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Oil And Gas Employment - The Future Of Oil And Gas Employment In The US

natural shale deposits production

The oil industry is under tremendous scrutiny because of skyrocketing gas prices, record profit margins and off-shore drilling disasters. Environmentalists have always been proponents of alternative fuels for vehicles, and volatile gasoline prices at the pump are now also swaying consumer opinion in greener directions. In May of 2008, the average cost of gasoline in the US hit record highs in excess of $4.00 per gallon. Prices have since dropped dramatically, but most consumers expect the prices to rise again.

With consumers upset over market prices and politicians increasingly concerned at the anti-US views of the nations which control the bulk of the world’s oil supply, domestic oil and gas production has increased. It isn’t simply gasoline that we need. The US Department of Energy statistics indicate that the US consumes 20 million barrels of oil products per day. Roughly half of that oil is converted to gasoline. The rest is mainly converted into residential fuel oil and aviation fuels.

It would seem logical for employment opportunities in the oil production sector to rise with a growing need for increased domestic oil production. Unfortunately, something happened to cool America’s desire for domestic oil. British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon off-shore oil rig exploded and released huge amounts of undersea oil in a disaster with ramifications that even now aren’t fully understood.

The southern coastal states which were damaged the most by the oil spill were also the states which suffered the most economic damage during the moratorium on off-shore deep water drilling. Thousands of oil and gas jobs were lost or moved to other areas of the world. Supporting industries not directly involved in oil or gas production, such as the fishing industry and the tourism industry, also suffered tremendous losses.

In their Occupational Outlook Handbook, the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment opportunities associated with the construction and extraction operations tied to oil and gas production will decline rapidly throughout the 2008-2018 decade. That projection, however, is based on trends in the oil industry and on older natural gas extraction technology and may be premature. New methods of extracting oil and gas from shale deposits could very well revitalize oil and gas employment opportunities.

Shale deposits occur in multiple regions of the country. The deposits contain a rich mix of organic solids from which liquid hydrocarbons can be extracted, and some regions contain large reserves of natural gas. Natural gas burns considerably cleaner than petroleum based products. Many commercial vehicles can be, and already have been, retrofitted to run on natural gas fuel. Environmentalists are critical of natural gas extraction techniques used in shale deposits, but acknowledge that natural gas combustion results in less emission than the combustion of oil-derived fuels.

Energy needs met by natural gas are predicted to double because of the quantities of natural gas available from shale deposits according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Shale gas has been produced for many years in some areas of the country, but in most cases the operations were barely economical. But rising natural gas prices, combined with technological advances in the hydraulic fracturing of the shale deposits, have increased profit margins significantly.

As additional shale gas reserves are located and tapped, oil and gas employment opportunities will increase sharply. The labor demand in allied industries, such as equipment production, site mobilization and gas transportation, will also contribute significantly to these opportunities.

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