Fueling the Future: The Convergence of Digitization and Sustainability in Petroleum Education

This article highlights the development of petroleum engineering education at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

Engineering is use notebook check and standing in front of oil refinery building structure in heavy petrochemical industry
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In 1963, the University of Petroleum and Minerals (UPM) was established by a royal decree to meet the needs of Saudi Arabia's emerging petroleum and minerals industries. Over 2 decades, UPM evolved aligning with the nation's economic progress. 

The petroleum engineering undergraduate program began in 1973. Teaching began more than a year later with 12 students. The first petroleum engineering degrees were awarded in 1977. In 1982, an MS program started, and in 1985, a PhD program was approved.

Currently, the institution is recognized as KFUPM in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Situated amidst the Saudi Aramco headquarters and Dhahran Techno Valley, which houses R&D offices of oilfield service companies, the university benefits from industry backing for its academic, training, and research endeavors.

The College of Petroleum Engineering and Geosciences (CPG) was established in 2015 with support from the KFUPM administration and Saudi Aramco. To integrate petroleum engineering and geosciences, these existing departments were brought in under this new college.

CPG maintains a strong connection with the industry, granting access to the resources, expertise, and capabilities of numerous global energy firms. The college actively cultivates valuable partnerships with industry and other universities.

By bringing together the departments of petroleum engineering and geosciences, and creating the Center for Integrative Petroleum Research, the college has focused on fundamental and applied research.

The Petroleum Engineering Program

Since its inception in 1973, KFUPM's petroleum engineering program has evolved. In 2017, the undergraduate curricula was updated to include a geoscience component. In alignment with the 4th Industrial Revolution (IR4.0), digital courses were added to the 2020 BS program. Concentration areas were introduced at undergraduate level, along with professional master's degrees. The program received initial accreditation from the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET in 2009, with its most recent review in November 2021.

Petroleum Engineering Undergraduate Program

Petroleum engineering involves applying fundamental sciences to extract, recover, and process oil and gas. At KFUPM, freshmen and sophomores focus on building a solid foundation in science and engineering, while junior and senior year students delve into specialized petroleum engineering coursework.

CPG's undergraduate programs provide a broad education in petroleum engineering and geosciences. An integrated curriculum covers physics, mathematics, geology, and geophysics, cultivating creativity and research abilities. Graduates are prepared for industry or academia, with flexibility in electives to customize their education for specific goals. As a result of continual program improvements, this program experienced a steady increase in student enrollment (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1—Petroleum engineering undergraduate student enrollment, 2016 to 2023.

The petroleum engineering BS program has consistently updated its curriculum to align with IR 4.0 and digital trends. The university now ranks fourth globally in the 2023 QS World University Rankings by Subject, while KFUPM ranks 160th overall (Fig. 2). The BS in petroleum engineering program is accredited by ABET’s EAC.

KFPUM 2.jpg
Fig. 2—QS World University Rankings 2023 by Subject-petroleum engineering.
Source: QS World University Rankings

Petroleum Engineering Concentrations

In 2020, in line with the initiative from KFUPM, the petroleum engineering department introduced two concentrations: unconventional hydrocarbon resources and enhanced oil recovery. These concentrations meet the IR4.0 requirements, job market trends in oil and gas industry, and are aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. In 2024, the university plans to offer upstream energy sustainability.

This article was sourced from TWA Editorial Board member Murtadha J. AlTammar.