Petroleum geology is a specific field of geosciences that addresses the origin, distribution, exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas resources. Petroleum geoscientists include many types of specialties such as petroleum geologists, exploration geophysicists, geochemists, sedimentary geologists, structural geologists, and paleontologists.
Petroleum geology involves the analysis of 1) source rocks that are rich in organic matter – the source of oil and natural gas, 2) geological structures and stratigraphic layers that permit accumulations of petroleum to form in the subsurface (traps and seals), and 3) the characteristics of porous subsurface rock formations that store oil and natural gas (petroleum reservoirs).
Petroleum geology is exciting because one uses many different types of data such as rock cores from wells, well logs that provide information about the rock and fluid properties, and 3D seismic images, all of which are used to develop 2D and 3D maps and models of the subsurface and the distribution of petroleum resources, and to calculate volumes of oil and natural gas that exist in different areas (petroleum reserves estimates).
Petroleum geology students have a variety of interests:
The School of Geosciences, Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering, and Oklahoma Geological Survey have historically had strong programs and a global reputation in petroleum research and education spanning more than 100 years (e.g., the world’s first School of Petroleum Geology was founded at OU, development of exploration seismology). Petroleum geology is an important part of the School of Geosciences and OU:
For the B.S. degree in Geology (Petroleum option), courses are the same as the General geology option but also include several petroleum-related courses:
For example, some of the fundamental geology courses you will take include:
You will also take courses that are required for the petroleum option:
For the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Geology, there are many petroleum-related courses to advance your knowledge and skills.
There are several very active student geoscience and engineering organizations in which you are encouraged participate. Check them out:
For more information on student organizations please visit OU ENGAGE.
Petroleum geologists pursue careers in the petroleum industry (both operations and research), state and federal government, academia, and secondary education. Careers and opportunities exist with small and mid-size independent petroleum companies, major petroleum companies, petroleum service and consulting companies, state geological surveys, national government laboratories, the United States Geological Survey, universities, and high schools. The type of career depends on the degree you earn and your experience level. You can pursue careers in petroleum geology with B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees.
Typically, if you earn a B.S. degree in Geology (Petroleum option), there are opportunities in the petroleum industry, government, and secondary education in the following petroleum-geology or geoscience roles:
If you earn a M.S. or Ph.D. degree in Geology or Geophysics, there are more opportunities available to you in the petroleum industry, government, and academia in the following petroleum-geoscience roles:
Visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website to explore the median pay for jobs you can pursue with this degree.