In 2040, Will There Be Jobs for Petroleum Engineers?
- Stephen Rassenfoss (JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- April 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 34 - 35
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BP’s detailed Energy Outlook 2019 can be reduced to a single question: Is petroleum engineering a good, long-term career choice for a college student?
The short answer from BP CEO Bob Dudley is yes. “I am not worried about young people coming into the industry,” he said.
The evidence for that was in the company’s latest annual outlook, which examined several possible scenarios of the energy future, all of which will require finding and producing a lot more oil.
The scenarios predict needed oil production ranging from 80–130 million B/D in 2040, depending on how energy demand grows, said Spencer Dale, group chief economist for BP (Fig. 1). While he said he does not know which scenario, if any, will prove accurate, all require trillions of dollars of exploration and production (E&P) spending to deliver that much oil.
Engineers will be busy meeting the growing demand from developing countries, particularly in Asia, where rising standards of living will drive more consumption. It is a trend often missed by those in Europe and the US, where energy demand is expected to continue to be flat, he said.
In countries with fast-growing energy needs, the allure of energy engineering jobs also tends to be higher. “Around the world it (an E&P company) is one of the most popular places to go to work. But not where we live,” Dudley said, referring to the United Kingdom, where the briefing on the new outlook was held.
Oil production will remain high, but could peak in 2030, and gas demand will rise over the next 20 years, according to the outlook. Renewable sources of energy will grow at a far faster rate, but wind and solar alone will not be able to meet demand from countries such as India and China where billions of people are moving from poverty into the middle class and spending money on appliances, cars, and air conditioners, among many other things.
“The growing middle class in the developing world, especially in Asia, is the major factor accounting for global economic growth over the next 20 years,” and that will make it a key driver of energy growth, Dale said.
The US and European view on the future of energy is a zero-sum game. Those concerned about carbon emissions causing climate change call for replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. In a country with flat demand, new capacity must replace old facilities.
The equation is more complicated in the growing economies of Asia and Africa. There, energy demand is growing so rapidly that more of all types of energy will be needed. That is good news for many petroleum engineers who are delivering a rising stream of oil and gas for export.
Dudley said the message he heard at a recent conference in Africa was “we need cooking fuel and reliable electricity.” With so many young workers entering the job market, they need “heavy energy to create manufacturing that puts people to work,” he said.
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