May 23, 2018

Why join a shrinking, sunset industry?

Why indeed?  One of the consequences of crude falling by over 50% in value from a year ago, and sub-$50 crude values briefly sustained in January this year, has been an almost universal response by oil companies and service providers to the oil and gas industry to severely cut back investments, cancel projects and slash jobs.  On the face of it, this is not a good time to join the industry.

Yet I can remember way back in 1973 when I first joined this vibrant, adaptable industry the Yom Kipper war, together with OPEC’s embargo on oil exports to the USA, the UK and the Netherlands rocked international oil companies out of a cosy 3% compound year-on-year growth forecast in their sales volumes and values.  From that one pivotal moment when OPEC first flexed its power and held some of the most powerful nations in the world to a ransom on the availability of crude oil, the industry was forced to change, to meet the new challenges and to adopt.  Those same international oil companies are still largely here, some 40 years later, delivering vital fuels that make the global world what it is.  And employing less people to do so.

James Milne
James Milne

My name is James Milne, Module Leader here at GSM London on both undergraduate and postgraduate oil and gas courses, and as you have gathered, I joined the oil industry in 1973 and have spent almost all of the intervening years in the downstream sector.  I joined Texaco in those days, not to joining the oil industry per se, but to benefit from the extensive sales training offered.  The changes I have witnessed in my career are too numerous to even summarise in this blog, but the industry has always been a shrinking one – employing fewer people to do the same work as before.

Technology has certainly helped and catalysed such changes, but oil companies have been proficient over many years of divesting their own headcount, only to re-engage those same services, often with the same personnel.

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