Monday, January 4, 2021

Bad times in petroleum engineering

Via the New York Times, this article: 
Sabrina Burns, a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, had thought she would be launching a lucrative career in the oil and gas industry when she graduated in a few months. But the collapse in the demand for oil and gas during the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted her well-laid plans and is forcing her to consider a new path.

“We got a slap in the face, an entirely unforeseen situation that rocked our entire mind-set,” said Ms. Burns, who is studying petroleum engineering. “I have applied for every oil and gas position I’ve seen, like all my classmates, and nothing really has turned up. I’m discouraged.”

With fewer people commuting and traveling, the oil and gas industry has taken a punishing blow. Oil companies have laid off more than 100,000 workers. Many businesses have closed refineries, and some have sought bankruptcy protection...

...Ms. Burns, 22, said her choices have narrowed considerably over the last nine months. With opportunities in oil and gas limited, she recently accepted an internship with an engineering consulting firm specializing in energy conservation, and she may eventually apply to graduate school in environmental science. She is also considering moving in with her sister after graduation to save money.

“I feel like companies are going to be pretty cautious about coming out of this, about taking new hires,” she said.

Ms. Burns was enticed into an oil and gas career by stories her father, a helicopter pilot, told her about the successful female engineers he had met servicing offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. But while her professors have talked up the future for oil and gas companies, she is worried.

This must be a near-historically-bad time to be an entry-level petroleum worker, i.e. there's the problem of the pandemic, and there are also cross-pressures in the broader energy industry. I'm a bit surprised that her professors didn't seem to warn her about the up-and-down nature of oil and gas, but perhaps they sent missed signals. 

I presume that the same issues that have hit Ms. Burns have also hit the various chemists who work in and around the oil and gas industry. Best wishes to them, and to all of us. 

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