What they do
Petrophysicists study and analyse the chemical and physical properties of oil and gas deposits, including the surrounding rocks and soil. They collect and examine data about these reservoirs including, rock density, pore pressure, electrical and acoustic properties of the rock and the level of radioactivity. The data they collect can be used to estimate how porous the rocks are, the volume of oil and/or gas present and whether it can be extracted. Petrophysicists play a vital role in the search for and recovery of new oil and gas reserves, and are involved in the management of mineral resources from initial exploration right through the appraisal of deposits to development and production management.
Petrophysicists usually work for oil and gas mining companies, either in offices or in the field. Fieldwork is frequently in remote locations, particularly in the state's North-West, or on offshore drilling platforms. When conducting fieldwork, the hours of work can be long and often include working evenings and on weekends, in most weather conditions. Petrophysicists working in an office environment generally work standard business hours, though overtime may be required, particularly during operations. A large part of their work is done on computers.
Tools and technologies
Petrophysicists use rock samples and electrical measuring equipment, inserted into boreholes, to collect data. This data is then analysed and integrated using computers, often with specialised software. The techniques for analysing and interpreting data are constantly developing, and most petrophysicists will develop new techniques, or modify existing ones, that are best suited to the particular reservoir being examined. When in the field they must follow strict safety guidelines, which includes wearing personal protection equipment at all times. This may include overalls, boots, safety goggles, a hard hat and gloves.
How do I become one?
Education and training
To become a petrophysicist or petrophysical engineer, you usually need to complete a science degree with a major in petroleum geoscience, geology or physics, or a degree in engineering with a major in oil and gas, or petroleum engineering. You may need to complete further postgraduate study to specialise in petroleum geoscience, oil and gas or petroleum engineering.
Petrophysicist or petrophysical engineers generally have to gain significant practical experience in oil and gas exploration and development.
Many major oil and gas industry employers offer petrophysics to engineering graduates during their initial graduate program, thus providing on the job training within the organisation.
Some universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.