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Career Development
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Given my experience in the recruitment and oil and gas industries, people often ask me about career progression. Often, the assumption is that jumping from company to company is the most rewarding and lucrative path. My response has been that this is not usually the case: There are certainly times where a change will progress you further and faster, but too much movement can become a liability on your résumé that will take years to correct.

According to the Global Salary Guide 2015 by Hays Oil and Gas, 25.6% of the 45,000 survey respondents indicated they had worked for their current company for 3–5 years, and 16.3% for 6 years or more. As a rule of thumb, employers like to see signs of commitment and deep skill development, which typically means staying in a job for 5 years or more.

There is no clear-cut path that will guarantee a more successful career or one that pays more. Your worth is really determined by what value you bring to the role.

Contract Worker: Enjoy the Flexibility

Traditionally, contractors command a higher rate per unit hour or project as the employer does not have to pay the same overhead as a full-time worker, and benefits from having greater workforce flexibility. Choosing specific contracts can help you develop your expertise, creating demand for your skill set based on your specialty area. For example, niche expertise can help you demand competitive pay rates, particularly in areas where there are skills shortages. However, before committing to this path, there are a few things to consider to ensure your career progresses in a manner and at a rate that is going to help you achieve your career goals.

If your objective is to become a subject matter expert, then taking many contracts may be the right path for you. Contracts can provide you with the flexibility to choose exactly what you want to work on, including the location and duration. The trick is to ensure you are choosing contracts based not solely on salary, but that you are creating an asset which you can monetize in the future.

“For a younger person, I think contracting is going to expose you to a much broader range of experiences and potentially make you more valuable to future employers,” says Robert Frow, asset project manager, currently on assignment at a global exploration and production company. Frow has more than 40 years’ experience working in the industry and has spent most of his career on contract project assignments. Frow started with a full-time role as a piping designer and has steadily grown a successful career in project management. Whether it is working on a particular project with a new technology or for a target organization, Frow recommends having a plan of knowing what skills and experiences you need to add value to your résumé and to continue to keep your expertise in demand. Depending on your goals, and if the opportunities are available, aim to select contracts that can help you develop your skills alongside changing market needs, employers’ demands, and industry trends and developments.

Of course, this is often easier said than done due to changes in the industry’s skill requirements as well as economic cycles. The one rule that always applies is to leave each assignment with a positive recommendation, as this industry is small and your reputation for delivering on your promises is your key asset. 

Tenure: Be Rewarded for Loyalty

Another option is working full time for a company over a long period. Tenure can carry a certain amount of prestige and potentially open up opportunities for career advancement and financial gain.

Julian (Jay) B. Haskell, president and chief executive officer of Absolute Completion Technologies, has more than 30 years of domestic and international experience. Haskell has built his industry career with more than 25 years’ experience at Schlumberger, where he held numerous management and technical positions. This provided him with a solid base of business management skills that he still uses while contributing to the successful and continued growth of Absolute.

Haskell believes that “working for the large companies frst is the best training environment, and is key to obtaining a solid foundation in the industry.” Although the career path is usually well established, a variety of career options can be found that will assist you in developing a wide range of experiences.

Large companies often provide the opportunity to work on international assignments. This provides exposure to a variety of cultures and logistical challenges. The experience can be valuable in personal development and provide insight in becoming a leader. Haskell recommends evaluating your standing and advancement after 5 years, and if you find yourself not progressing at the pace you had intended to, then contemplate making a change.

Working for a small to mid-size company, Haskell believes, will provide better exposure to more areas of the organization, which diversifies your skills and expertise. He strongly feels that it is very important to work in cross disciplines in order to understand the big picture. However, should you choose to focus on a specific discipline, this could lead you to becoming a subject matter expert.

Increasing tenure can also lead to increasing benefits. Vacation days, share options, and retirement benefits can be tied to how long you have worked with the business, as can bonuses and perks. Training and professional development are often available only to full-time workers.

It is important to note that the grass is not always greener on the other side. A 2012 survey by Future Workplace (PDF) found that it has been more common for Generation Y workers (also known as millennials) to leave a company after a shorter period of time. However, it is important to make sure that you are leaving for the right reasons. Ask yourself whether you have exhausted all the avenues with your current employer. Have a candid conversation with your boss about what your options are based on your career goals and what you have to do to get to where you want to be. Switching jobs can be risky as you could weaken your résumé if you switch too often. The next role might not be the right ft or could make you vulnerable during industry downturns.

The expectation should not be that the perfect role will fall into your lap, as sometimes you have to prove yourself before attaining the job you want. If regular change and variety is important to you, look for opportunities that offer workplace flexibility, project-based work, or organizations that have sites nationally or globally. If you have itchy feet, these types of companies may have more opportunities for you to explore.

