Gustavo Hernández García
Sub-Director for Planning and Evaluation
Pemex E&P
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View from the Top

Introducing a Certification for Petroleum Engineers

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 08:56

Q: By default every petroleum engineer has a degree in petroleum engineering, what will CIPM’s certification add?

A: It is a question of degrees. For example, once a civil engineer has completed her degree, she is free to exercise her profession. But not all civil engineers in Mexico can sign off on a construction plan. Only those certified in the profession have the right to sign. The same is true in medicine; although anyone with a medical degree can practise medicine in Mexico, only those certified by the Surgeon College of Medicine are approved to perform surgery in the country.

We intend to have our certification in place by the first quarter of 2012 and expect that for those that obtain it, it will provide recognition of their talent and offer an advantage in the market place. Countries like Canada have already adopted certification along similar lines for their petroleum engineers.

In the past, Mexico had only four academic institutions that offered a petroleum engineering degree: National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the National Polytechnic Institute, the University of Olmeca in Tabasco, and the University of Nuevo Leon. Right now, we have between 15 and 20 academic institutions that offer this degree, some of them offering part-time classes that lead to a degree within three years. Bear in mind that it usually takes at least four years of full-time classes to obtain a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, with another year for a master’s degree. Obviously, these part- time students are not as well qualified as those that have studied full-time.

Q: Graduates from these programmes will not be certified by CIPM?

A: Initially, the CIPM contacted the Education Ministry and asked them to cancel the licenses of these institutions offering part-time degrees. However, according to the national education policy, the Education Ministry cannot put a barrier on a school offering public programmes. Instead, it was the Education Ministry that suggested we take the step of certification as an alternative.

At the same time, we are promoting the certification process in all Mexican institutions, so that they design their programme accordingly and guarantee that their graduates will get certified. We recommend updates and improvements to the programmes that will enable students to receive a certification. We want to improve the level of each academic programme to make sure that all the petroleum engineering programmes in the country will meet a minimum requirement to get the certification.

Q: What does this certification mean for international petroleum engineers? Will they have to be certified in the future?

A: Yes, if they want to work in Mexico, they will have to be certified. Many petroleum engineers from Mexico cannot work in the United States or in Canada, because they have to be certified by the professional authorities there.

Q: What is the response of international service providers operating in Mexico to this plan?

A: In most cases, there will be no problems with petroleum engineers from US universities because their skill levels make them competent enough to perform the assigned job. But it is a different story for professional petroleum engineers that come from Latin America. Halliburton, for example, brings engineers to Mexico from Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.

A good example is that when the current Venezuelan administration effected sweeping changes at PDVSA, many of the company’s former employees came to Mexico looking for employment and were hired by international service companies. Although these people have a lot of experience and are highly skilled, they lack the minimum standards of qualification necessary to work there. For this reason, we are pursuing our certification standard, to ensure that everyone working as a petroleum engineer in Mexico meets minimum standards.