What do Completion Engineers do? Job Profile and Tasks

My-Spread Forum

These are the most recently active discussions on our industry-leading technical drilling forum:

(It's simple to register, and you can use this resource free of charge)

Jason Lavishttps://ootbinnovations.com
Serial Energy Entrepreneur. Webmaster at drillers.com. Founder of Out of the Box Innovations Ltd. Co-Founder of Natural Resource Professionals Ltd. Traveller and Outdoorsman, Husband, Father. Technology/Internet Geek.

Intro: This article is part of an ongoing O&G Education segment. We’ll not only show an overview of what completion engineers do but feature a list of frequently asked questions on the topic. Over time, this post will be updated to contain the most accurate information.

A plugged well completion ready for production. Th job of completion engineers

What is completions engineering?

Once the wellbore has been drilled, and the cement and lining is in place, the wellhead gets added. The early stages of the well have been completed, and the objective is to have a fully functional well, pumping safely, cleanly, and at an optimal rate of performance.

The stage between the wellbore being completed, and the well operating fully is the well completion stage. This process follows similar steps whether the well is deep on the ocean floor, or land-based. The term applies to conventional drilling, as well as enhanced, multilateral or fractured wells.

Completions engineering involves every aspect of this process, from planning to turning on the taps. At the completions stage, all current data has to be assimilated, such as information about the well pressure, temperature, the reservoir formation and so on. All other departments from the drilling team need to share their data so that a plan is made. Then there is the organising of equipment, deliveries, staff, and the actual work of the completion itself.

What qualifications do you need to become a completion engineer?

Skilled jobs in the oil and gas industry are usually held by either people who have ‘worked their way up the ladder’ or have a relevant degree. If you’ve started at the bottom and already hold a senior role, then you’ll be unlikely to need to read this page. One exception is if you have a non-relevant degree, but have moved into another drilling engineering role through work experience.

For now, we’ll focus on the relevant qualifications that are most suited to the role:

  • Petroleum Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Chemical Engineers

You’ll still need some on the job training of course, but if you’re looking at starting a degree, these are most suitable. The mechanical and chemical variants also have the added advantage of being less industry specific.

A completion engineer job description

Here’s a list of tasks and responsibilities that are likely to be assigned:

  • Designing and supervising the initial well completion
  • Collaboration with the rest of the well delivery team departments, local authorities and regulators
  • Making sure that the well delivery process is within the expected time and budget
  • Well intervention, appraisal and testing
  • Examining and making recommendations to solve well design problems, and to maximise daily output in a safe manner
  • Modelling completion performance, then monitoring the actual result
  • Examining test results, then performing stimulation techniques such as acidizing or fracturing
  • Designing and applying sand control applications such as gravel packing or consolidation
  • Optimising workover plans and operations
  • Complex well design and execution such as multilaterals
  • Designing and preparing for well bore cleanups
  • Determining and ordering supplies and equipment such as the correct type and quantity of cement or tubing
  • Preparing cost estimates and risk assessments as part of the well delivery team
  • Overseeing the physical aspects of the completions plan, keeping an eye on mud logs and other well logs
  • Monitoring practical safety aspects and manufacturers use guidelines supplied with equipment
  • Setting up and early monitoring of flow control and other sensory equipment
  • Adjusting well design, equipment and settings according to the early feedback after the well starts producing
  • Reporting back to head office

This list isn’t exhaustive, and many of these jobs will also be done by other job roles at the same time, or instead of. This will give you a good indication of what the job might entail, but each specific job will involve different duties and specifications.

A senior completions engineer is one that has other people doing the same job as subordinates, the difference being the level of experience and responsibility.

Who does a completion engineer report to?

The completions engineer will work alongside the rest of the well delivery team, including drilling engineers, production engineers, geologists, and reservoir engineers. They will all be responsible for the regular submission if data and reports that will go higher up the chain.

The people who will want to see these reports are the drilling superintendent, project manager, and the executive team at head office.