Job Hopping: Find Your Niche

There is a growing belief, especially among younger generations, that having experience working for multiple employers is beneficial. Generation Y, in particular, has a reputation of job hopping—joining a company on a permanent basis, only to leave within 1-2 years (according to the Future Workplace survey). The idea is that this can help expedite your salary increments and increase your knowledge base. While this may be true, this may also generate a negative stigma of not being loyal or committed to any one company.

Landing a new job at a different company can mean an instant salary boost, but it is not guaranteed, particularly when you take the additional risk into account. For example, a job with added responsibility or more demanding work usually comes with a higher salary, but lateral moves rarely provide a significant increase except in times of great demand. If looking to make a move, make sure to target positions in a company with the right cultural ft, which will develop your skills, provide a new challenge, and offer an opportunity for learning, as this is more likely to advance your career in the long term.

The benefits of working for multiple organizations are the different perspectives and holistic view you can develop of the industry. This is also a great way to explore different discipline areas before narrowing in on what you want to do long term. Spending time with a variety of teams can also give you an insight into different company cultures and which is best suited to your working style and preferences.

Whichever path you choose, great salary increases are not often automatically handed out. You will have to prove your worth by bringing the right skills, and attitude, to the table. The most important thing you can do to advance your career is to deliver on your promises and make sure that each employer regrets to see you leave. 

John Faraguna is president of Hays Americas, and global managing director of Hays Oil and Gas. Previously, he has served as president of Xansa North America at Steria UK Corporate. Faraguna joined Xansa in November 2002 from Halliburton, where he served as the president of Grand Basin. He has also held several US-based executive positions with Top Tier Software, Baker Hughes, Arthur Andersen Consulting, and Western Atlas. Faraguna holds a BS in geology and geophysics from Yale University, an MS in geology from the University of Houston, and an MBA from Stanford University.

The Way Ahead is generated by SPE young professional members. TWA editors for this article are Harshad Dixit, Alex Hali, Rodrigo Terrazas, and Avi Aggarwal. For more, visit TWA.

The original article can be found here

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Your Weekly Update: 18 - 22 March 2019

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 18 March 2019 – Brent: US$67/b; WTI: US$58/b

  • Global crude oil prices slipped at the start of the week, as OPEC and its OPEC+ allies met in Azerbaijan to discuss the state of the club’s oil output cuts
  • Crude oil prices had risen prior as on speculation that the OPEC+ group would extend its supply deal, but this was dashed when OPEC+ instead decided to defer a decision until June, scrapping a planned OPEC extraordinary meeting in April because it was ‘too soon to make a decision on extending oil-supply cuts’
  • Observed friction between Russia and Saudi Arabia over the cuts could be behind the delay; Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih is said to be in favour of continue supply reduction through 2019 while his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak said that uncertainty over Venezuela and Iran would ‘make it difficult’ to decide until May or June
  • Other OPEC members have also not expressed any more willingness to extend the cuts, and Saudi Arabia seems to be unusually focused on a united front, rather than strong-arming the rest of the gang to its own aims
  • Some reprieve could be coming for OPEC, as the US Energy Information Administration trimmed its 2019 output forecast by 110,000 b/d to 12.3 mmb/d, seeing a scale-back in smaller shale plays and the US Gulf of Mexico
  • Echoing this, the US active rig count declined for a fourth consecutive week, following up a 9 and 11 rig drop with the net loss of a single oil rig
  • A better prognosis on demand leading into the northern summer and faith that OPEC+ will continue to work towards preventing a major crude surplus from returning should keep crude prices trending higher. We are looking at a range of US$66-68/b for Brent and US$58-60/b for WTI

Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Eni has announced a major oil discovery in Angola’s Block 15/06, with the Agogo prospect joining the Kalimba and Afoxé discoveries, adding some 450-650 million barrels of light oil in place to the block
  • ExxonMobil has delayed its US$1.9 billion, 75,000 b/d Aspen oil project as Canada’s Alberta province continues to grapple with the pipeline bottleneck that has caused a glut of production trapped in the inland province
  • Lukoil had hit a new milestone with the Vladimir Filanovsky field, which has now reached 10 million tons of crude oil supplied through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) system, transporting oil to the Black Sea for transport
  • ExxonMobil is looking to reduce field costs in its Permian Basin assets to about US$15/b, a highly-competitive target usually only seen in the Middle East
  • Eni and Qatar Petroleum have agreed to a farm-out agreement that will allow QP to take a 25.5% interest in Mozambique’s Block A5-A, joining other partners Sasol (25.5%) and Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos (15%)
  • Successive industrial action strikes have begun in the UK, affecting the Shetland Gas Plant and Total Alwyn, Dunbar and Elgin platforms in the North Sea
  • ADNOC has begun planning for an output drive at its Umm Shaif field, which would increase output at the giant field to 360,000 b/d

