

Just as any platform, refinery or factory, there are always damages caused to wildlife. This is both directly and indirectly, and is more significant in a richer habitat and denser forests.

Take for example, the Pacific NorthWest’s LNG plant proposal on Lelu Island which has sparked a strong nationwide debate. Issues were raised due to the damage that could be done to the local salmon and porpoise habitat.

LNG Future Market Outlook


Since the year 2000, British Columbia province has been emerging as having a huge reserve of recoverable tight gas. This was primarily due to the exploitation of the rock formations, made possible by directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

In principle, the drivers for Canada’s LNG future and current involvement are:

  • Large resource base which is close to the West Coast
  • Canada’s West Coast location allows shorter transportation to Asian markets. Note that the gas prices in Asia has traditionally recorded higher than other markets.
  • Big investments by foreign companies on Canada’s LNG producing prospects
  • Whereas, for the East Coast, the existing pipeline allows the supply to the growing North American industry


The LNG future position in the US is similar to Canada. The technological achievements related to this shale gas exploration was spearheaded by the US, after all.

Shale gas production rose from less than 1.3 Tcf in 2007 to more than 5.3 Tcf in 2010. Furthermore, the source of natural gas coming from LNG also saw an increase from 1% to 23% between the years 2000 and 2010. Thus, LNG will become much more relevant to the US as predicted by the EIA. Particularly when 46% of their natural gas will come from LNG, in 2035.


Recent LNG projects in Australia such as Gladstone, Itcthys, Prelude and Wheatstone are expected to accelerate the growth. Some believe that Australia could emerge as a significant LNG future exporter on par with Qatar.

LNG World Reserves

The list of the top 20 countries with the most proven natural gas resources is given in Table 2 below.

No. Country Natural gas reserves, proved (Tcf) Percentage of world total
1  Iran 1200 21.4
2  Qatar 882 15.8
3  Turkmenistan 617 11.0
4  United States 308 5.5
5  Saudi Arabia 289 5.2
6  United Arab Emirates 215 3.8
7  Venezuela 196 3.5
8  Nigeria 180 3.2
9  Algeria 158 2.8
10  China 116 2.1
11  Iraq 111 2.0
12  Indonesia 104 1.9
13  Mozambique 98 1.8
14  Kazakhstan 84 1.5
15  Malaysia 82 1.5
16  Egypt 76 1.4
17  Norway 73 1.3
18  Canada 66 1.2
19  Uzbekistan 65 1.2
20  Kuwait 64 1.1

Table 2. Proven gas reserves of the world. Showing the top 20 countries. Source World Fact Book 2016.

Let us view two countries that are highly into natural gas and LNG lately.

Firstly, the EIA of US estimated more than 2000 Tcf of natural gas exists. Although, this includes the unconfirmed and undiscovered resources. Therefore, by using the current natural gas consumption of 27 Tcf per annum, gas could last for another 84 years.

Similarly, Australia’s natural gas consumption including LNG exports in 2014 was around 1.3 Tcf. At 132 Tcf, reserve will last them around 100 years. This is also under the condition that the unconfirmed and undiscovered resources are accounted for.

However, note that Australia is currently not considered in the top 20 of proven reserves as in Table 2. Though, this could likely change when future efforts and technologies are able to convert the “unconfirmed” and “undiscovered” resources into “proven.”

These are just some examples on how LNG future position is going to be.






CAPP, 2015, An Overview of the World LNG Market and Canada’s Potential for Exports of LNG- An Update









Crude Oil Chart Trend: Understanding it

The crude oil price chart has been the basis of representation for a lot of factors happening around the world. People could relate it to economics, business, technological or even political developments. Some have been very close to this chart and understand the significance. They might rely on the ups and downs of the chart to earn a living directly. Others might be oblivious but always had an interest in getting to know what the chart is all about. There is always this eagerness to know what and how crude oil chart or prices could impact their lives.

The crude oil chart shows the trend of the market price of crude oil in relation to time. Figure 1 below shows the movement from the year 1940’s to 2016. This post shall discuss some of the basics of understanding the chart’s causes and effects.

Though I will not cover the detailed reasons behind the rise and fall of the trend. This would require a separate discussion altogether.

The timescale could be reduced to months. This is more beneficial for people who are into investment. As much as it is interesting to relate the daily or monthly price changes, it requires a more dedicated and controversial discussion.

Crude Oil Chart

Figure 1. Crude oil chart over 70 years (WTI)

Crude Oil as a Commoditycommodities

A commodity relates to a form of raw material that is available in the market for trade (buy & sell). Basically it consists of the very basic stuff that we see every day such as metals (e.g. copper, gold), corn and coffee. It serves as a major part in our lives and are common items all around the world. It is highly transacted in contract sizes as opposed to shares.

As such, crude oil is also a commodity. It is defined as petroleum as it comes from the ground, before refining. Thus the events that happen prior to the point of extraction of oil plays a large role in the price. This is known as the Upstream, particularly the Exploration and Production.

Furthermore, other factors which influence the Upstream business too, shall be a determinant.

As for all commodities, crude oil is traded either on “spot” or “future” markets. A “future” price for crude oil means prices paid for contracts to secure a projected price. For example, a purchaser buys a futures contract of crude oil at $100 per barrel. This is effective for the following month. Therefore, when the time comes, he has to buy at $100 per barrel, and sell at the “spot” price. This is regardless whether the spot is higher or lower than $100 per barrel.

A “spot” price for crude oil means the price of the latest futures contract that will come due. It is the current market price and subject to fluctuations. Thus, no hedging is available as opposed to the futures.

Generally, all trades have a goal of making profits through the market transactions. This is relevant to both the spot and future market. The end effects of the profit and loss of crude oil are felt differently across the globe. For example, competitors of crude oil in the energy market such as renewable energy. Their company operations and R&D would thrive when the price of crude oil increases. This is due to the masses preferring the cheaper alternative of energy source.

What can a barrel of Crude Oil be used for?

A barrel of crude oil
Figure 2. What can a barrel of Crude Oil be used for

A large percentage of the crude oil will be as gasoline. This is followed by diesel. Obviously any increase in the crude oil chart will directly cause an increase in gasoline prices. Moreover, the cost of refining and transporting the product also add up.