Is it an office or an on-site job?

It can be either, or often both. For example, you might spend weeks or months in the office creating the plan, ordering supplies, communicating with other departments. Then, a trip to the rig or platform might be necessary, to make sure that the completions are going to plan.

To fly out to a rig or platform in a helicopter, in the wind and rain, looking down at massive crashing waves is not for the faint of heart. This kind of practical aspect can also offer some of the most exhilarating and satisfying parts of the job as well.

Is the job dangerous?

The oil and gas industry has a reputation for being difficult, dirty and dangerous, but these factors vary massively. While applying for a specific completions job, you’ll get to see the details.

There’s a big difference between working in Houston or Honduras, and a bigger one between London and Libya. Likewise, there’s a difference between being office based or being more hands-on.

Location aside, a completion engineer is less likely to be affected by the most common issues, such as mechanical failure or accidental injury, in comparison to a toolpusher or a driller for example. Just be sure to read the work description carefully, and ask your interviewer or recruiter any questions that might affect your work decision.

Whats the difference between a completion engineer, and a completions engineer?

Nothing, completion and completions are the same things. Completion refers to the final stages of preparing a well for production, there are a number of tasks to perform to make that happen. This means that the plural version also makes sense, and/or is preferred by some.

What are the differences between a drilling, completion and subsurface engineer?

A completion engineer and a subsurface engineer are basically the same roles, but some companies use different titles. A drilling engineer has similar skills and training but focuses on the first stage of the process. (From when the drill enters the ground, to when it is ready to be completed). All these job roles are subsets of petrochemical engineering.

What’s a typical completion engineers salary?

According to Glassdoor on their page updated on the 7th of April, 2017, the average salary that was submitted to them ranged from $72,000 to $155,000. (Including overtime and bonuses). This was based on information submitted by 16 sources, from 14 different companies around the world. Variations didn’t seem to be based on country, which is good news for graduates in developing countries. One point to bear in mind is that the starting salary for the job is going to be a lot lower, perhaps around $40-60,000 per year.

There were 2 interesting outliers worth mentioning. There was an hourly interning position of $22-$28, and a completions engineering leader role. A leader will have a number of completions engineers reporting to them. The salary for this role is understandably higher, coming in at $188-202,000.

Is it a stable career?

Historically, completions engineers have been in high demand. A well completion is arguably the most important stage of the process. (Although a fluids and cementing expert might disagree). It’s the link between the reservoir, the wellbore and casing, and the effective extraction of hydrocarbon. If the equipment ordered and installed is incorrect, daily performance will suffer, and the well itself can become unstable.

Because it’s such an important role, people who perform it have always been in high demand, especially those with a good record.

The events of the current few years cast a little doubt on job stability moving forward, It’s likely that drilling activity will continue to experience boom and bust periods. Bear in mind that this type of thing happens in many industries, but at the same time, there is nothing you can do if there are few jobs available. (You can’t decide to drill your own well, whereas you can start on your own as a small builder for example).

Are you about to study a for a new educational qualification?

Are you reading this page because you’re trying to decide what to do with the rest of your life? Are you preparing to go to college or university? If so, then fill your details below so that you can receive the latest information about suitable course options:

 

Intro: This article is part of an ongoing O&G Education segment. We’ll not only show an overview of what completion engineers do but feature a list of frequently asked questions on the topic. Over time, this post will be updated to contain the most accurate information.

A plugged well completion ready for production. Th job of completion engineers

What is completions engineering?

Once the wellbore has been drilled, and the cement and lining is in place, the wellhead gets added. The early stages of the well have been completed, and the objective is to have a fully functional well, pumping safely, cleanly, and at an optimal rate of performance.

The stage between the wellbore being completed, and the well operating fully is the well completion stage. This process follows similar steps whether the well is deep on the ocean floor, or land-based. The term applies to conventional drilling, as well as enhanced, multilateral or fractured wells.