Midstream & Downstream

  • Shell is planning to restart the Wilhelmshaven refinery in Germany through a deal with terminal firm HES, which will re-convert the existing tank farm into a 260 kb/d refinery that will focus on producing IMO-mandated low sulfur fuels
  • Petronas is offering first oil products cargos from its 300 kb/d RAPID refinery in April, ahead of planned full commercial production in October 2019
  • Lukoil is now planning to invest some US$60 million in its 320 kb/d ISAB refinery in Augusta, Italy to produce high-quality, low-sulfur fuels to meet IMO standards, instead of selling it as previously considered in 2017
  • The Ugandan government has approved the technical proposal for the country’s first refinery in Kabaale, which will run on crude from the Albertine rift basin
  • Kenya expects to have the Lamu crude export terminal operational by the end of 2019, syncing with the start of Tullow Oil’s Kenyan oilfields

Natural Gas/LNG

  • The UK Onshore Oil and Gas body has published updated figures for UK onshore shale potential based on three test sites in north England, estimating that productivity could be at 5.5 bcf per well leading to annual gas production reaching 1.4 tcf by the early 2030s
  • Eni’s winning streak in Egypt continues, announcing a new gas discovery in the Nour 1 New Field Wildcat, which join its existing assets under evaluation there
  • Conrad Petroleum’s development plan for the Mako gas field in Indonesia has been approved by Indonesian authorities, paving way for development to start on the field with its estimated 276 bcf of recoverable resources
  • Ventures Global LNG is planning to double the capacity of its LNG projects – including the Calcasieu Pass and Plaquemines LNG sites in Louisiana – from 30 mtpa to a new 60 mtpa, having already booked all output from Calcasieu
  • Darwin LNG is set to choose the source of its backfill gas by the end of 2019, with the Barossa field more likely to be taken than the Evans Shoal field
March, 22 2019
Technology may be a game changer for future oil supply

Risk and reward – improving recovery rates versus exploration

A giant oil supply gap looms. If, as we expect, oil demand peaks at 110 million b/d in 2036, the inexorable decline of fields in production or under development today creates a yawning gap of 50 million b/d by the end of that decade.

How to fill it? It’s the preoccupation of the E&P sector. Harry Paton, Senior Analyst, Global Oil Supply, identifies the contribution from each of the traditional four sources.

1. Reserve growth

An additional 12 million b/d, or 24%, will come from fields already in production or under development. These additional reserves are typically the lowest risk and among the lowest cost, readily tied-in to export infrastructure already in place. Around 90% of these future volumes break even below US$60 per barrel.

2. pre-drill tight oil inventory and conventional pre-FID projects

They will bring another 12 million b/d to the party. That’s up on last year by 1.5 million b/d, reflecting the industry’s success in beefing up the hopper. Nearly all the increase is from the Permian Basin. Tight oil plays in North America now account for over two-thirds of the pre-FID cost curve, though extraction costs increase over time. Conventional oil plays are a smaller part of the pre-FID wedge at 4 million b/d. Brazil deep water is amongst the lowest cost resource anywhere, with breakevens eclipsing the best tight oil plays. Certain mature areas like the North Sea have succeeded in getting lower down the cost curve although volumes are small. Guyana, an emerging low-cost producer, shows how new conventional basins can change the curve. 


3. Contingent resource


These existing discoveries could deliver 11 million b/d, or 22%, of future supply. This cohort forms the next generation of pre-FID developments, but each must overcome challenges to achieve commerciality.

4. Yet-to-find

Last, but not least, yet-to-find. We calculate new discoveries bring in 16 million b/d, the biggest share and almost one-third of future supply. The number is based on empirical analysis of past discovery rates, future assumptions for exploration spend and prospectivity.

Can yet-to-find deliver this much oil at reasonable cost? It looks more realistic today than in the recent past. Liquids reserves discovered that are potentially commercial was around 5 billion barrels in 2017 and again in 2018, close to the late 2030s ‘ask’. Moreover, exploration is creating value again, and we have argued consistently that more companies should be doing it.

But at the same time, it’s the high-risk option, and usually last in the merit order – exploration is the final top-up to meet demand. There’s a danger that new discoveries – higher cost ones at least – are squeezed out if demand’s not there or new, lower-cost supplies emerge. Tight oil’s rapid growth has disrupted the commercialisation of conventional discoveries this decade and is re-shaping future resource capture strategies.

