What Is a Petrochemical Engineer?

A petrochemical engineer is a kind of chemical engineer that uses math and science to break down molecules in crude oil to make simpler components. Some of the chemicals that result from these simpler components include methanol, benzene, plastics, lubricating oils and butane polymers.

Petrochemical engineers make useful and valuable products out of raw materials. Petrochemical engineers are involved in the initial step of locating natural sources of oil, the oil extraction and refining it. The last role that petrochemical engineers play in refining petrochemicals is crucial because oil can only be used when it is refined.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary of a petrochemical engineer in May 2010 was $127,970. The highest paying states according to the May 2010 report include North Dakota and Alaska. In order to become a petrochemical engineer, one has to earn a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering or a similarly related engineering field. After earning the appropriate degree an individual has to register as a professional engineer in order to practice.

The core subject areas of a petrochemical engineering degree program include reaction engineering, heat transfer, mass transfer, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics and transport phenomena. Some petrochemical engineers go on to get an advanced degree in a more specialized area.