By Alex Endress, Editorial Coordinator
For young people just getting their feet wet in the oil and gas industry, recent declines in world oil pricing to $55/bbl and below can be quite disheartening – in some cases, even forcing these individuals to reconsider their career options. However, Catherine MacGregor, President of Europe and Africa for Schlumberger, presented an encouraging perspective – ensuring those new to the industry that there is indeed “a future in oil and gas” – during her keynote at the Young Professionals luncheon during the 2015 SPE/IADC Drilling Conference in London on 18 March.
“It is true that there will be a very strong need for oil and gas energy to be a key part of the energy mix in the future,” Ms MacGregor said. “There are not really many realistic scenarios today that don’t show oil and gas playing a very, very important role in the next 20 to 40 years. That is extremely important, because in order to get this oil and gas, there is a lot of work needed.”
She said the industry was due for major transition in terms of how hydrocarbons resources are extracted. “Oil and gas is here to stay, but we need to extract it differently from what we’ve done in the past… which is, by the way, not triggered just by the situation with the oil price but was identified well before that. Even at $100 a barrel, we had that issue. The change will come from young talent, and more than ever I really think it will translate into very exciting and challenging careers ahead.”
Ms MacGregor said that the current relationship between oil production and E&P spend illustrates a strong need for technological change in the upstream sector. “If you look at the oil production, it has really flattened out as compared to the escalation in the E&P spend that we have encountered over the last few years. What that tells you is we need more and more work to get a similar amount of oil out of the ground – it is both a problem and an opportunity.”
In the midst of such disparity between production and investments, Ms MacGregor said, young people will be the ones tasked with finding new technologies to extract oil and gas in a more efficient manner in order to economically meet the world’s energy demands.
Ms MacGregor also shared stories about her own career development in the oil and gas industry. Over the course of her 20-year career with Schlumberger, Ms MacGregor has served in a variety of roles, from engineer to product champion to HR lead, among others. “I think it is also important to consider opportunities that come your way as not necessarily whether they make you move up in an organization. I think you have to look at each opportunity as what they bring to you and to your own development,” she said. “I’ve always thought of my career as a bit of a building block – that opportunity could bring me an opportunity for something I haven’t had a chance to develop yet. That was always more important than reporting to this person or this person.”
In answer to an audience question on how women can succeed in the oil and gas industry, she acknowledged that women might have to prove themselves more in the beginning when they meet new customers. However, “there is a pragmatism that reigns (in this industry). I think people are so busy trying to achieve the same goals that once people understand that you are here to do a job, I see that people are really quite accepting of who you are no matter what.”