Is Oil and Gas Production a Good Career Path?

Finding the right job path can be a challenging process. Seeking out a career that is the right combination of something you enjoy, as well as something that fits your skill set and financial needs and provides job security, is a challenging feat.

In your search, oil and gas production might be an industry you come across. Is it a good path?

The oil and gas industries are a massive part of the energy market and serve a huge purpose in the global economy, as they are the world’s primary fuel sources.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about the industry, what jobs it entails and whether or not it is a good career path.

The history of the oil and gas production industry

Oil and gas have been fueling civilizations for centuries. Ancient civilizations would harvest petroleum or crude oil, depending on the location, and use the resources for:

  • Waterproofing.
  • Construction.
  • Lighting.
  • Heat.

In modern history, technology has driven techniques for harvesting petroleum, natural gas and oil.

In 1859, Edwin Drake was credited for completing the first drilled oil well for the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company. This invention changed the industry forever and sparked considerable competition in the industry.

The modern oil era experienced massive shifts, especially as natural gas and oil were no longer in demand after the invention of electricity. Luckily, the industry was able to make a quick shift to heating, cooking and automobiles.

A juggernaut in the industry was the Standard Oil Company, founded by John D. Rockefeller. At one point, the company controlled almost 80% of the market, and the 1909 anti-trust laws forced the company to split up into smaller organizations.

By 1940, three of those companies and four international companies dominated the market so intensely that they were called the “Seven Sisters.”

The Seven Sisters of the oil industry were:

  1. Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon).
  2. Standard Oil of New York (now Mobil).
  3. Standard Oil of California (now Chevron).
  4. Royal Dutch Shell.
  5. Texaco.
  6. Gulf.
  7. Anglo-Persian (now BP).

The industry continued to change throughout the twentieth century as companies fiercely protected their resources and saw growing profits.

Countries began nationalizing their companies, oil supply and prices were increasingly affected by politics and war and a consistent amount of volatility became the new normal.

Oil and gas organizations

Because oil and gas is a worldwide industry, several types of organizations look to regulate and organize the industry’s inner workings.

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

OPEC was created at the Baghdad Conference in 1960 and serves as an intergovernmental organization. Its goal is to coordinate and regulate policies with its member countries to develop a more stable market for producers, investors and consumers.

Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF)

The GECF is another organization that aims to create a better, more fair and consistent framework for its members.

The international member countries include:

  • Algeria.
  • Bolivia.
  • Egypt.
  • Iran.
  • Libya.
  • Nigeria.
  • Qatar.
  • Russia.
  • Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Venezuela.

International Energy Agency (IEA)

The IEA was created in 1974 in direct response to the oil crisis. When it was first made, its goal was to create stability by reducing supply disruption.

The IEA still holds that goal and requires its members to provide ninety days of immediate access to oil reserves. In addition, the IEA has expanded its focus to cover energy issues, security and environmental awareness.

Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC)

The OAPEC was formed in 1968, and its members are limited to Arab countries that produce petroleum. The OAPEC is determined to increase member cooperation and continue developmental activities.

International oil and gas organizations

There are several international oil and gas organizations, which include:

  • World Petroleum Council (WPC).
  • World Energy Council (WEC).
  • International Gas Union (IGU).
  • Gas Technology Institute (GTI).
  • International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL).

National oil and gas associations

There are several national oil and gas associations, which include:

  • National Gas Council.
  • American Petroleum Institute (API).
  • American Gas Association (AGA).
  • Independent Petroleum Association of America.
  • Interstate National Gas Association of America.
  • Natural Gas Supply Association.

Types of oil and gas companies

The above oil and gas organizations help oil and gas companies organize and operate peacefully. But there is more than one oil and gas company type; there are three.

The three types of oil and gas companies are:

  1. Upstream.
  2. Midstream.
  3. Downstream.

Upstream

The industry’s upstream sector deals with exploratory activities, like securing land rights and creating geological surveys, as well as production activities, like offshore drilling, onshore drilling and fracking.

