WITH the scarcity of employment in the oil and gas industry, graduates with both soft skills and knowledge will have an edge in the competitive job market.
Tertiary students in this field are taking their own initiative to ready themselves for job recruitment upon graduation.
Felicity Valerie Karim, a 23-year-old final-year petroleum engineering student at Curtin University, said: “Fresh graduates are having difficulties in getting jobs. Be proactive and get involved in programmes in order to network and put yourself in the market,” she said.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia final-year petroleum engineering student Boshkiran Segar, 22, has always strived to gain extra skills in addition to academic knowledge.
“Students learn theories at university. In terms of practical experience, we can only earn it outside the university, through programmes and internships. Exposure and on-the-job learning enhance theories,” he said.
Concerned about employability, Felicity and Boshkiran have joined the NrgEdge Ambassador Programme crafted for students and fresh graduates interested in the energy, oil and gas industry.
The initiative encourages participants to get a head start in the sector and their career journey by getting involved in industry events and learning networking skills.
As ambassadors, students will be the bridge connecting their university and peers with the industry and its latest developments to ensure that the future generations of energy professionals are well-equipped for the transition to professional life.
The programme has received more 150 applicants from various countries to date. However, at present, only Malaysian and Bruneian applicants are accepted.
NrgEdge co-founder Malina Raman said: “This programme was put together to spread the knowledge about what the industry has to offer. Participants network at our professional events and boost their confidence by learning to speak in public. NrgEdge ambassadors also get access to career mentors for guidance on the job market, resume writing as well as skills at an interview.”
Malina added that those employed in the fast growing renewable energy sector will have to update their skills constantly.
“In the long term, the fossil fuels industry will go into a transitionary phase. Undergraduates and young professionals must understand their new prospects in the jobs market of the future. Job opportunities will be different from a decade ago, as there will be more emphasis on the downstream and petrochemicals sector, and the development and production of cleaner fossil fuels such as natural gas.
“As the economies in Malaysia and across the world continue to grow, there will be a sustained need for more energy. The skills acquired by students and young professionals today through varied engineering and scientific disciplines can be applied in the fast growing renewable energy sector.”
At the NrgEdge Ambassador Boot Camp, the first training session of the programme, trainer Siti Rasidah Mohd Shihab coached 16 students in mind-challenging activities.
Siti Rasidah, who had worked with Petronas for 25 years, sees this programme as training participants to survive in a world with fewer job openings.
“Graduates are flooding the market. They have to work at getting employment these days. Given the tough job market, they have to buck up. Things are not how they used to be.
“Previously, graduates were easily employed as soon as they graduated. This is not the case today. They have to compete and be versatile.”
The first instalment of the programme will see 31 participants taking part in a series of events to be conducted across Malaysia.
One of the ambassadors, final-year petroleum engineering student Fatin Aina Zawani Jais, 21, said that this programme gives her the chance to network with people face-to-face, a practice which is getting rare in the digitalised world.
“It is important to meet people to share opportunities and knowledge to gain exposure to the industry. We talk about issues which we don’t get to express at university. We learn about the differences in the learning environment at different tertiary institutions and the syllabi,” she said.
NrgEdge regional strategic partnerships manager Mohd Anas Asalem, who is also a graduate of the oil and gas field, said that the programme creates multi-talented employees to fill the talent gap in the sector.
“When people in the industry retire, fresh graduates cannot fill the posts because of the downturn. This has been taking place for 20 years,” he added.
NrgEdge is trying to expand its programme to Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand. This year the programme received applicants from Malaysia (40 per cent), Indonesia (18), Singapore (12), India (nine) and other countries (21).
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 18 March 2019 – Brent: US$67/b; WTI: US$58/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
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.
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
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