Alahdal A. Hussein

Petroleum Engineer / Founder at Oil Industry Insight
Last Updated: February 1, 2017
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Career Development
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As the rally in oil prices continues to drive oil prices toward $60/bbl due to the support from OPEC and non-OPEC oil deal, many people may start to think that the good old days of high oil prices will be back soon. And that means, more spending, higher salaries, more jobs and less suffering. To those people I say, don't be excited, it may get worse before it gets better.

The last two years have been pivotal to the oil and gas industry. Many things were redefined; $50/bbl is the new $100/bbl, USA is the new swing producer in the making and it will play a critical role in keep oil prices low, competition for market share is no longer among conventional oil producers only, unconventional resource producers are now in the game and their presence will continue to grow with time. All these changes tell us something that is, the oil industry is evolving and what is after 2014 will never be the same as what was before 2014.

If the oil industry is changing in such a fast pace, how about you? Are you changing as well, or are you just staying the same and expecting old strategies to bring you better result in such a changing industry. Because if you are doing that, I promise you, you will be out of the oil industry before you even know it.

In this article, I will share with you three skills that you need in order to mitigate the current changes in the oil industry. These skills will help you overcome the challenges arising from the current low oil price reality and whatever bad events that might happen in the future.

1- Adaptability


One of the main reasons that resulted in many companies going out of business and filing for bankruptcy in the last two years is the fact that they could not adapt to the new reality of low oil prices.Whether youare a business owner,an employee, or someone who is planning to join the oil industry, you should understand that adaptability is an important factor for your survival and success in the oil industry. Why adaptability is important in the oil and gas industry? Here are two reasons;

1- The oil and gas industry is a fast-changing industry

The change in the oil industry is not only driven by rapid changes in technology, new types of resources and the new challenges associated with it, but it is also driven by unexpected events and changes in geopolitics which could turn the oil industry up-side-down just like what happened back in 2014. To survive in such an ever-changing industry, you need to be flexible and agile. You need to be able to accept changes, stay clam and confident, adapt, plan and respond fast to these changes.

2- Adaptability is key to survival and success in your career

Adaptability is an important quality that employers in fast-changing industries such as the oil industry seek to have in their employees. Take a look at the jobs' requirements of many oil and gas companies, you will find that adaptability is one of their top requirements. Schlumberger is one example. For other companies, even if it is not written there in their website, they expect you to have it.

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One of the job requirement as shown in Schlumberger's website

The nature of work in the oil industry requires you to be adaptable. You will work in different projects, with different teams and different challenges every time. Adding to these challenges, projects that you will be working on will have tight deadlines which makes it even more important to be able to adapt fast. To become successful in your career and to meet exceptions, you need to be open to new ideas, flexible to work in challenging issues, and you need to be able to cope when things don't go as planned.

2- Managing Change


Change management is the second most important skill after adaptability. Why? Because, for you to adapt, you need to change. In other words, you can't adapt to the changes around you if you don't change. But it seems that change is not easy. This is why we see many people are left behind when they are faced with difficulties and hardships. Most of the time, we all face the same problems and same challenges, so why do some people seem to be unable to change a simple thing in their life, while others seem to sail smoothly through the changes they face in their life?

The answer is very simple. Change itself is not hard, in fact, it is easy. What is hard is accepting the uncertainty associated with change. What makes the change hard is how we view it, how we manage it, and how we cope with its uncertainty. As human, what is most stressful and challenging for us is the uncertainty associated with the change not the change itself. And there is where we waste most of our time.

When a bad event takes place in our life, the cycle of our reactions goes as follows. We first go through the denial stage in which we deny what is happening. Then we enter the second stage which is the anger stage. In this stage our confidence is down and we feel angry because we keep thinking about the negative consequences of the change. After sometime, we enter the exploration stage where we try to explore new direction. Then comes the acceptance stage where we finally accept what happened and seek encouragement to move on and change.

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The Change Curve

Anyone who faces change as a result of bad events, he/she will go through the full curve of change above. The only difference between those who manage to change fast and adapt and those who are left behind is how long it takes them to go through each stage of the change curve. Many of us get stuck in the first or second stage of the change curve for a long time and there is where troubles happen and we become unable to adapt and therefore get left behind and fail.

For example, when the layoff wave took place in the past two years due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry, many of those who were laid off failed to react fast to the change they were facing. They didn't believe it at first, and many of them spent one and a half year waiting for things to get better, but it didn't. It only got worse. Many of those who were laid off didn't take the decision to move on, to learn new skills, to change their career path or even to work in other industries because they didn't believe what was happening. They kept waiting with a hope that things will change fast instead of changing themselves. And many ended up wasting their time and some still do.

How to manage change?

