IMC Newsdesk

Pandemic, Low Prices accelerating Automation in Upstream Oil, Gas

  • August 11, 2020
  • William Payne

A study by EY Canada has found that the combination of low oil prices and the pandemic is accelerating automation in the upstream oil and gas industry. The report, which was co-authored with the Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) division of Energy Safety Canada, predicts that nearly one third of oil and gas roles could be fully automated in the next 20 years, with technical roles more likely to be automated than leadership roles.

The EY Preparing for the future now: Rethinking the oil and gas workforce in 2040 report, outlines the varied impact of automation on organisations. Technical competencies — such as managing finances, operations monitoring or quality control analysis — are more likely to undergo automation, whereas leadership competencies — such as troubleshooting, persuasion or conflict management — continue to require human interaction. Each job encompasses a broad grouping of job competencies, which determine their range of automation potential.

“Recent black swan events are pushing oil and gas companies to drive down operating costs and transform how work gets done to improve margins — and the unfortunate reality is that these cuts have resulted in job lay-offs,” said Lance Mortlock, EY Canada Oil & Gas Leader. “As the prospect of a jobless recovery becomes more of a possibility, companies will be looking to fill roles and add capabilities through technology and automation to increase optimisation and reduce costs even further. While many companies had already began this digital transformation, the pandemic created a sense of urgency to accelerate technology adoption.”

Human resource and IT departments will play a key role in driving successful adoption and sustainment of new technologies and the optimal workforce mix. Workers will need to develop skills in emotional intelligence, critical thinking, data analysis and managing the interface between human and machine to be competitive in the upstream oil and gas job market.

“Understanding the impact on different competency types can help individuals, organisations and educators retool skill-sets as the shift gradually takes place,” said Mortlock. “These impacts may seem overwhelming, but they’re not unattainable. Knowing the potential impact on individual competencies, jobs and job families provides valuable insight into strategically planning the workforce of the future.”