Oil and Gas Jobs and Careers
Oil and gas from the North Sea currently account for around 30,000 jobs in around 200 offshore sites and 300,000 onshore jobs in the UK.
This is a complex industry that involves advanced technology for extraction and production processes, with all the associated equipment and an infrastructure rendered more complicated for its offshore dimensions.
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This industry provides both energy and essential chemicals for many areas of life in the UK. Unsurprisingly, there are numerous careers available in this industry to people at all levels of education and training.
Much of the sophistication of this industry stems from its offshore operations. Offshore installations are concerned with the extraction of oil and gas located thousands of feet beneath the sea bed. Functions include drilling, injection water or gas into the reservoir, processing the extracted fuels and sending it ashore.
Large installations on land are often close to the coast, as they receive oil and gas from offshore sites via tankers (oil) or pipeline (oil and gas). Once the fuel arrives on land, it undergoes an initial preparation at the installation before being transported onwards to a refinery. Natural gas is prepared so it can be piped into the National Grid.
Smaller installations further inland may be concerned with single functions, such as drilling or gas compression. Some, such as mobile drilling rigs, are mobile and can be relocated.
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'Oil rigs' are certainly concerned with drilling the seabed to access reservoirs of oil and gas, but there is far more to the processes involved than this. As oil erupts from the sea bed, it needs to be separated from the gas, water and sand that emerge with it, via extensive systems of pipes, gauges and valves. Once 'cleaned' into crude oil form, it's piped or shipped ashore.
The gas is compressed and cooled, before being piped ashore or used for fuel on the platform - offshore installations don't have an electricity supply so must generate their own power. In order to support these operations and the manpower involved in them, the offshore installations are often like small townships.
Oil and Gas Employers
- Various operating companies, mostly international, possess the licences to explore for, produce and operate offshore installations.
- These companies contract drilling companies to set up the actual rigs. Drilling companies are also usually major international companies.
- Numerous other operations and maintenance services are provided by major contractors. These companies are responsible for hiring a huge number of offshore personnel, sometimes nearly the entire workforce.
- Numerous barges are used for floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) purposes and these are operated by FPSO operators. Some are used for production purposes, while others are for support services such as provision of accommodation.
- Other service companies provide specialist services that are utilised by the operating and drilling companies.
Types of Oil and Gas Careers
What sorts of jobs?
Employment in this industry falls into one of the following sectors.
- Exploration and production includes offshore production jobs such as drilling, with electrical, chemical and mechanical engineering being huge areas. Onshore refining involves computer systems and instrumentation specialists, along with other technical positions.
- Marketing and distribution requires non-scientific professionals for onshore work. Logistical and technical requirements are immense, along with every area of administrative services, as well as marketing and sales accounts.
- Research and development involves some of the industry's most specialist positions, with research scientists leading the way in establishing new processes for ever stage of production and refinement, with environmental concerns increasingly important.
- Commercial services is a significant area of this industry, with considerable numbers of employees working in business areas such as contracts, trading, purchase and supply, IT, personnel and finance.
Scientific and Engineering Roles
- Scientific positions in this industry include geologist, geophysicist, petrophysicist, palynologist, mud logger, geochemist, etc.
- Engineering positions include: chemical, civil, design, mechanical, mining, electrical, petroleum and process engineers.
- Industry specific engineering roles include reservoir, completions, drilling, fracture stimulation, machinery, pipeline, production optimisation, integrity and reliability, power and control systems, plant support and field support engineers.
- Business roles include oil broker, production, plant, marketing, accounts and personnel managers.
Engineering: the most direct route into the industry is to take an engineering degree, either with a relevant specialism or with a Masters degree in petroleum engineering afterwards. A Masters in petroleum engineering is also a good way to change career if you're already a mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, civil engineer or electrical engineer.
For young people in the UK, Modern Apprenticeships in the industry are available. Leading mainly to technician roles, the initial training takes place in further education colleges over a 2-year period. This is followed by another 2-years training involving direct on-the-job experience on an operational site. This leads to a Modern Apprenticeship certificate - NVQ/SVQ Level 2, National Certificate, Higher National Certificate or NVQ/SVQ Level 3 - with employment in the industry highly likely.
Given the vast diversity of skilled positions in this industry, it is advisable to draw up a list of the potential careers that interest you, along with the skills requirements for each. Explore the numerous industry websites for more information, while identifying the major employers and recruiters.
Even if employers aren't recruiting at this moment, it's worth contacting the HR department to find out more. Which positions or areas are they focusing on? Do they have training schemes that might be of interest to you? Do they offer placements? If you are still studying, then making these contacts early on can only be to your advantage.
The baby boomer generation that currently holds the majority of positions in the industry will be retiring off in the next decade, meaning the industry is keen to both foster and recruit new skilled individuals.
For those who are qualified in a relevant discipline and who are unafraid of hard work in a team, it's possible to earn high salaries. What's more, it's possible to gain positions in many areas of the world, including the Middle East, the US and Canada. Work may be seasonal, requiring two months on and a month off, or even fly-in-fly-out working arrangements in remote locations.
Oil and Gas Jobs Sites
- www.oilandgasjobsearch.com - international jobs' page.
- www.rigzone.com - jobs, training and careers information.
- www.oilandgaspeople.com - US jobs' listings and careers information.
- www.oiljobs411.com - oil and gas jobs and information site.