Donald Trump has led the US into an escalating trade spat with China that seems to be growing in size almost weekly. Will there be unintended consequences to its energy industry and strategy?
After China implemented counter tariffs to the US’ steel and aluminium import tariffs, Trump immediately proposed counter-tariffs on US$50 billion of Chinese goods, targeted at high tech products instead of mass consumer goods. He then complained a day late of ‘unfair retaliation’ when China fought back with proposed tariffs on key products from states that supported Trump in the last election, including soybean from the Midwest, the single largest US export to China last year. His solution? Another round of tariffs, this time with a higher target of US$100 billion of exports. China only exported US$170 billion of goods to the US in 2017; this is getting closer and closer to a blanket tariff regime, which could affect goods from smartphones to clothes.
China’s response to the US has been surgically precise, targeting areas that will hurt Trump politically. It hasn’t responded to the latest round of proposed tariffs yet, but if it wanted to, it could turn its eye to US energy exports. The first VLCC carrying US crude to China set sail in February 2018, and the string of LNG export projects on the US Gulf Coast is dependent on China’s soaring LNG demand – projected to double in the next five years – to succeed. According to Standard Chartered analysts, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. “China has become a major market for sales of U.S. crude abroad, accounting for about a quarter of shipments this year. But the U.S. accounts for a relatively small share of China's oil imports - just 4%, the analysts said. That ‘strong asymmetry’ means tariffs are not out of the question. A tariff would not necessarily cause a significant bottleneck for U.S. shale output, but would likely complicate marketing significantly and increase its discount on international markets"
Bloomberg also reports that “the Middle East is emerging as a potential beneficiary of the brewing trade war between the U.S. and China. If China goes ahead with its proposal to slap a 25% tariff on polyethylene and liquid propane, which were among 106 American goods targeted, buyers in the Asian nation may look elsewhere for alternatives to pricier U.S. supplies. And the energy-rich Middle East with plenty of petrochemical supplies looks well-suited to meet the substitution requirements. The region is already China’s biggest source for polyethylene - one of the most commonly used plastics in the world - and can further boost exports to the country along with another major seller South Korea, according to Goldman Sachs Group. In particular, Iran stands out as a likely beneficiary as the Persian Gulf nation can sell the gas at a discount to regional contract prices, said FGE consultant Ong Han Wee. “Iran is an attractive alternative,” he said. “Chinese companies will have to diversify their supply sources more toward Iran."
Trump says that ‘trade wars are easy to win’ but a negotiated settlement in the near future seems more likely than an outright ‘win’.
Something interesting to share?
Join NrgEdge and create your own NrgBuzz today
‘Nine to five plus a single employer’ is no longer an equation that the current workforce operates on. This traditional marketplace has been disrupted with the advent of new technology that has heralded gig or on-demand economy. Players like Uber, Airbnb, & Deliveroo offer a classic example of how these innovators have leveraged on this concept of gig economy and have shaken up the traditional setup. Millions of people today, prefer flexible work timings, multiple employers, interest-based projects and multiple revenue streams, the working style we commonly refer to as gig economy.
CIPD describes the gig economy as a new way of working that is based on the temporary jobs or projects, which is paid on the project or hourly basis. It is also referred to as the ‘sharing economy’ or ‘collaborative economy’
The gig economy: pros and cons in the context of the Oil & Gas Industry
The Oil and Gas industry is considered traditional when it comes to adapting to new technology or concepts. However, the notion is changing now with 30% of its workforce comprising of gig workers and the trend is expected to rise in coming years. Instead of depending on the recruitment agencies, companies are now focussing on targeted industry digital platforms to search, shortlist, verify and hire the gig contractors or freelancers. However, like everything else, there are pros and cons of hiring freelancers or gig employees:
Reduced Overhead cost
The cost of hiring an in-house employee is immense because apart from salary it also includes costs of insurance, perks, benefits, training, leaves, and cost associated with providing the facilities like internet, sitting arrangements, refreshments, canteen, electricity, and so on. All the extra cost apart from salary gets waived off when it comes to hiring gig employees or also known as “freelancers” in the market. Thus reducing the huge chunk of overhead cost for the employing company.
Low Financial Risk
In the case of full-time employees, the company needs to pay even during “down-times” when the work is low, or the productivity standards are not met. However, in the case of temporary staff or freelancers, the company only pays for the work accomplished as per the specified standard. Thereby lowering the financial risk.
Bigger and better pool of talent
The energy sector is a highly specialized sector and hence requires employees with a specific skill set. Specially for an on-site project, location is the biggest constraint. What if you do not find the right talent at your location? Then you are left with two options: either to hire a new employee and provide training or offload and distribute the work to the current employees. Both this scenario is risky. That’s when the gig employees are a real life-saver. The boundaries are no barrier, you can gain access to any person sitting in any part of the world. You do not even have to compromise on the skills and invest in training.
