Defining Reservoir Engineering

Defining Series

Grey rock texture

Reservoir engineering is a discipline devoted to the ultimate source of value to E&P operators—the reservoir. Through reservoir modeling studies, reservoir engineers endeavor to increase hydrocarbon production and maximize exploration and production assets.

The volume of oil and gas produced from a reservoir ultimately determines the economic viability of the asset. Reserves calculations—a primary responsibility of reservoir engineers—predict the total hydrocarbons available for extraction.

After reservoir engineers calculate hydrocarbons in place, they apply recovery factors to determine the ultimate recovery potential. These calculations are performed throughout the life of a field to help engineers create field development plans, well proposals, recovery procedures and reservoir management programs.

Production simulation.
Production simulation. A reservoir engineer takes static and dynamic data (left) and develops input for a reservoir simulator (middle left). The reservoir simulator, whose primary task is to analyze flow through porous media, calculates production profiles as a function of time for the wells in the reservoir. These data are passed to a production engineer to develop well models and a surface network simulator (middle). A facilities engineer uses the production and composition data to build a process plant model with the help of a process simulator (middle right). Finally, data from all the simulators are passed to an economic simulator (right) to help the operator decide on the next course of action based on the risks and profitability of the project.


Richard Nolen-Hoeksema, Editor


Oilfield Review



When a field is appraised, the reservoir engineer is part of a team that evaluates geologic, geophysical, geomechanical, drilling, completion and well data, which are integrated into a plan to optimally produce the reserves. In addition, reservoir engineers model fluid dynamics in the surface piping networks that transport produced hydrocarbons from the wellbore to production facilities.

A Defining Series article “Reservoir Engineering” explains the basic concepts of reservoir modeling and describes the various rock, fluid, and production data that enable more accurate prediction and evaluation of fluid flow in reservoirs. 

Learn more about reservoir engineering and about becoming a reservoir engineer.