President’s Column: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” — Young Professionals and the Industry’s Future

By Nathan Meehan, 2016 SPE President

“Should I stay or should I go?” The English punk rock band The Clash posed this question musically in 1982. It is unlikely they intended it as a starting point for a discussion on careers in petroleum engineering. Yet, this was the topic of a SPE young professionals (YPs) meeting at the Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition I attended where, like everywhere else, YPs were concerned about the downturn in oil and gas prices and the resulting impact on their career choices.

Interestingly, the title of the session was “Ridin’ the Storm Out,” another 1980s hit by REO Speedwagon. This title implies a temporary drop in the industry, perhaps like the 2008 Asian financial crisis. In that “storm,” oil prices dropped from more than USD 140/bbl to less than USD 40/bbl; North American rig count dropped from more than 2,000 to fewer than 900.

Mapping rig activity over industry downturns since 1998 shows that the three prior storms were all relatively brief. In each of these downturns, rig activity in the US reached 80% of its prior peak activity within 2 years of the fall. Until late August last year, the current…

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