Completions engineering involves every aspect of this process, from planning to turning on the taps. At the completions stage, all current data has to be assimilated, such as information about the well pressure, temperature, the reservoir formation and so on. All other departments from the drilling team need to share their data so that a plan is made. Then there is the organising of equipment, deliveries, staff, and the actual work of the completion itself.

What qualifications do you need to become a completion engineer?

Skilled jobs in the oil and gas industry are usually held by either people who have ‘worked their way up the ladder’ or have a relevant degree. If you’ve started at the bottom and already hold a senior role, then you’ll be unlikely to need to read this page. One exception is if you have a non-relevant degree, but have moved into another drilling engineering role through work experience.

For now, we’ll focus on the relevant qualifications that are most suited to the role:

  • Petroleum Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Chemical Engineers

You’ll still need some on the job training of course, but if you’re looking at starting a degree, these are most suitable. The mechanical and chemical variants also have the added advantage of being less industry specific.

A completion engineer job description

Here’s a list of tasks and responsibilities that are likely to be assigned:

  • Designing and supervising the initial well completion
  • Collaboration with the rest of the well delivery team departments, local authorities and regulators
  • Making sure that the well delivery process is within the expected time and budget
  • Well intervention, appraisal and testing
  • Examining and making recommendations to solve well design problems, and to maximise daily output in a safe manner
  • Modelling completion performance, then monitoring the actual result
  • Examining test results, then performing stimulation techniques such as acidizing or fracturing
  • Designing and applying sand control applications such as gravel packing or consolidation
  • Optimising workover plans and operations
  • Complex well design and execution such as multilaterals
  • Designing and preparing for well bore cleanups
  • Determining and ordering supplies and equipment such as the correct type and quantity of cement or tubing
  • Preparing cost estimates and risk assessments as part of the well delivery team
  • Overseeing the physical aspects of the completions plan, keeping an eye on mud logs and other well logs
  • Monitoring practical safety aspects and manufacturers use guidelines supplied with equipment
  • Setting up and early monitoring of flow control and other sensory equipment
  • Adjusting well design, equipment and settings according to the early feedback after the well starts producing
  • Reporting back to head office

This list isn’t exhaustive, and many of these jobs will also be done by other job roles at the same time, or instead of. This will give you a good indication of what the job might entail, but each specific job will involve different duties and specifications.

A senior completions engineer is one that has other people doing the same job as subordinates, the difference being the level of experience and responsibility.

Who does a completion engineer report to?

The completions engineer will work alongside the rest of the well delivery team, including drilling engineers, production engineers, geologists, and reservoir engineers. They will all be responsible for the regular submission if data and reports that will go higher up the chain.

The people who will want to see these reports are the drilling superintendent, project manager, and the executive team at head office.

Is it an office or an on-site job?

It can be either, or often both. For example, you might spend weeks or months in the office creating the plan, ordering supplies, communicating with other departments. Then, a trip to the rig or platform might be necessary, to make sure that the completions are going to plan.

To fly out to a rig or platform in a helicopter, in the wind and rain, looking down at massive crashing waves is not for the faint of heart. This kind of practical aspect can also offer some of the most exhilarating and satisfying parts of the job as well.

Is the job dangerous?

The oil and gas industry has a reputation for being difficult, dirty and dangerous, but these factors vary massively. While applying for a specific completions job, you’ll get to see the details.

There’s a big difference between working in Houston or Honduras, and a bigger one between London and Libya. Likewise, there’s a difference between being office based or being more hands-on.

Location aside, a completion engineer is less likely to be affected by the most common issues, such as mechanical failure or accidental injury, in comparison to a toolpusher or a driller for example. Just be sure to read the work description carefully, and ask your interviewer or recruiter any questions that might affect your work decision.

Whats the difference between a completion engineer, and a completions engineer?

Nothing, completion and completions are the same things. Completion refers to the final stages of preparing a well for production, there are a number of tasks to perform to make that happen. This means that the plural version also makes sense, and/or is preferred by some.

