Today’s energy seekers, with more scientific knowledge and technical advances, have a full toolbox that leads them to deeper reservoirs of oil and gas, inland as well as offshore.
However, assured success is still no higher than 50 percent, and as was the case of early wildcatters, drilling is the only sure way to determine if oil or gas can be found.
To date, a majority of the world’s possible drilling sites have been explored. Yet, with new exploration, extraction and transportation options, untapped reserves of energy are being accessed, and the International Energy Agency predicts the demand for energy and expertise for this industry will grow by an additional one-third by 2035.
The only hurdle to growth will be the availability of a trained and experienced workforce, familiar with new technology and knowledgeable of the industry.
“We continue to look for engineers as well as trained professionals familiar with subsea exploration and construction,” said Jerry Grishaber, Harkand’s general manager of deepwater services for North America and Africa.
Harkand provides offshore vessels, remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), diving, survey services, project management, and engineering to the oil and gas and renewables industries. Harkand has bases in Aberdeen, London, Houston and Singapore.
Grishaber, a professional engineer, said Harkand is hiring engineers and offers training for certain personnel.
“We have a skills and knowledge program that brings in people,” he said. “We also hire engineers for the office as well as on site, and skilled pilots that fly the ROVs, many coming from the military or other industries. These people bring previous electronic/hydraulic expertise that’s needed to become technicians, pilots and supervisors.”
A strong and immediate need for oil field-related skilled- and unskilled workers developed as the activities in and around the various shale plays have erupted. But in every case, before the first equipment and crews arrive at a targeted location, seasoned experts using high-tech equipment already had been hard at work, gathering and analyzing data to assure a good return for the millions of dollars required to develop each producing well.
Barry Katz, PhD, president of the Houston Geological Society, said geologists play a significant role in gathering data to be integrated into the big picture being created in the early phases of the exploration process.
Geophysicists, using their knowledge of the earth’s history and physical characteristics, as well as aerial and satellite photos, interpret emerging clues about the possible site. Then, with 3D visualization and acoustic technology, they are able to map what’s under the ground and determine whether reservoirs are filled with oil or gas – or contain only water.
Environmental engineers then determine the existence and extent of any environmental risks to be considered in projected areas of drilling. Offshore sites require consultations with marine biologists, while inland drill sites consider the impact of exploration on the area’s wildlife and natural resources.
Myriad data from the areas surrounding the drill site are gathered, and the experts – geologists, geophysicists, computer scientists, petroleum engineers, drilling engineers, project engineers and others – jointly analyze the facts before a decision is made to pursue or abandon the site.
John Faraguna, managing director for the global staffer and recruiter Hays Oil Gas, said, “With the current momentum of exploration and the baby boomer generation retiring, Houston’s market for engineers remains strong.”
Educators are scrambling to meet the boom’s demand as well. The University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering’s department of petroleum engineering has outpaced all other departments.
“About five or six years ago, industry leaders came to us and said they needed petroleum engineers,” said David Shattuck, PhD, associate professor at the Cullen College, “and we are continuing to tailor our programs to meet the industry’s needs.”
Finding new energy offers never-ending challenges