Ashkan Alijani, P.Eng., M.Eng.
“My dad is a civil engineer and my brother is a structural engineer,” the 30-year-old petroleum engineer explains. “My grandfather on my mom’s side is a civil engineer as well. I think I was trained to be an engineer growing up.”
But the environment around him in his native Iran also played a major role in his career path selection.
“There are a lot of engineers [in Iran] and the problem-solving mind-set is ingrained in your head at a very young age. So that’s when I started feeling that engineering would be a great discipline for me.”
For Ashkan, it’s this way of thinking that defines engineers—and sets them up for success.
Petroleum engineering at Shell Canada
Ashkan and his family moved to Canada from Iran in 1998, but not before his interest in petroleum engineering had already been sparked.
“I remember being a kid and understanding that the economy of Iran really revolved around the energy sectors; and I got really interested in that,” he recalls.
“One of my most vivid memories of Iran is travelling through the southwestern part of the country where all the oil and gas fields and refineries are located, and I remember seeing those and thinking that one day I wanted to be part of the energy sector and support the future growth of the economy .”
The energy sector is exactly where Ashkan is involved with today. After completing his Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Chemical Engineering along with a Minor degree in Commerce, at the University of British Columbia, he joined Shell Canada Ltd in Calgary, AB, as a reservoir engineer in 2008. He later decided to further his education and earned a Master’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Calgary with the support of Shell and while still working full time
He is now a Business Analyst with Shell, generating field development planscenarios, as part of a multi-disciplinary team of subsurface and surface professionals, to evaluate various options and recommend the optimal economic plan to develop Shell’s resources.
“What we’re trying to do, at the end of it all,” he explains, “is to explore and identify potential oppportunities, and work alongside various organizations to develop these resources in the most sustainable manner in order to support the future growth of the energy sector.”
In doing so, Ashkan works with people from various disciplines and cultural backgrounds to problem solve and develop a plan that incorporates everyone’s input.
“I’m a pretty extroverted person and I really enjoy connecting with different people. What I really enjoy about the role is when we have a problem to solve, we work together as a team to get to a solution.”
The engineering mind-set
Ashkan also does a lot of work with his alma mater, UBC, through Shell’s Campus Ambassador program, which provides support to post-secondary institutions in Canada with the aim of developing and attracting the best and brightest students. Furthermore, he has represented Shell as a judge at the Canadian Engineering Competition for the past five years.
Ashkan interacts with engineering students a lot, imparting his wisdom to them as they embark on their engineering careers.
He impresses upon them the importance of taking part in a co-op or internship program to kick-start their career—which is how he himself landed his job at Shell, interning as a reservoir engineer after his third year at UBC during the summer break.
But most of all, Ashkan talks to the students about the engineering mind-set, and the importance of applying the skills they’re learning at university.
“As you become an engineer,” he explains, “it’s not all about what you learn in class. It’s not just about the tests and the books and passing the classes; it’s actually about learning the skills that will help you with your career in the future.”
“You’re getting trained to think a certain way, to be innovative, to be a problem-solver and to try to do what’s best for the people you’re serving.”
And this element of community service is what makes Ashkan proud to be an engineer.
“Engineers are very dedicated people, and all of us are proudly wearing the Canadianengineering ring to represent our profession across the world. We’re able to find innovative solutions to support progress, and strive to impact the world in a positive way. In my mind, that’s what engineering is all about.”
“If you’re interested in problem-solving, if you like to be innovative, if you have an analytical mind-set, then engineering is a really great place for you.”
–Ashkan Alijani, P.Eng., M.Eng.
Petroleum engineers play a key role in extracting and refining the many of the resources that fuel our modern society.
The work of petroleum engineers spans the production process of oil and gas, from exploring and developing new oil and gas fields; to surveying, evaluating and testing wells; to directing and monitoring the plans, programs, equipment and machinery used in oil and gas drilling operations; to researching and developing new, more cost-efficient methods for extraction.
Petroleum engineers will work with geologists and other specialists to understand the geologic formation of the rock that contains oil and gas deposits. Using this information, petroleum engineers will then determine the most efficient, cost-effective drilling methods to extract that oil and gas from the reservoir, and will design and implement the drilling methods, equipment and machinery, and monitor their operation. Petroleum engineers continue to evaluate data from the extraction of oil and gas to predict the performance of the reservoir, design optimum recovery methods, and extend the economic life of the wells. They are constantly researching and developing new ways to recover oil and gas in order to lower the cost of drilling and production.
Petroleum engineers perform some or all of the following duties:
- Conduct feasibility assessment studies for developing new oil and gas fields
- Direct and monitor oil and gas drilling operations
- Develop drilling programs, select sites and specify drilling fluids, bit selection, drill stem testing procedures and equipment
- Direct and monitor the completion and evaluation of wells, well testing and well surveys
- Design and select artificial lift machinery, and well and surface production equipment and systems, and specify programs for corrosion control and oil or gas treatment
- Develop specifications for and monitor and supervise well modification and stimulation programs to maximize oil and gas recovery
- Analyze reservoir rock and fluid data to design optimum recovery methods and to predict reservoir performance and reserves
- Monitor and forecast oil and gas reservoir performance and recommend oil recovery techniques which extend the economic life of wells
- Design, develop and co-ordinate the installation, maintenance and operation of subsea well-head and production equipment.
The conventional oil industry in Alberta is the largest employer of petroleum engineers in Canada. With growth in the conventional oil industry slowing over the next five years, the requirement for petroleum engineers in new positions is limited. However, the average age for petroleum engineers is rising in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. Replacement of retiring engineers will be critical for the petroleum sector in Alberta and, to a lesser extent, in Newfoundland and Labrador.
- A bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or in a related engineering discipline, preferably from an accredited engineering program, is required.
- A master’s degree or doctorate in a related engineering discipline may be required.
- Licensing by a provincial or territorial association of professional engineers is required to approve engineering drawings and reports and to practise as a Professional Engineer (P.Eng.).
- Engineers are eligible for licensure following graduation from an accredited educational program, and after three or four years of supervised work experience in engineering and passing a professional practice examination.