What are the differences between a drilling, completion and subsurface engineer?

A completion engineer and a subsurface engineer are basically the same roles, but some companies use different titles. A drilling engineer has similar skills and training but focuses on the first stage of the process. (From when the drill enters the ground, to when it is ready to be completed). All these job roles are subsets of petrochemical engineering.

What’s a typical completion engineers salary?

According to Glassdoor on their page updated on the 7th of April, 2017, the average salary that was submitted to them ranged from $72,000 to $155,000. (Including overtime and bonuses). This was based on information submitted by 16 sources, from 14 different companies around the world. Variations didn’t seem to be based on country, which is good news for graduates in developing countries. One point to bear in mind is that the starting salary for the job is going to be a lot lower, perhaps around $40-60,000 per year.

There were 2 interesting outliers worth mentioning. There was an hourly interning position of $22-$28, and a completions engineering leader role. A leader will have a number of completions engineers reporting to them. The salary for this role is understandably higher, coming in at $188-202,000.

Is it a stable career?

Historically, completions engineers have been in high demand. A well completion is arguably the most important stage of the process. (Although a fluids and cementing expert might disagree). It’s the link between the reservoir, the wellbore and casing, and the effective extraction of hydrocarbon. If the equipment ordered and installed is incorrect, daily performance will suffer, and the well itself can become unstable.

Because it’s such an important role, people who perform it have always been in high demand, especially those with a good record.

The events of the current few years cast a little doubt on job stability moving forward, It’s likely that drilling activity will continue to experience boom and bust periods. Bear in mind that this type of thing happens in many industries, but at the same time, there is nothing you can do if there are few jobs available. (You can’t decide to drill your own well, whereas you can start on your own as a small builder for example).

Are you about to study a for a new educational qualification?

Are you reading this page because you’re trying to decide what to do with the rest of your life? Are you preparing to go to college or university? If so, then fill your details below so that you can receive the latest information about suitable course options:

 

24 COMMENTS

  1. Hi there,
    Nice write up and informative. I would like to ask… What is the career path for a drilling fluids engineer (mud engr). Assuming he is a lead engr. This is for one who wants to grow and move up that ladder. There’s a saying that the further you are to the well head the better and the richer you are… So where can he or she venture into… Perhaps drilling engineer, directional drilling and if he wants to work off field where can he put hes skills into and make relevant money?
    Tejiri

  2. Hi Tejiri,

    I’m not sure that careers can be planned quite that easily. Engineering skills that are needed for mud & fluids are different to drilling and directional drilling. I don’t think that you can hop and skip closer to a well head for more money, like you would jump rocks across a river 🙂 Many of the highest earning engineers are also ‘head office based’.

    I think that we can only look at our current status and skill set, and look at the next potential steps based on our circumstances. It’s likely that whatever long term plans you make will not turn out as expected. As long as you’re earning, learning and enjoying your work, it makes sense to be flexible. Your future is more likely to be related to the opportunities that arise, than the plans you made in previous years.

  3. How do you work your way up in this field of work? Also where would be the best place to go to school to learn all the things that i will need in this field? Also where will be the best area to go looking for a job after i graduate.

    Tristan

    • Hi Tristan, completions engineers are a specialised type of drilling engineers. Drilling engineers tend to either have a petroleum engineering degree or have worked their way up through the ranks. Some even come from roustabout or toolpusher positions that are seen more as manual roles.

      The choice of a path would depend on your personal circumstances and wouldn’t be something that I could advise you about. I don’t know how old you are, which country you live in or what qualifications or work experience you already have. Don’t reply and tell me, you should do more research, speak to a careers advisor and so on. Good luck!

  4. Hi Jason,
    I am currently a Field Engineer for a fracing company in the Permian. Is it reasonable for my next step goal to be getting on with and E&P company as a completions engineer? Will I have to do more training (take a minor salary cut, rotate out in the field) before I am technically a completions engineer?