  • Offshore drilling: This method uses one fixed or secured platform, bottom-supported or secured by anchors respectively. Offshore drilling is a more expensive process, and the equipment is also more costly.
  • Onshore drilling: Wells are grouped in fields to discover crude oil or natural gas. The wells are connected through steel tubes that transport the crude oil or natural gas to a facility for production and processing.
  • Fracking: Fracking uses a technique that uses a high-pressure liquid to extract oil and gas from parts of wells that rigs cannot reach.

Midstream

The midstream portion of the oil and gas industry covers the middle. Midstream processes include:

  • Transportation: Tankers, pipelines, barges, railroad, tank trucks and tugboats.
  • Storage: Underground spaces, above-ground tanks, retail locations (gas stations) and tanker ships.
  • Trading.

Downstream

Downstream includes two factors: refining and marketing.

Refining is the process of transforming crude oil into various petroleum products that are needed for heat, fuel and many plastic products.

Marketing is the distribution, wholesale or retail, of refined petroleum products. These products go to public consumers, businesses, the government and other industries.

Pros and cons of working in oil and gas production

The pros and cons of working in oil and gas production will ultimately depend on your position. However, look below at some general advantages and disadvantages of working in the industry.

Pros of working in oil and gas production

  • Pay scale: The annual median wages for employees in the industry range from $46,990 to $157,040 based on occupation. Because of the nature of the industry, many employees do not work for a full twelve months, making the earnings even more impressive.
  • Benefits: Many positions work on a rotational basis, meaning workers get extended leave between their shifts. Additionally, the oil and gas industry generally provides substantial health care for its workers because of the job’s requirements.
  • Education and training: Many companies provide free training, certification and other education programs to help their employees rise through the ranks. In addition, safety is of the utmost importance in the industry, so training is easily accessible and often mandatory.
  • Growth opportunities: Many parts of the industry are based on experience rather than expensive higher education degrees. This provides more opportunities for employees to advance into managerial positions.

Cons of working in oil and gas production

  • Long hours: Because many workers are on rotation, the shifts are incredibly long. Many industry workers are on the job for eighty hours per week.
  • Time away from home: Extended leave also means extended time away from home. It can be a demanding lifestyle, especially for workers with a family.
  • Potentially dangerous: Many industry jobs require hard manual labor. Also, potentially dangerous environments and hazardous materials or situations can occur.

5 oil and gas careers to consider

There are hundreds of different job types in the oil and gas industry. To get a better idea of the jobs that may be available, take a look at the five below.

1. Geoscientist

  • Job description: Geoscientists study the physical aspects of Earth, such as its composition, atmospheres and oceans, to learn more about oil, gas, minerals and underground water.
  • Mean hourly wage: $77.55.
  • Mean annual wage: $161,310.

2. Petroleum engineer

  • Job description: Petroleum engineers work on methods and designs to extract gas and oil from the Earth. They generally work at drilling and well sites.
  • Mean hourly wage: $62.91.
  • Mean annual wage: $130,850.

3. Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators and gaugers

  • Job description: These workers control and operate units for refining and processing. Their job is to regulate oil flow in pipelines through controls and testing.
  • Mean hourly wage: $38.14.
  • Mean annual wage: $79,340.

4. Roustabouts, oil and gas

  • Job description: These workers use their skills and tools to assemble and repair oil field equipment.
  • Mean hourly wage: $26.94.
  • Mean annual wage: $56,030.

5. Wellhead pumpers

  • Job description: These workers are in charge of power pumps and auxiliary equipment. It is their job to ensure the equipment produces the proper flow of oil or gas from the wells into the oil fields.
  • Mean hourly wage: $33.55.
  • Mean annual wage: $69,780.

The bottom line: Is oil and gas production a good career path?

Oil and gas production has thousands of opportunities for people all over the globe. These positions are essential occupations that keep the world’s economy flowing.

Some occupations in the industry have a low barrier to entry because many positions do not require college degrees and many companies promote from within.

While some risks, potential hazards and health concerns are involved in the industry because of the nature of most tasks, it should be something you genuinely consider before mentoring.

As you choose which industry is right for you, you must consider all details and logistics of each occupation.

After your research, if you decide that the oil and gas production industry provides more pros and cons with a career path that catches your eye, then oil and gas production is a good career path for you.

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