Being able to manage change effectively will prevent you from wasting your time on things you will regret later in life. It will help you to overcome difficult situtaions that you might face in the future. It will also help you to stay ahead of the competition and here is how you can do it:

1- Embrace change


How to embrace the change? Don't waste your time worrying about things that you can't change. Instead, spend that time thinking about the the things you can change and how you want to change them. It is hard to let go of worries, but ask yourself one question. What is the point of getting stressed over thing you can't change? Does your worry change anything? If it does not, then stop it.


2- Plan to change the things you can and do it fast

Once you let go of your worries and stress over things you can't change, then start planning to change the things you can change. Be realistic, and stop worrying about uncertainty. It is only fear in our minds, it does not exist. Plan your change and do it fast.

3- Marketing and branding yourself


The recent changes in the oil industry has resulted in many oil and gas companies cutting their spending to weather the effects of low oil prices. One way to achieve that is by reducing the number of their workforce through layoffs and slowing down recruitment activities. That means, there is a high demand for jobs, but the supply is too low and this in turn created a downturn in recruitment activities and the consequence is a high competition for less jobs. In such an environment, the question is always about how to stand out of the crowd and secure the job you want or keep the one you have and avoid being laid off.

There are many things you can do to stand out of the crowd such as writing irresistible CV and cover-letter, educating yourself and staying up-to-date with the industry events, developments and new technologies, connecting with people in the industry, building relationships, having professional memberships and volunteering in activities and events to gain experience. All these things will add value to you and help you stand out, but what is the point of doing all these things if you can't show them to your potential employers. It is like having a great product and the worst marketing strategy, you end up selling nothing.

What is the point of doing all these things if you don't use them to sell yourself, market your skills and competencies and create a brand for yourself. By marketing and branding here, I don't mean doing that on CV, because no matter how good is your CV, you only send it to few companies and due to the high number of applications as a result of the high rate of unemployment, the chances of your CV getting noticed is too low. What I am talking about here is the online marketing and branding.

For me, online marketing and branding is the best type of branding, because you only have to work hard on it for one time and it will continue to promote you even when you are sleeping. It will even promote you to companies you never knew and others whom you never thought of sending your application over to them. That is the power of online marketing and branding.

How to market and brand yourself?

1- The first steps

The first steps are the initial steps that you should go through in order to develop a strong personal brand. These steps involve defining youroverall aspirations, conducting research, defining your brand attributes, assessing your current state and creating your branding plan.These are the initial steps that you should go through to get you started. Here is agreat article by Lisa Quast on Forbes which will walk you through these steps in more details.

2- Select a platform

Once you are done with the first steps, it is time to find the platform where you will be doing all the branding. To brand yourself, you need a platform, and since you are in the oil industry, you need a platform that is fully dedicated for oil and gas professionals. One of the choices you have is NrgEdge. It is a new oil and gas professional platform, dedicated to oil and gas professionals, and it has many features to help you brand yourself. Other platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media platforms are also a good place to start. In the coming days, I will share an article explaining how to brand yourself in social media based on my personal experience, stay tuned.

3- Continue to Improve

Marketing and branding is not a one time job. Things change and improve, and you too. You will cultivate new skills and gain new experiences. When that happens, you need to update your online profiles. Allocate a time every month to check your online profiles for improvement and updates. As you grow and improve, you will find things to improve.

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The Strait of Hormuz and Oil Prices

The UK has just designated the Persian Gulf as a level 3 risk for its ships – the highest level possible threat for British vessel traffic – as the confrontation between Iran with the US and its allies escalated. The strategically-important bit of water - and in particular the narrow Strait of Hormuz – is boiling over, and it seems as if full-blown military confrontation is inevitable.

The risk assessment comes as the British warship HMS Montrose had to escort the BP oil tanker British Heritage out of the Persian Gulf into the Indian Ocean from being blocked by Iranian vessels. The risk is particularly acute as Iran is spoiling for a fight after the Royal Marines seized the Iranian crude supertanker Grace-1 in Gibraltar on suspicions that it was violating sanctions by sending crude to war-torn Syria. Tensions over the Gibraltar seizure kept the British Heritage tanker in ‘safe’ Saudi Arabian waters for almost a week after making a U-turn from the Basrah oil terminal in Iraq on fears of Iranian reprisals, until the HMW Montrose came to its rescue. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps have warned of further ‘reciprocation’ even as it denied the British Heritage incident ever occurred.