    Also, I appreciate how you mentioned who these engineers report to in your article. Are those the same positions that a completions engineer can get promoted to(Project manager)? Or, are there more options and paths to take?
    -Connor

    • Hi Connor, the answer to all of your questions would be that ‘it depends’. Always remember that each job vacancy will be different, and have unique specifications and requirements. One job advert might say something like ‘Completions Engineer with 10 years of deepwater experience’. Another might say ‘need to be fluent in Chinese’.

      Even on a job advert for a US company in the GOM, you’ll be up against dozens of people that have more accurate experience and knowledge. What I’m getting at is, for any career change or movement you’ll be looking for an opening or opportunity to pounce on.

      If you’re ready for a change, I’d keep an eye open for job vacancies then look at the criteria to see if there’s a chance for you. In your comment, you didn’t say how you became a field engineer, whether you have a petroleum engineering degree, masters degree, or if you came from a different academic discipline. Perhaps you already worked your way up the ranks?

      You’d certainly need more training and could end up with a pay cut or a pay rise. There are just too many variables for anyone to give a definite roadmap for you. If I were you, I’d talk to some older engineers who might give you examples from people they knew over the years. Keeping an eye on job vacancies might result in seeing an opportunity that perfectly matches what you have to offer.

      Cheers, and good luck!

  5. I forgot to include: I have my B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from Texas Tech and I have been a Frac Field Engineer for approximately a year and a half. Does this help narrow down some more specific criteria to look for in a future job?

    • Hi Connor, as with most industries, experience and references beat the type of degree, or even how high your grades were. Roughly half of the high-level senior drilling engineers, drilling superintendents or project managers worked their way up. Sometimes, company owners started as roughnecks or assistant drillers.

      My advice would be to make sure you do a great job where you are, and if you feel like rising up the ladder, keep your eyes and ears open. New opportunities will have a set of requirements that will either fit you or won’t…

  6. Hi Jason,
    I have a degree mechanical engineering and I’ve worked for one year in the tubular/ casing Field does that mean am a completion Engineer?

    • Hi Ernest, I can’t say for sure based on a single sentence but I have to ask… Surely you know your own job title? If you don’t know what your job title is, you can ask HR, or your boss 🙂

  7. Hi Jason, thanks for your great post. Can a subsea engineer become a completion engineer with professional training but no previous experience as a completion engineer?
    Also, money drives wishes nowadays, who earns best among these categories of engineers of the same level: Completion engineer, subsea engineer, drilling engineer?

    • Hi Musty, thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

      If you need previous experience in being a completion engineer to get a job as one, we would eventually run out as the existing ones retire. So of course, you can get a job as one if you have relevant training and experience.

      Completion engineers and subsea engineers are types of drilling engineers. Salary would be based on experience, whether the job is offshore or onshore, size of the project, the seniority of the role etc. You’re likely to find all three job titles at different ends of the pay scale.

      Did I pass your mini brain-teaser test? 🙂

  8. Hi Jason,
    Firstly thank you so much for the information.
    I am currently in my final year of mechanical engineering and I am very much interested in directional drilling but I do not know how and where to start from after completion of my degree.
    Could you please suggest as to how can enter the oil rigs as a fresher and eventually into directional drilling

    • Hi Philip, A mechanical engineering degree is sought after in the oil industry. Much depends on where you live, if you’re happy to move, and the state of the industry when you graduate (it’s cyclical). I’d start to monitor job vacancies. Set up a Google alert for ‘Entry level petroleum engineer job’ and receive new job vacancies to your inbox as Google finds them. Speak to your lecturers and department heads to see if they have contacts within nearby oil companies. Just keep researching and the path will become clear. Thanks for visiting!

  9. Top of the day,

    I studied Physics Electronics for my BSc and hold an MSc in Electronics both in Nigeria, presently working in a financial institution buy want to make a switch to engineering.

    I was thinking of an MSc in petroleum engineering in Canada or Australia.

    Can you kindly advise if that would be a good move.

