Supply needs more than just an oil reserve

With the growing need for more oil exploration and drilling to supply the demands for oil from a greater number of wells there is also a greater need for the skilled workforce that will carry out this work.

There is a story about this in Rig Zone today quoting a report by Herold. The problem that is arising is
Despite strong drilling activity, record natural gas and oil prices and the largest cash flow in industry history, employment by the largest U.S.-based producers declined 4.1% in 2004, the 20th annual decline in the past 23 years, according to consultant John S. Herold Inc.
It then goes on to say
Although the study showed that overall college enrollment in geology, geophysics and petroleum engineering studies has fallen 26% since 1999 -- 44% since 1986 at the Colorado School of Mines -- there are "encouraging signals of a nascent turnaround."

Among the findings were Royal Dutch/Shell Group's January announcement of an intention to hire more than 1,000 petroleum engineers to reinforce exploration and production operations. Herold also reported an American Association of Petroleum Geologists survey showing that entry-level geologists earn an average of $65,600 per year, a 24% increase since 1999 compared with an average 10% rise among all experience levels.
However, as those who teach at universities know, starting to grow a program will not generate the engineers that are needed within a week, a month, or even a year. And there is this
Can you blame a petroleum engineer who graduated in the mid-1980s -- bruised and battered over the years by layoffs and endless job searches -- from dissuading his children from entering the oil patch now despite the current good times?" asked Aliza Fan, co-author of the Herold study.
And there is another problem in that many who worked on ways of ameliorating the last Energy Crunch have now either retired or moved on to other things.
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My son graduated from -- of all places -- Colorado School of Mines last year with a degree in Petroleum & Chemical Engineering (3.6 GPA). He turned down entry level pay of over $60K and went to graduate school in Oregon instead, where he is studying Organic Chemistry. The first semester, he was doing research for a DC-connected prof on crystal formation that could aid in bigger and better bombs. He was miserable and ready to opt out at the end of spring with a masters degree. But then, second semester he did research for another prof in crystal formation in manufacturing certain vitamins, where he discovered a whole new molecule, resulting in a paper to be published soon in a journal. Now he's energized and back in PhD mode again. There was never any question about following up with the undergrad petroleum background or working in industry for Shell or Mobil or Exxon et al. That would have burned him out as quickly as the bomb research did. Petroleum is old science, pursued simply for the easy bucks.

I am sorry for the unfortunate experience that he has had, and wish your son well. However, if you will forgive the comment, most highly rewarding jobs will require a fairly intense apprenticeship (which entry level positions are, whether a lawyer, doctor or more generally as a PhD student or starting engineer). There are some really fascinating challenges that are now going to have to be addressed in supplying the world with energy. I may write more on this later in the week, but would point out that most of the folk I know who work/worked in the energy business learned to work really hard, but were also rewarded for that effort.

New article today in the Guardian about the end of the oil age being nigh.