Pondering over why I chose this line as my specialization for my undergraduate degree, the timing couldn’t have been worse, to be very honest, as it involved the mentally cumbersome process of self-introspection, looking in retrospect at all the driving forces for my decision which like many others I have come to doubt and question. As I write this, the entire fossil fuel industry is perhaps at its nadir. The industry is amidst one of the worst downturns it has ever seen after the oil price collapse of the 1980s, thousands of skilled and unskilled workers who depended upon the oil patch for their livelihood find themselves out of a job and the prices which after its lowest ebb in quite some time rose only to fall again as many analysts shall say (P.S.-pessimism abounds reality). I won’t go into the details for explaining the reasons for all this because that’s not what I’m writing about today. After all, it’s a long story with too many twists and turns. Now you might be thinking why I’m mentioning all these, well it is just to contextualize all the reasons that I may give amidst all these rumblings that surround us.
Well first let me give you an idea of where I stand today. I was selected at the Logging division of an Oilfield Services company as a Field Engineer only to be put on hold till the oil prices improve, secured a good rank in GATE 2016 only to realize that most PSUs might not recruit this year after all due to reasons which you all might know too well. I stand with an offer as a system engineer in an Energy vertical division of a Software services firm which similar to others like me I wasn’t willing to take. So you now know how things have been going south and why I’m inclined to question the very basis of those decisions and ideals that drove me back when I chose this line of study. Mind you, but I’m not saying I regret my choices, I indeed am proud to be a petroleum engineer.
Well with that prologue, let me tell you how I came to choose petroleum engineering after all. Everything began when the results of the engineering entrance exams were declared. The story before that is more or less the same for most people. With results good enough to secure an admission into any of the reasonably reputed institutes like the NITs, IIIT, JU, BITS etc. but not IIT good, I had a lot of options in hand. Then why I chose this discipline after all, you might think. Well to begin with, I have always been good at STEM subjects so at that time I had this reasonably confident belief that I’d be able to do well no matter which course I chose, cause the base on which each and every one of them is built is essentially the same with few differences maybe. This was followed by the urge to do something different, which very few choose to do, a specialized course with suitable opportunities at excelling. A brief salary research back then showed the stats we all know and have heard (but mind you which I’ve never witnessed myself first hand) that the median salaries of Petroleum engineers tend to be the highest among all engineering disciplines. As you all shall note Petroleum Engineering as a discipline is comparatively unheard of India. A basic search in Wikipedia talked about the responsibilities of such an engineer and I remember being particularly enamored by the description of Reservoir Engineering in that page which combined Geological Knowledge (a subject that I loved since we were taught its basics under Geography in School) as well as different methods in Science and Technology. Moreover the common picture of offshore rigs and work in remote places showing this as an adventurous discipline where you get to go to new places was no less an attraction.
Weighing all that I mentioned above with the cons this discipline might present such as committing myself to a line where the chances of diversification was indeed a genuine concern. Other contentions were mostly based on what we most commonly hear and study about fossil fuels ( anyone remember about Environmental Education topics in School) as well as the pop culture references which commonly have a negative connotations (think of “There will Be blood”, Rockefeller-Standard Oil, Iran’s Mossadegh Crisis, 1973 Oil Crisis, Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabian politics, Deepwater Horizon… ) representing a world which is ruthless and dominated by money guzzling oligarchs, dictators etc. Moreover reality is not so stark I surmised back then as we always tend to look at the worst instead of focusing on the good. The moral dilemma of not being complicit in spreading black liquid ‘evil’ and contributing to climate change, never really figured. So the cons couldn’t tip the scales against my decision to take up this line. Moreover many of my peers shall recall that the oil prices back then were at their highest levels in recent times and all things looked rosy. Moreover with one of my father’s colleagues working at one of India’s biggest organizations recommending the university (which I eventually studied in) and we ourselves being awestruck by the beauty of our university campus and its facilities I was all set to pursue my ‘dreams’ in this stream. And so I did.
Well this was how I came to adopt this as my chosen discipline. Do I regret my decision? No, I don’t. As a petroleum engineering student I have got opportunities which have helped shape my personality and skills over and above my academic work (which through my efforts I believe I did reasonably well in). The Society of Petroleum Engineers has been the greatest help in this regard, which has given me a scholarship to complete my studies, allowed me to attend conferences where the best minds of this sector congregate, helped me make connection with peers and elders in India and around the world. So tell me, what more can I student ask for after all. It’s not like other industries are not beset by downturns, after all bad times too are great learning opportunities. So well to those who have worked hard, but haven’t received what they think is their due, don’t be discouraged, take heart and soldier on brother!!! Hard work never goes unpaid…..
B.Tech (Petroleum Engineering),
Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gujarat, India.