As I See It text
A new industry workforce
Oilfield jobs have taken a stunning hit, but the drive toward digitalization and a low-carbon future will create new opportunities for the industry’s workers.
A new industry workforce
(Source: kentoh/Shutterstock.com)
A new industry workforce
(Source: kentoh/Shutterstock.com)
A new industry workforce
Oilfield jobs have taken a stunning hit, but the drive toward digitalization and a low-carbon future will create new opportunities for the industry’s workers.
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y any measure, and by any lens through which it is viewed, the number of job losses in the oil and gas industry has been staggering. According to a recent report by the Petroleum Equipment and Services Association (PESA), layoffs in the oilfield services (OFS) sector linked to pandemic-related demand destruction hit more than 103,000 in August. Producers have laid off tens of thousands more. Texas, the country’s leading oil producer, has been hit the hardest with some 50,000 job losses, more than the next six states with the most layoffs combined.

If there is good news to be found in all of this, it is that the industry layoffs are beginning to plateau. Between January and May, the OFS sector saw nearly 85,000 layoffs. But from May to August, the sector has seen just under 20,000 job losses, according to PESA.

There is, of course, optimism for 2021. The hope of a vaccine and an expected increase in global energy demand mean that many jobs could return next year. But what will those jobs look like? In many ways, the jobs that were lost might not be the same ones that return.

PESA President Leslie Beyer said as a result of an emerging reliance on remote operations, artificial intelligence and digitalization, there will be a “new-looking workforce in oilfield services.”

“We’ll be looking for a little bit different kind of person, one that has the skills to work in data and automation,” she said.

Although it might not be a priority now, technologies that enable the energy transition are going to play an increasingly significant role in energy company operations while offering new job growth opportunities.

“As you see more people talking about the energy transition and reducing their environmental footprint, it’s a bright spot for oilfield services because we develop the technologies that are going to achieve that,” Beyer said.

The macro-evolution of the oil and gas industry is quite easy to recognize—from what are now considered crude tools in the early 20th century to today when entire drilling operations are conducted by computers and robots. And up until just a few years ago, the micro-evolutions were, if not hard to spot, practically nonexistent. For many years, the practices of drilling, completing and producing a well, with notable exceptions, largely remained unchanged. What worked before still worked, and there was just no good reason to change.

But thanks to COVID-19, the evolutionary accelerator has now been pushed to the floor. Of course, there will still be jobs in the field—rig platforms will still need rig hands. But years from now we may look back on this summer and see that the oil and gas industry shed its skin, emerging anew.

Brian Walzel Signiture
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Brian Walzel
Technologies that enable the energy transition are going to play an increasingly significant role in energy company operations while offering new job growth opportunities.
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