School of Mathematics and Statistics Maths & Statistics Careers

Laura White

Petroleum Engineer
Graduated 2001

I graduated from Melbourne University at the end of 2000, with a combined Mechanical Engineering and Science (Mathematics) degree. Woodside Offshore Petroleum offered me a position soon after – not as a mechanical engineer, but as a petroleum engineer because they were impressed by my strong mathematical background and felt this ideally suited me to being trained as a petroleum engineer.

The three years since I first joined Woodside have been spent on a rotational graduate program. Through my first year I was a reservoir engineer, working mainly on reservoir management activities and some reservoir modelling. Second year saw me move into Production Technology, which is working with the wells themselves. I was fortunate to spend some time on one of the large offshore gas platforms in the North West Shelf of Western Australia while some significant well interventions (which I’d planned and prepared) were being carried out.

This year I’m working as a petrophysicist, which involves studying and interpreting data obtained from specialised tools lowered down the well. From this data, I endeavour to build an understanding of rock and fluid properties throughout the entire field. I was given responsibility for a new well that was to be drilled, including determining the appropriate logging program (which measurement tools were appropriate to run), the quick look evaluation (a course analysis of the data as it is acquired, to give initial indications of how successful the well has been, and drive decisions about what else to do with the well before plugging and
abandoning it), and finally the detailed analysis of the well.

My mathematics background has been invaluable to me in my job. It helps me particularly with understanding and generating appropriate reservoir, well and rock property models. Given the large uncertainties inherent in dealing with large fields over which limited data is available, sensitivity analysis and understanding uncertainty becomes very important. But perhaps a less tangible advantage of a mathematical background is the clear, logical, rigorous approach to problem solving, which I’ve discovered can be applied in almost every aspect of my job.

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