‘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.
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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