    I am really bored out at my present job

    • Hi Precious, it’s impossible to say whether this is a good idea for you. The question of what work to do in the future when currently bored is a difficult one. From personal experience, I usually wait and see, while researching more. The answer presents itself in time. Good luck.

  10. Hi Jason,
    Thank you for taking the time to write such an informative article. I’m presently doing my final year in civil engineering and have been interested in the duties of a completion engineer for quite a while. How do I switchover to this field, knowing it needs petroleum engineering mainly? Is there a training I can take on?

    • In the oil and gas industry, there tends to be a split of roughly 50/50 between people that studied for a specific role and those who moved sideways or worked their way up. Even among Rig managers, superintendents and company CEOs, there are half that studied a course like petroleum engineering, and those that moved from another type of engineering or even started as a roughneck (an entry-level labourer).

      You can definitely apply for oil jobs with company training included, although you might have to work your way up over time. You might get a lower level job in comparison to staring in civil engineering right from university. This is all hypothetical though, as the most important factor is to see what jobs are available, and what they’re looking for in a candidate. For any job, you’re up against other people, and there might be those better qualified or more experienced also competing.

  11. Hi Jason
    I’m Zan, Love your write up. Well, I have a few question on subsurface engineer (from what I read, it is a completion engineer). Well, I have B.E Chemical, M.E Chemical and currently work a lot with data and statistical analysis for my Phd in Engineering. I’m interested to join the O&G sector and maybe work in this sector as a new path of my career. Did subsurface engineer involved with the data analysis? or are there any other relevant position in O&G sector that are relevant with data analysis? , what about RTO(real time optimization) engineer?

    • Hi Zan, Firstly, I’m not an expert in this area. I researched the article and then wrote it, quite a while ago. There are a few points I can offer, though. First, a subsurface engineer isn’t necessarily a completions engineer; they might get involved at any stage of the process. Most chemical and engineering jobs in the oil industry are heavy with data analysis. My advice would be to look at actual job vacancies, rather than posing hypotheticals. The job adverts will explain what’s involved, and what will be needed from you. Good luck.

  12. hello Jason, I am an Aerospace Engineer with mechanical engineering training as well. I currently work as a roustabout in a jack up rig ,but I wish to grow quickly as am well educated. I am looking to join the drill team in the next 3 months as a floor man, but I don’t wish to stay there more than required, as I am looking to take my IWCFLV2 examination as soon as I gain the needed knowledge while on the drilling team. My questions is thus what are other training and certification that can aid my path quickly to become a driller and what do u think about a carer shift as a drilling engineer (completion engineer to be exact ) Thanks and Happy new Year.

    • Hi Herbert, thanks for stopping by. We don’t give personalised career advice, but it looks like you’re on the right track. Usually, training and certification come with the job, through your employer. Since you’re already a Roustabout on a fast track to being a Floorman, your company will advise what training and certifications are needed. As for a move to completions engineering, I don’t see why not, but one step at a time. Good luck.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest articles

BEYOND VIDEO-CONFERENCING and TECHNICAL FACILITATION SERVICE

  After starting in October and November 2019… The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world in the first few months of 2020....

COVID-19 PIVOT: Virtual Well On Paper Workshops

  (Written by Dave Taylor, the owner of rp², with input from Jason Lavis) A REAL Change In an industry well over 100 years old, examples of...

Making the Invisible Visible – Delivering Clarity

  Cost Saving through Operational Optimisation Without exception, every Operator has the potential to reduce their operational costs significantly. I don’t think anyone would argue with...

Nigeria Oil Industry Overview

The Oil Industry of Nigeria If anyone asks Chevron or Shell, for example,  how they feel about Nigeria, the response would probably be that they...

What It’s Like To Work On An Offshore Oil Rig

  Working on an offshore oil rig or platform is a unique experience Note: In this article, we'll use the word 'rig' and 'platform' almost interchangeably,...
Malcare WordPress Security