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Careers In The Oil And Gas Industry, From Start To Finish

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Take a minute to think about how you got here, reading this article on your computer or phone.

The lights in your room, your toothbrush, the bus or subway, and even the plastic coffee cup you’re drinking from are all made possible by oil.

Oil and gas drive world economies. Their prices can alter the economic prospects of entire countries and a single value fluctuation can have a wide-ranging impact on stock markets worldwide.

And when you think of how oil and gas from deep underground into nearly everything around you – including the computer or smart phone you’re reading this article on – you probably think of men in hard hats working on heavy machinery. But in reality, that’s just one aspect of the industry.

The oil and gas industry is comprised of three major sectors, each categorized according to the specific operations that take place in the process of getting oil from the earth to the consumer.

Check out these six examples of careers in the oil and gas industry:

Upstream

This sector deals with the first step of the process: getting oil and gas out of the ground. Companies involved in upstream operations search for underground or underwater oil fields, drill exploratory wells and oversee operations to redirect crude oil to the surface.

Land Agents

Before starting the extracting process, oil companies have to make sure that everyone – the land owners, the government and the law – is on board with the plan.

Land agents secure land rights on behalf of the company, which involves negotiating agreements with stakeholders (farmers, ranchers, aboriginal groups and the government) and addressing any of their concerns.

Agents are detail-oriented problem solvers and excellent communicators, and a background in law or business is a definite asset.

Agents also obtain the proper permits, ensure obligations to both parties are met, and prepare all contracts, licenses, titles, and leases . They work closely with landowners, regulatory agencies and other departments within the company, especially technical teams and accounting.

In-depth knowledge of the oil industry and various land regulations is crucial, and some positions require a Land Agent license. Agents are detail-oriented problem solvers and excellent communicators, and a background in law or business is a definite asset.

Acquiring extra certification will also go a long way: the Petroleum Land Management (PLM) certification, the Energy Asset Management diploma or the Professional Landman certification are all good programs to consider.

Geoscience Professionals

Extracting oil isn’t just about digging holes in the ground – you have to know where to look first. Geoscientists locate possible mineral, geothermal and petroleum deposits by studying the rock formations, soil compositions and topographical identity of the land.

Geoscientists mainly conduct data and sample analyses in an office or laboratory environment, though routine fieldwork is also a core component of the job.

Since oil is often trapped underground or underwater, geoscientists rely on applied scientific knowledge to interpret seismic records or satellite surveys, map out prospective sites and identify any environmental conditions or concerns that could affect the project’s success.

Geoscientists perform both onshore and offshore exploration activities and are consistently in high demand. They co-ordinate closely with engineers, technologists, environment officers, health and safety professionals, and accountants to ensure consistency with other project divisions.

A post-secondary degree in earth sciences, chemistry, physics, biology, or mathematics is a must, and candidates with a background in geology will transition into the industry easily. Most jobs require a professional designation and each province has its own licensing procedures.

Geoscientists mainly conduct data and sample analyses in an office or laboratory environment, though routine fieldwork is also a core component of the job.

Safety Managers

Safety managers maintain healthy and safe environments for employees, contractors and nearby communities by providing adequate training about hazardous materials, first aid and safety equipment. They develop unique policies to minimize workplace accidents, conduct regular evaluations to ensure compliance and make any necessary improvements to the programs.

Paramedics, nurses, health and safety inspectors, emergency response planners, industrial safety officers, and safety technicians all fall under this group but perform varying roles within the industry.

Since emergency readiness and response is an important aspect of the job, safety managers must be well-organized, able to keep calm in extreme situations, and skilled at communicating clearly and authoritatively.

They also inhabit a variety of roles. Paramedics, nurses, health and safety inspectors, emergency response planners, industrial safety officers, and safety technicians all fall under this group but perform varying roles within the industry.

A post-secondary degree in health sciences is required and a technical diploma in engineering is an asset. Knowledge about the industry is valued, and designations such as the Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) or the Certified Health and Safety Consultant (CHSC) provide good foundations for this role.

Travel is a given, as office-based professionals must be ready to respond to any on-site emergencies and field professionals must be physically strong enough to handle inclement weather and potentially hazardous situations.

 

Midstream

Once extracted, the midstream sector takes charge of gathering, storing and transporting the oil and gas from the drilling sites to the refineries. Transmission pipeline companies and firms specializing in the transport of oil and gas are major players in midstream operations.

Pipeline Design Engineer

Pipeline design engineers work alongside project managers to provide reliable and cost-effective plans for pipeline facilities and infrastructure. In addition to personally overseeing assembly and installation, pipeline engineers also supervise an operation team in charge of carrying out the pipe laying procedures and provide technical support during system overhauls and repairs.

A bachelor’s degree in engineering is a must, and proficiency in computer programs such as AutoCAD is an asset. Pipeline engineers are also detail-oriented, highly organized and excellent at solving problems.

Pipeline Control Centre Operator

Using sophisticated computerized equipment, pipeline control centre operators monitor the operations of complex pipeline structures, keeping track of oil as it moves through the pipes and controlling product batches as they enter and exit the system. They also ensure the safe and timely delivery of oil products by preventing changes in pipeline pressures or potential leaks in the pipes’ infrastructure.

Pipeline transmission lines are complex structures, which is why operators must think quickly during emergency situations and make accurate decisions under pressure. Excellent communication skills are a must, and technical diplomas in related disciplines such as engineering technology, instrumentation, and electrical, mechanical, or petroleum technology provide solid foundations.

Pipeline control centres are usually located in metropolitan areas where companies have their operating headquarters.

 

Downstream

Known as the retail sector of the industry, downstream operations are involved in refining crude oil into petroleum products for public consumption, as well as distributing, marketing and selling them to customers. This sector includes oil refineries, gas processing plants, petroleum product distribution companies, and retail outlets like service stations.

Petrochemical Engineer

Using scientific and mathematical principles, petrochemical engineers develop formulas that break down complex molecules in oil. This process allows them to derive simpler components which form the basis for a wide range of consumer products, such as lubricating oils, polymers, plastics, synthetic rubber and synthetic fibres.

These alchemists generally work with a team of scientists, technicians and other engineers.

A solid foundation in math and chemistry is essential for this position, and a degree in petrochemical engineering is usually a requirement. Petrochemical engineers must also be registered professionals within an engineering association.

While most of their work occurs in laboratories, petrochemical engineers are often sent to refineries to conduct experiments on-site.
Everything you need to know about hatching a career in oil and gas
TalentEgg’s Petroleum Career Guide and this editorial feature were produced in partnership with the Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) Division of Enform. For more information about starting your career in the oil and gas industry, please visit www.careersinoilandgas.com.

 

Photo credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on Flickr
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About the author

Jeleen Yu is a long-time TalentEgg contributor and former assistant editor. She graduated from Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines) in 2007 with a degree in business management. She was all set to start a career in the corporate world, but a sabbatical made her realize that her real passion lay in writing and the publishing industry. After serving as a writer and editor for the newsletter of a non-profit organization in the Philippines, she now resides in Vancouver and is currently working towards an editing certificate at Simon Fraser University.