Your Future in Petroleum Engineering Starts at LSU

Louisiana State University
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By Matt Killorin
Last updated on August 9, 2023

Want to study petroleum engineering? International students can get started — and set up for career success — with LSU’s top-10 ranked program.

Louisiana State University

Three international students at LSU wear hard hats while working outside at the PERTT petroleum engineering lab

Petroleum engineers design, develop, and maintain methods of extracting oil and gas from the earth. If you are an international student interested in studying petroleum engineering in the United States, the top programs are in areas of the country that generate a lot of crude oil and natural gas production, such as Louisiana. Louisiana State University (LSU) offers one of the best petroleum engineering programs in the US, with many research opportunities that are not available with any other program. Read on to learn more about petroleum engineering at LSU. 

Why Petroleum Engineering at LSU? 

The Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering at LSU, known locally as PETE, is ranked as the second-best program in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Students who study at LSU take professional courses to learn about oil and gas drilling and production, reservoir engineering, petrophysics, well design, and more. Their STEM-focused classwork is centered around math, chemistry, physics, geology, and engineering sciences. 

“I’m studying petroleum engineering at LSU; this is my third year,” said Georgii, an undergraduate student from Russia. “I came to this petroleum lab to get real field experience, to learn the professional language of petroleum engineering, and to practice using real equipment here in the United States.” 

Many graduates from LSU’s PETE program work in the gas and oil industries as environmental engineers, geophysicists, and even managers. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, petroleum engineers have growing job opportunities after graduation. A petroleum engineering salary is, on average, $137,000 a year. LSU petroleum engineering grads often work for large international energy corporations such as Chevron, Shell Oil, and Halliburton, but also find contract assignments or work for governments. 

Students studying at the Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering at LSU have access to a robust network of alumni at large corporations, small independent consultancies, government agencies, and more. They also benefit from top-notch instructors recognized by the industry, such as Dr. Otto Luiz Alcantara Santos, who received the prestigious regional service award from the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) in 2020. 

In addition to great instructors and a thriving alumni network, LSU offers the only fully functional well facility at any university in the United States, located at the school’s Petroleum Engineering Research & Technology Transfer Laboratory (PERTT Lab). 

What is the PERTT Lab at LSU? 

The PERTT Lab offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for students interested in conducting research related to the petroleum industry with full-scale instruments and equipment. This multimillion-dollar facility was built in the 1980s through grants from the oil industry and the government. 

In addition to classrooms and computer labs, the PERTT Laboratory features the following technical facilities:

  • 15,000 gallon, or 357 barrels of oil (Bbl), capacity water circulating system

  • High-pressure remotely controlled choke manifold system, which includes five chokes of various manufacturers, and a process control system

  • Two triplex pumps capable of 250 gallons-per-minute (GPM) and 500 GPM up to 5000 pounds per square inch (psi)

  • Gas flows up to 10,000 standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) at 5000 psi

  • 2,787-foot (ft.) model well for production or drilling circulation

  • 5,884-ft. model well for bottom supported drilling operations

  • 5,000-ft. horizontal completions pipe flow loop

  • 100-ft. derrick with 100-ft. 12-inch vertical pipe

  • Multiphase flow loop capable of 1.5-million standard cubic feet per day (MMSCFD) of gas and 200 GPM water

  • PASON rig display and driller’s station, full well site transfer Information (WITS) recording of instruments

The PERTT Lab is home to many PETE department research projects at LSU. The department is endowed with more than $1.2 million in research funding for drilling and production projects, most of which happen at the PERTT lab. Some research projects that undergraduate students at LSU work on include: 

  • Downhole Water Sink Technology Initiative: Students help to develop technologies for a dual completed well derived from the hydrodynamic concept of simultaneously producing oil while draining water.

  • Well Control and Blowout Prevention: Students assist with developing technologies for safe handling of high subsurface gas formation pressures during drilling operations.

  • Improved/Enhanced Recovery: Students conduct laboratory experiments and reservoir simulation studies that help locate large volumes of bypassed oil at drilling sites.

  • Environmental Control: Researcher students work to improve and modify oilfield practices and processes to prevent pollution and preserve the environment.

Which Petroleum Engineering Internships Are Available at LSU, and What Are My Career Options After Graduation?

Studying at the only university in North America with its own full-scale well control research and training facility means receiving a hands-on experience that other schools cannot offer — and employers in the industry take notice. Many LSU students intern at top energy firms across the world, such as Pioneer Natural Resources, as well as corporations like BASF, the largest chemical producer in the world. 

Some students go on to earn their graduate and doctoral degrees. LSU offers an MS in petroleum engineering and a PhD in petroleum engineering for students interested in pursuing a career in energy science research. In addition to continued academic education, many graduates decide to get certified by the Society of Petroleum Engineers to demonstrate their credentials as a petroleum industry professional. 

The average starting salary for a petroleum engineering major from LSU in 2015 was $61,000. Based on composite data from the LSU Graduating Student Survey from December 2008 to May 2014, energy and chemical companies represented five of the top 10 LSU student employers. These companies included Albemarle, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, and Shell.

Next Steps for Future Petroleum Engineers

If you are excited to start studying for a career in petroleum engineering, the first step is to reach out to the LSU Global team to put you in touch with the program coordinator to learn more about your prospective course of study and the requirements to enter the program. The LSU Global team can also assist you with specifics about the process of coming to study in the United States. For more information on petroleum engineering in general, check out the Society for Petroleum Engineers student chapter section. 

With a degree from Louisiana State University’s top-10 petroleum engineering program, you will have the hands-on experience that will help you land a great job in a high-paying field. 

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