To sustain portfolios, many companies have shifted away from exclusively relying on exploration to emphasising lower risk opportunities. These mostly revolve around commercialising existing reserves on the books, whether improving recovery rates from fields currently in production (reserves growth) or undeveloped discoveries (contingent resource).

Emerging technology may pose a greater threat to exploration in the future. Evolving technology has always played a central role in boosting expected reserves from known fields. What’s different in 2019 is that the industry is on the cusp of what might be a technological revolution. Advanced seismic imaging, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, the cloud and supercomputing will shine a light into sub-surface’s dark corners.

Combining these and other new applications to enhance recovery beyond tried-and-tested means could unlock more reserves from existing discoveries – and more quickly than we assume. Equinor is now aspiring to 60% from its operated fields in Norway. Volume-wise, most upside may be in the giant, older, onshore accumulations with low recovery factors (think ExxonMobil and Chevron’s latest Permian upgrades). In contrast, 21st century deepwater projects tend to start with high recovery factors.

If global recovery rates could be increased by a percentage or two from the average of around 30%, reserves growth might contribute another 5 to 6 million b/d in the 2030s. It’s just a scenario, and perhaps makes sweeping assumptions. But it’s one that should keep conventional explorers disciplined and focused only on the best new prospects. 


Global oil supply through 2040 


March, 22 2019
ConocoPhillips vs PDVSA - Round 2

Things just keep getting more dire for Venezuela’s PDVSA – once a crown jewel among state energy firms, and now buried under debt and a government in crisis. With new American sanctions weighing down on its operations, PDVSA is buckling. For now, with the support of Russia, China and India, Venezuelan crude keeps flowing. But a ghost from the past has now come back to haunt it.

In 2007, Venezuela embarked on a resource nationalisation programme under then-President Hugo Chavez. It was the largest example of an oil nationalisation drive since Iraq in 1972 or when the government of Saudi Arabia bought out its American partners in ARAMCO back in 1980. The edict then was to have all foreign firms restructure their holdings in Venezuela to favour PDVSA with a majority. Total, Chevron, Statoil (now Equinor) and BP agreed; ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips refused. Compensation was paid to ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, which was considered paltry. So the two American firms took PDVSA to international arbitration, seeking what they considered ‘just value’ for their erstwhile assets. In 2012, ExxonMobil was awarded some US$260 million in two arbitration awards. The dispute with ConocoPhillips took far longer.

In April 2018, the International Chamber of Commerce ruled in favour of ConocoPhillips, granting US$2.1 billion in recovery payments. Hemming and hawing on PDVSA’s part forced ConocoPhillips’ hand, and it began to seize control of terminals and cargo ships in the Caribbean operated by PDVSA or its American subsidiary Citgo. A tense standoff – where PDVSA’s carriers were ordered to return to national waters immediately – was resolved when PDVSA reached a payment agreement in August. As part of the deal, ConocoPhillips agreed to suspend any future disputes over the matter with PDVSA.

The key word being ‘future’. ConocoPhillips has an existing contractual arbitration – also at the ICC – relating to the separate Corocoro project. That decision is also expected to go towards the American firm. But more troubling is that a third dispute has just been settled by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes tribunal in favour of ConocoPhillips. This action was brought against the government of Venezuela for initiating the nationalisation process, and the ‘unlawful expropriation’ would require a US$8.7 billion payment. Though the action was brought against the government, its coffers are almost entirely stocked by sales of PDVSA crude, essentially placing further burden on an already beleaguered company. A similar action brought about by ExxonMobil resulted in a US$1.4 billion payout; however, that was overturned at the World Bank in 2017.

But it might not end there. The danger (at least on PDVSA’s part) is that these decisions will open up floodgates for any creditors seeking damages against Venezuela. And there are quite a few, including several smaller oil firms and players such as gold miner Crystallex, who is owed US$1.2 billion after the gold industry was nationalised in 2011. If the situation snowballs, there is a very tempting target for creditors to seize – Citgo, PDVSA’s crown jewel that operates downstream in the USA, which remains profitable. And that would be an even bigger disaster for PDVSA, even by current standards.

Infographic: Venezuela oil nationalisation dispute timeline

  • 2003 – National labour strikes cripple Venezuela’s oil industry
  • 2005 – Hugo Chavez begins a re-nationalisation drive
  • 2007 – Oil re-nationalisation, PDVSA to have at least 50% of all projects
  • 2008 – ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips launch dispute arbitration
  • 2012 – ExxonMobil awarded damages from PDVSA
  • 2014 – ExxonMobil awarded damages from government of Venezuela
  • 2018 – ConocoPhillips awarded damages from PDVSA
  • 2019 – ConocoPhillips awarded damages from government of Venezuela
March, 21 2019