This is just the latest in a series of events around Iran that is rattling the oil world. Since the waivers on exports of Iranian crude by the USA expired in early May, there were four sabotage attacks on oil tankers in the region and two additional attacks in June, all near the major bunkering hub of Fujairah. Increased US military presence resulted in Iran downing an American drone, which almost led to a full-blown conflict were it not for a last-minute U-turn by President Donald Trump. Reports suggest that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps have moved military equipment to its southern coast surrounding the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which is 39km at its narrowest. Up to a third of all seaborne petroleum trade passes through this chokepoint and while Iran would most likely overrun by US-led forces eventually if war breaks out, it could cause a major amount of damage in a little amount of time.

The risk has already driven up oil prices. While a risk premium has already been applied to current oil prices, some analysts are suggesting that further major spikes in crude oil prices could be incoming if Iran manages to close the Strait of Hormuz for an extended period of time. While international crude oil stocks will buffer any short-term impediment, if the Strait is closed for more than two weeks, crude oil prices could jump above US$100/b. If the Strait is closed for an extended period of time – and if the world has run down on its spare crude capacity – then prices could jump as high as US$325/b, according to a study conducted by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre in Riyadh. This hasn’t happened yet, but the impact is already being felt beyond crude prices: insurance premiums for ships sailing to and fro the Persian Gulf rose tenfold in June, while the insurance-advice group Joint War Committee has designated the waters as a ‘Listed Area’, the highest risk classification on the scale. VLCC rates for trips in the Persian Gulf have also slipped, with traders cagey about sending ships into the potential conflict zone.

This will continue, as there is no end-game in sight for the Iranian issue. With the USA vague on what its eventual goals are and Iran in an aggressive mood at perceived injustice, the situation could explode in war or stay on steady heat for a longer while. Either way, this will have a major impact on the global crude markets. The boiling point has not been reached yet, but the waters of the Strait of Hormuz are certainly simmering.

The Strait of Hormuz:

  • Connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman/Indian Ocean
  • Length: 167km
  • Width: 96km (widest) to 39km (narrowest)
  • Controlled by Iran, the UAE and Musandam (Oman)
  • The conduit for 33% of all LNG trade and 20% of total crude oil demand
July, 16 2019
Your Weekly Update: 8 - 12 July 2019

Market Watch 

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 8 July 2019 – Brent: US$64/b; WTI: US$57/b

  • Bolstered by the renewed OPEC+ supply pact but rattled by increasing tensions between Iran and the US, oil prices started the week steady after gaining over the previous week
  • With the OPEC+ supply deal extended to March 2020, focus will now shift to adherence and in particular, Russian commitments to the agreement that previously wavered over 1H19
  • More critical to the market is the escalating standoff between the US and Iran around the Straits of Hormuz and even beyond; British forces seized an oil tanker off Gibraltar that was suspected to carrying Iranian crude to Syria, drawing share criticism from Iran
  • Iran itself confirmed that it was raising its level of nuclear enrichment above levels agreed to in the 2015 deal that ended sanctions, and accused European signatories to the deal of ‘not doing enough’
  • Iranian forces also confronted a British tanker escorted by a warship in the Persian Gulf, with the narrow channel now a flashpoint for action
  • As a recipient of Middle Eastern crude, China has also raised security levels for its vessel passing through the Straits of Malacca after doing the same for the Straits of Hormuz, raising some eyebrows
  • While the confrontation – or lack of – between the US and Iran will be the main driver behind oil prices movement in the second half of 2019, the trade policies of the Trump administration that may now hit secondary Asian manufacturing nations such as Vietnam is also leaving the global economy increasingly fragile
  • Against this backdrop, the US active oil and gas rig count fell again, dropping five oil sites and gaining one gas site for a net loss of four rigs
  • As the Iranian situation deteriorates, the market will be pricing more risk premiums into traded prices, which should inch up towards the US$65-67/b range for Brent and US$59-61/b for WTI

Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Marathon Oil has completed the sale of its UK businesses to RockRose Energy, handing over the Brae and Foinaven area fields for US$345 million
  • Despite pulling out from the UK North Sea, ConocoPhillips is still active in Norway, recently submitting a new plan to re-develop the Tor field in Great Ekofisk, which was shut down in 2015 despite only 20% of resources extracted
  • In a bit to boost national production, Nigerian independent Aiteo Eastern E&P has announced plans to spend up to US$15 billion over the next five years to drill new wells and re-visit existing assets
  • Eni and Vitol have been awarded rights to Block WB03 in the offshore Tano basin in Ghana, with Eni holding 70% and expanding its presence in the country
  • Total has approved Phase 3 development at the onshore Dunga field in Kazakhstan that will increase capacity by 10% to some 20,000 b/d by 2022
  • Eni has launched production from the Mizton field in Mexico’s Bay of Campeche Area 1 – the first new offshore new field development by an international firm since reforms in 2008
  • Halliburton and Kuwait Oil have signed an agreement to explore for oil offshore Kuwait which makes Kuwait’s first foray in offshore upstream services
  • Energean Oil & Gas has purchased Electricite de France’s Italian unit for US$850 million, gaining assets in Egypt, Italy, Algeria, Croatia and the North Sea to complement its existing fields in Israel and Greece

