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Major for oil refinery career

  1. Apr 7, 2013 #1
    I am 21 years old starting college at Florida State University. I want to major in engineering but don't know what field of engineering will lead to a career in oil refining. The university does not offer petroleum engineering. I would like to work on the management side so Industrial engineering seemed very attractive. I know chemical engineering would be ideal I personally don't find the course work appealing. So im down to industrial, mechanical, or civil. Any advice or help?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2013 #2


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    Chemical engineering or chemical physics would be appropriate for one if one was interested in the processes going on within the systems. Mechanical engineering/structural (civil) engineering would be appropriate if one is interested in the piping (liquid transport including pumps and valves), reactor vessels, storage tanks and supporting structures. Electrical engineering would be appropriate for one if one was interested in motors and instrumentation & control systems. Industrial might be OK.

    What aspect of petroleum refining is of interest?
  4. Apr 9, 2013 #3
    As someone who has worked with refineries (I work with a rotating equipment manufacturer) for several years, most of the engineers I've worked with have been either Chemical, Mechanical, or Electrical. You run across Civil every now and then, but most of the ones I've met worked for outside contractors such as Bechtel/Jacobs, Fluor, etc.

    As said above, if you're interested in the actual refining processes, Chemical is probably the way to go. As you've said you don't really like the coursework for chemical, so my personal feeling would then be mechanical or electrical, preferably mechanical.

    1) Nearly every process in a refinery is controlled by an electro-mechanical device.
    2) Our knowledge of structures, while not quite at a CE level, allows us to analyze piping systems and towers, etc.
    3) Turbines, compressors, and pumps. There are literally thousands of these in some plants. And they break, requiring mechanical engineers to supervise failure reports, repair plans, operation plans, etc.
  5. Apr 10, 2013 #4
    Thank you both for your timely reply. Im pretty sure I'll go with civile because it seems to deal with the many different production processes such as transportation and designing these processes.
    How does one go about preparing for a career in college to work in that field as a civil engineer? Internship would be ideal but most engineering firms in my area are bridge builders.

    I also see that industrial engineering fits into the mold of creating more efficient ways of doing things. What are your thoughts?
  6. Apr 11, 2013 #5


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    Talk with one's faculty members. Also do some research on what companies operate refineries, and what architect/engineering (AE) firms provide services to refinery operators. bigaggie already named a couple.

    Meanwhile, one should focus on a Civil Engineering program, but look at courses in Industrial Engineering that might support one's goals.
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