Technology Plus People
By Dmitry Kulakov, Editor
Starting any industry related paper with words “downturn” and “crisis” is almost a cliché these days. However, not mentioning the fact of continuous oil and gas field struggles would be almost an act of hypocrisy. I don’t usually use car sharing services, but when I need them, 80% of the drivers I meet are highly educated, ex-petroleum related professionals “in transition”. Most of the time, during conversations with these people, which I enjoy tremendously due to their experience and motivation, I learn about the new field they find themselves interested in, and how they consider switching their professional lives for good. That means a simple fact: if you don’t see any other opportunity in our field, there are an infinite number of things we can do instead, and some of them sound much more exciting. Among my friends, there are people who recently deliberately resigned from oil and gas. They believe that the golden era of hydrocarbons is over and now it’s time to move on to something more advanced.
Personally, I see the situation a little differently, and I don’t share this opinion of oil and gas days being over. Actually, I believe that the simple days are over: we can’t keep working by investing a necessary minimum into technology development and using existing approaches, while making good money. I think that market has changed forever, and that’s a fact. Our industry strives to use the latest technological advances of modern science. Though many principles we work with are simple and have been around for more than a century, we keep using them. However, designing a deepwater well is very close to “Rocket Science”. When we do contend with challenges, our past experience and cost minimization are dominating factors. The industry abandoned curiosity and innovation for the sake of being sure that all investments will be covered by returns. The fact that we appear unwilling to change our ways of doing business and technology development is, in my mind, a core driver of the “downturn” in our minds.
Independently from tomorrow’s oil price, the level of competition that has been set by the ongoing market situation is only going to increase. These changes are effecting every single level of the industry starting from a single employee, to services offered, entire companies and, finally, every government in the world. I don’t believe that there is a single place on the planet that is not involved with hydrocarbons (however, some native tribes may be the exclusion). If we will not adapt to the ongoing reality and change the way we work, both business and behavior, we will slowly transform from a high-end technology driven industry to a group of crude pumpers. We must integrate in this environment and accelerate developing technology as never before. While the economy is trying to absorb and accommodate new things like cryptocurrencies, blockchains and machine learning, we are just cutting costs rather than innovating to increase level of optimization and automation. Oil and Gas must catch up to other industries that are more open to technological advances, like every single IT company in the world. I do believe that our field is full of brilliant minds that can learn and adapt anything to our needs, we just need a strong motivation. Well, if that’s not strong motivation, I don’t know what is! So let’s stop thinking about the good old days when the life of an oilman was simple, and start looking into the new realities of the market.
Saying all that, I want to share another thought that I came across only while getting involved with the GSH. As any other young professional, I always believed that to succeed in our field, it only requires a good professional knowledge and technical skills. Since my senior colleague asked me if I want to help him with editing the GSH Journal, I’ve started to come out from my technological cocoon. Here I’ve been meeting outstanding professionals who do not stop their work in the office, but also, continue in their own free time by serving the community. These people are always listening to other colleagues’ needs and providing them with educational, professional and recreational events of exceptional quality. They made a huge step forward and evolved from simple oil and gas employees into professionals who try to reach out to the community and improve it. I think that these people are key figures in an industry in transition. They care not only about technology, which is very important, but also about the most valuable resource any field can get: people. I do believe that if more of us would get involved with the society, communicate more often, and start participating in community activities, we will find additional sources of outstanding business and technological ideas.