Midstream/Downstream

  • China will be launching a new low-sulfur bunker fuel oil contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange by the end of 2019, just as new IMO regulations on marine fuel oil sulfur content caps kick into effect in 2020
  • Just as American crude production hits new highs, American refining capacity has also reached a new record high of 18.8 million b/d
  • China has issued a new round of crude oil import quotas for private oil refiners, allowing them to bring in an additional 56.85 million tonnes (~1 mmb/d) over the remainder of 2019
  • In the fallout over the contaminated crude scandal at the Druzhba pipeline, Russian pipeline operator Transneft has capped volumes of Rosneft crude that can be transported to Germany and Poland on the pipeline
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed an increased biodiesel mandate to 20.04 billion gallons in 2020 up from 19.92 billion gallons in 2019, but may not extend the hardship waiver program which drew criticism
  • Iraq and Oman have signed a new MoU to cooperate in the oil and gas sector which includes plans for a shared Omani refinery processing Iraqi crude

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Kosmos Energy has struck new gas at the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim-1 well in the Albian reservoir offshore Mauritania and Senegal, which will support the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim LNG project that is on track for a 2022 start
  • Kenya and Tanzania have entered into talks to explore cross-border natural gas trading, aimed at delivering Tanzanian natural gas to Kenya to bypass requiring and building facilities for LNG imports
  • Energean Oil & Gas is reportedly looking to sell its stake in the major Glengorn gas discovery in the UK once its acquisition of Edison E&P is completed
  • Saudi Aramco has started work on the Jafurah gas terminal that will take unconventional gas from the Ghawar oil field to the coast for processing
July, 12 2019
TODAY IN ENERGY: U.S. utility-scale battery storage power capacity to grow substantially by 2023

Utility-scale battery storage units (units of one megawatt (MW) or greater power capacity) are a newer electric power resource, and their use has been growing in recent years. Operating utility-scale battery storage power capacity has more than quadrupled from the end of 2014 (214 MW) through March 2019 (899 MW). Assuming currently planned additions are completed and no current operating capacity is retired, utility-scale battery storage power capacity could exceed 2,500 MW by 2023.

U.S. utility-scale battery storage capacity

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Report and the Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory

EIA's Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860) collects data on the status of existing utility-scale battery storage units in the United States, along with proposed utility-scale battery storage projects scheduled for initial commercial operation within the next five years. The monthly version of this survey, the Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (Form EIA-860M), collects the updated status of any projects scheduled to come online within the next 12 months.

Growth in utility-scale battery installations is the result of supportive state-level energy storage policies and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 841 that directs power system operators to allow utility-scale battery systems to engage in their wholesale energy, capacity, and ancillary services markets. In addition, pairing utility-scale battery storage with intermittent renewable resources, such as wind and solar, has become increasingly competitive compared with traditional generation options.

The two largest operating utility-scale battery storage sites in the United States as of March 2019 provide 40 MW of power capacity each: the Golden Valley Electric Association’s battery energy storage system in Alaska and the Vista Energy storage system in California. In the United States, 16 operating battery storage sites have an installed power capacity of 20 MW or greater. Of the 899 MW of installed operating battery storage reported by states as of March 2019, California, Illinois, and Texas account for a little less than half of that storage capacity.

U.S. operating utlity-scale battery storage by state

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Report and the Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory

In the first quarter of 2019, 60 MW of utility-scale battery storage power capacity came online, and an additional 108 MW of installed capacity will likely become operational by the end of the year. Of these planned 2019 installations, the largest is the Top Gun Energy Storage facility in California with 30 MW of installed capacity.

As of March 2019, the total utility-scale battery storage power capacity planned to come online through 2023 is 1,623 MW. If these planned facilities come online as scheduled, total U.S. utility-scale battery storage power capacity would nearly triple by the end of 2023. Additional capacity beyond what has already been reported may also be added as future operational dates approach.

Of all planned battery storage projects reported on Form EIA-860M, the largest two sites account for 725 MW and are planned to start commercial operation in 2021. The largest of these planned sites is the Manatee Solar Energy Center in Parrish, Florida. With a capacity of 409 MW, this project will be the largest solar-powered battery system in the world and will store energy from a nearby Florida Power and Light solar plant in Manatee County.

The second-largest planned utility-scale battery storage facility is the Helix Ravenswood facility located in Queens, New York. The site is planned to be developed in three stages and will have a total capacity of 316 MW.

July, 11 2019