The challenges facing the industry today — produce greater quantities of oil and gas from more complex geologies all while increasing environmental stewardship — are technologically robust, writes Anamaria Deduleasa.
It will require people who are skilled in the use of robotics, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, supercomputing and blockchain.
These skill sets are somewhat new to the industry, despite it being historically technology-driven.
Data scientists — much sought-after due to the industry’s increased focus on digitalisation — are often drawn to technology companies and other digitally-driven players, but in a world where every oil and gas company is pushing towards digitalisation to better perform, skills in this department are increasingly important.
“Automation and digitalisation will improve efficiency, but if companies don’t move fast enough to implement new technologies and grow their talent pool, the consequences could be painful,” says Airswift chief executive Janette Marx.
Airswift, which provides energy workforce staffing services, also tracks job losses in the oil and gas industry together with job site Energy Jobline.
The companies say the current recruitment challenge is down to a wave of imminent retirements and fewer young people entering the field. In their most recent annual Global Energy Talent Index, with 17,000 respondents from 162 countries, the companies say attracting talent lies in highlighting the vast scale of the technological and engineering challenges to be overcome.
“Automation promises to free up professionals from tedious tasks, enabling them to shift their skills to other areas of importance,” according to the report.
Industry needs to move fast to attract workers with new skill sets Read more
This, however, does not mean the current workforce will be replaced in its entirety.
A world where robots, artificial intelligence and “smart technology” will take over certain tasks from workers in the sector but will not necessarily lead to job cuts. Instead, the job market will grow and adapt, digital specialists argue.
Chris Rivinus, programme leader, digital transformation at Tullow Oil, recently said at a conference: “The idea AI machine learning will eclipse the need for human work is premature. Maybe we will have this conversation in 30 years, but definitely not now.
"Take for example the use of robot dogs offshore," he said in an apparent reference to the four-legged inspection device the Swiss company ANYbiotics has declared the world’s first autonomous offshore robot.
“This will replace a role or two in terms of people going to do offshore jobs which are dangerous. But this does not mean a replacement of personnel because you will still need an army of people behind that dog,” Rivinus said.