Innovation and knowledge-sharing
The company spends a substantial amount on strategizing and talent development. However, when you opt for a freelancer, you gain access to knowledge that the employee brings in by working with other organizations. So, in the oil and gas sector, a new employee can bring an innovation in the process or methodology by his experience and observation with different clients.
Round the clock functioning
Sometimes, the gig employee operates from different time zone which means that you can get your work running even while you have closed down at your part of the world. Additionally, you can reach out to freelancers for revisions, urgent works, even after the fixed working hours and during weekends, which is a great relief during tight-deadline projects.
Lack of supervision and discipline
Most gig workers operate remotely, and you cannot monitor their work physically which means that you can never be sure whether the hourly rates that the employee billed you for, is actually spent on work or for leisure. However, now there are numerous monitoring sites like Hubstaff that tracks the productivity level of the employee. Also, working in oil and gas sector involves potential hazards that can lead to serious injuries and even death. In case of remote workers, managing and monitoring all safety measures pertaining to explosions and fires, equipment safety, machine hazards and so on is a daunting task.
Until you gain mutual trust, there is a lot at the stake. For example: if you hire a temporary staff or freelancer to work on a project, you cannot be certain if the person will be able to deliver his/her duties. The risk of losing time, money, and energy is high. If all turns well, you can enjoy the perks however if it didn’t go your way then you suffer a loss on multiple levels. To avoid this scenario, it is advisable to ask for previous work references and keep reviewing the work periodically so that you are aware of the direction things are shaping in.
Loyalty and company ethics
Because, each company has its own set of principles and working guidelines which forms the culture of the company, it is challenging for the freelancer to operate as per the company’s code of conduct or policies. Furthermore, they work for multiple clients at a time, their loyalty may be questionable.
Training and development issue
Every company works and operates differently though key process remains the same. The complete onboarding of the remote worker is not possible as in the case of a full-time employee where the company’s working style becomes their second nature. Additionally, the effort to organize a training program for the gig worker is tricky because of the location and time bound issues.
Thus, for a dynamic industry like oil and gas, gig employees can be an asset if they can bring in the required expertise, skill set and attitude to outperform your expectation. You can find the right talent by using dedicated oil & gas professional networking platforms that bring talents and employers together. Use it to your advantage and you are good to go.
Malaysia has the fourth largest oil and gas reserve in Southeast Asia and produces a whopping 30,000 megawatts of energy per year. The country continues to be hopeful about the prospects of its oil & gas industry and expects it to contribute meaningfully towards the growth of its economy. But then again, what does it mean for the employees who are working in the industry or plan to enter it? Is it a profitable industry in terms of salary growth and expectations? Let’s figure out what the industry holds for its employees and job seekers of oil and gas jobs in Malaysia.
What does the number say?
The best way to analyze the oil and gas job sector is to look at the recent studies and research conducted, which can give a substantial view into the future of the industry. As per the statistics department, Malaysia saw 8.1% growth in the salary in 2017 amounting to RM 2880 as compared to 2016, in which the average salary recorded was RM 2657. Additionally, the chief statistician of the department, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin, said that an increase in the mean monthly salary and also the wages are in sync with the country’s economic performance. Even the exports indicated to grow by 20.3% which amounts to RM935.5bil. He made these observations based on the results of Salaries and Wages Survey 2017 of oil and gas professionals and entry-level oil and gas job seekers.
What the number means for prospects of oil and gas salary in Malaysia
If the above data is viewed on a sectoral basis, then the mining and quarrying sector indicated the highest monthly salaries as well as wages, which amounted to a mean of RM5,709 and a median of RM3,700.
Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin, further added that capital-intensive industries like the oil and gas, which is a major part of mining and quarrying sector, employs professionals, who are highly skilled and hence a bigger paycheck and higher mean and median salary.
The observation made by the chief statistician gets further backing by an online job site’s employment index. Although, it shows a decrease of 11% in May 2018 for the hiring activities in comparison to the previous year. However, it pointed towards a steep growth in the Oil & Gas sector. The hiring activity went up by 14% year-on-year in May 2018.
What can be the salary expectations for energy professionals?
The above studies and research indicate a positive outlook for both upstream and downstream players of this sector. However, it is important to note that a lot of factors help to determine your salary potential, which includes: education, years of experience, expertise, work ethics, job location, skill set and so on.
As per payscale.com, a Petroleum Engineer can earn on an average RM 104,343 per year. Which means an average salary of RM 99,803 with an estimated average bonus of RM 22,500 and profit sharing of RM 5120. Your experience and education play a major role in determining your salary. Similarly, in oil and gas industry, the average salary of a mechanical engineer amounts to RM 72,000 whereas the average salary of Account is RM 82,248 and for Project Engineer is RM 57,000 while a sales manager has the potential of RM 120,000.
Since the industry prefers professionals with high-level skills in the respective areas, it is advisable to enhance your overall employability factors to enjoy higher compensation and perks. And also use oil and gas professional networks to your advantage in getting the desired contacts and opportunities.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 August 2018 – Brent: US$72/b; WTI: US$67/b
Headlines of the week