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Out of the slump? 'Positivity returns' to oil and gas sector after 2014 price crash

Joseph Flaig

(Credit: NES Global)
(Credit: NES Global)

A sense of positivity “the likes of which haven’t been seen since 2013” has returned to the oil and gas sector, a recruiter has claimed.

Large-scale investment turned to massive decommissioning projects and more than 440,000 job cuts after the cost for a barrel of crude oil dropped from $115 (£68) in June 2014 to less than $30 (£21) in January 2016. However, NES Global Talent said there are signs the slump may be ending after surveying more than 3,000 employers and almost 7,000 workers globally.

Nearly 60% of employers said they expect to recruit “significantly” over the next 12 months, while almost half of employers expect salaries to rise. Since the price of oil stabilised at almost $50 (£38) in July, the survey by NES and Oil and Gas Job Search found almost 90% of employers expect staffing levels to increase or remain the same in 2018.

“There is a sense of positivity… the likes of which we haven’t seen since 2013 and can be read as an indication of a potential stabilisation of the oil market,” said Alex Fourlis, managing director of Oil and Gas Job Search. “This is key to kick-start projects that haven’t been viable for a while and will have a positive effect on job volume and salaries across the industry.”

Nowhere was harder hit by the 2014 slump than the oil and gas sites of the North Sea, where over 100 platforms will be completely or partially removed and more than 1,800 wells plugged and abandoned in just 10 years. Despite the ongoing challenge, Michael Tholen from industry body Oil & Gas UK told Professional Engineering there are some positive signs.

“Whilst this study offers a global perspective on business confidence within the oil and gas sector, we would like to think it also reflects signs of an improvement in outlook for our industry in the UK both domestically and from improved international markets,” said upstream policy director Tholen. “Sustaining employment in the UK will rely on fresh investment in new activity.  The UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) has done much to raise its competitiveness which is reflected in the $6bn (£4.6bn) of merger and acquisition activity on the UKCS in the first half of 2017 alone.”

Fiscal measures to encourage more asset trading will help ensure rigs are in the right hands to extend their lifecycles, he added, while he also called for measures to assist trading in the Autumn Budget.

Investment in US shale is leading the positive recruitment activity, said NES Global Talent CEO Tig Gilliam, but he said an increase in capital projects being approved will positively impact the industry “across all regions.”

“With our own staff operating in over 60 countries, the increasingly positive tone of our clients and contractors is a welcome signal of the turnaround in the market and the participants in this survey echo that sentiment,” he added.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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