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Curtin students get a petroleum engineer’s perspective on work in oil and gas industry

Miri – 21 June 2019 – The Department of Petroleum Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering and Science of Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) hosted an industry talk by Abel Tan, a senior reservoir engineer at Sarawak Shell Berhad, for its students recently.

The talk, entitled ‘Life in an Oil and Gas Company from the Perspective of a Reservoir Engineer’, covered pursuing a career in petroleum engineering, the future of the global oil and gas industry, and knowledge and skills needed to join the industry.

Tan described the work life of a petroleum engineer and elaborated on the roles of petroleum engineers in field development. According to him, petroleum engineers could take on various roles, including reservoir engineers, drilling engineers, completion engineers, production technologists and petrophysicists.

He said that the scope of petroleum engineers is actually quite wide as they are involved in almost every phase of operations and lifecycle of fields, from exploration, appraisal and development through to production, secondary and tertiary recovery, and abandonment. 

He also stated that employment opportunities for petroleum engineering graduates will increase as the demand for energy continues on an uptrend worldwide.

“There will be many activities to meet the growing energy demand from developing countries, particularly in Asia where rising standards of living and household income will drive more consumption,” Tan commented.

Replying to questions from the students about the future of the oil and gas industry, Tan said there will still be demand for oil and gas as the main sources of energy for the foreseeable future. Oil production will remain high, and demand for gas is expected to continue rising over the next 20 years.

Another topic of particular interest to the students was the concept of machine learning, which Tan said is likely to be the future trend in field development and reservoir and production management.  

“The conventional solution is to use a reservoir simulator as a function evaluator, which requires massive computing power. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are increasingly being used for better decision-making and multi-scenario modelling based on the huge amount of data that has been acquired in the last few decades,” said Tan.

He encouraged the students to learn as much as they can about such concepts as it could be a distinct advantage for them in their future careers as petroleum engineers.

Tan also encouraged them to develop good teamwork skills as most industry activities involve working in teams and with people from different engineering disciplines. In addition, they should join the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and participate in its activities to develop soft skills such as leadership, communication and teamwork.  

Lastly, he emphasised that the job market for petroleum engineering graduates is very competitive and that the students should acquire all the necessary knowledge and skills to enhance their employability and be impressive at job interviews.

In thanking Tan for his contribution to the students’ learning, Head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering Associate Professor Hisham Ben Mahmud said that the talk was highly beneficial to the students, enabling them to enhance their practical understanding of operations in the oil and gas industry and careers in petroleum engineering.

According to Associate Professor Hisham, industry talks, study visits and other forms of practical learning are critical to the petroleum engineering course at Curtin Malaysia as they help the students connect what they learn in classrooms to real-life industry applications.

Curtin Malaysia offers Curtin University’s four-year Bachelor of Engineering in Petroleum Engineering (Honours) which covers a wide range of subjects that are core to the petroleum engineering field. It was initially developed in collaboration with global players like Chevron, Woodside, Shell, BHP Billiton and BP, and since its introduction at Curtin Malaysia in 2011, has been further refined to meet the needs of the Malaysian oil and gas sector with input from oil and gas companies operating in the country.

The course is double-accredited by both Engineers Australia and the Board of Engineers Malaysia and by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency. It remains one of the most popular engineering courses at Curtin Malaysia and graduates are immediately employable in the oil and gas industry upon graduation. Curtin Malaysia also offers the Master of Petroleum Engineering by coursework that can be completed in 18 months of full-time study. For more information on the petroleum engineering courses, visit

For more information on Curtin Malaysia, visit its website (, its Facebook page (CurtinMalaysia), Twitter profile (curtinmalaysia), Instagram (curtinmalaysia), YouTube channel (Curtin Malaysia) or LinkedIn page (Curtin Malaysia).

Tan and Associate Professor Hisham (7th & 8th from left) and students pose for a group photo following the talk.