Category: News & Blog

Petroplan Oil, Gas and Energy Recruitment News and Blog about Oil, Gas, Energy, Recruitment and Company News.

Why we are energy talent explorers

All industries evolve, and the oil, gas and energy sector is no exception. This market is a challenging one whether you are an employer looking for talent to deliver on your business objectives or as an employee or contractor working in unfamiliar environments away from home. We define ourselves as ‘energy talent explorers’, because as recruitment professionals, we are constantly adapting to the changing oil, gas and energy landscape too. From engineers to commercial talent, our strengths lie in sourcing and placing quality candidates, no matter how hard they are to find.

Every opportunity for oil and gas exploration brings fresh challenges – and although many recruiters work in this sector – very few know the industry like Petroplan. We understand the intricacies of each discipline and support candidates to prepare for their assignments both from a practical perspective with regard to pay, visas and accommodation as well as on a personal level, keeping in touch with people on location.

So whether you’re exploring new territories in your career as the market demands or seeking out talent to join in the need to explore into new markets and skill sets. Petroplan are a safe partner on your journey.

So how can you be sure we live up to our ethos of being the ‘Energy Talent Explorers’

We explore further…

With a long heritage in the industry, we bring nearly 40 years’ experience in sourcing professionals for roles in exploration and development projects. Our specialist knowledge makes us experts at what we do.

Our mission is to explore further, seeking the very best opportunities for the very best talent. We have a strong global network, backed with in-depth local insight, and solid relationships. For candidates, this means a personalised service and the knowledge we’ll support them throughout their career. For employers, it means quality candidates, every time – and a significantly reduced hiring period.

We think bigger…

We are more than just a recruitment specialist; we are an expert and trusted career partner with unparalleled experience in contract recruitment, contractor management, permanent recruitment, and payrolling.

With local offices in the world’s major oil and gas hubs: Aberdeen, Calgary, Cape Town, Dubai and Houston, and at recruitment ‘centres of excellence’ in Guildford and London, we bring both scale and insight to the global oil, gas, and energy industry.

We understand more…

Finding an outstanding candidate for a long-term career with a new employer or project doesn’t happen by chance. It takes specialist knowledge and skill to understand the intricacies of each discipline for which we recruit.

Ensuring every contractor is safe, paid promptly, and has all they need to focus on their work, requires ongoing personal attention. At Petroplan, we have always offered each client and candidate expert knowledge and an unparalleled level of service, and we regularly receive outstanding feedback from the people we work with.

Petroplan commentary for Scottish Energy News

The sustained low oil price has had an undeniable impact on recruitment within the global oil and gas sector. To date, several major operators and service companies have announced hiring freezes, redundancies and rate cuts.

However, there are still opportunities if you know where to look. A recent survey found that nearly 30% of global employers in oil and gas are experiencing talent shortages, despite parts of their business making redundancies in certain roles.

Indeed, in the UK alone, Oil & Gas UK estimates that 12,000 new recruits will be needed over the next five years as existing workers leave or retire from the industry. Regionally, Petroplan is seeing the most demand in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, particularly for engineering disciplines such as electrical, mechanical, commissioning and inspection. We’re also experiencing a steady demand for HSE and supply chain-related roles. Even the heavily hit areas, such as subsurface, wells and drilling, are improving and we have seen a rise in demand for these positions over the last month.

As a result of regional demand, we are seeing a change in the flexibility of candidates and a shift in attitudes towards global mobility – candidates that were previously reluctant to travel to remote locations are now more willing to consider it as an option.

At Petroplan, we have also experienced an increase in demand for permanent placements over the last six months. At the same time, many contractors are taking on permanent roles because of the enhanced job security on offer.

Due to the cyclical nature of the industry, companies must adopt a strategic approach to recruitment if they are to have the appropriate resources in place when oil prices recover. Firms taking a long-term view will use this opportunity to acquire businesses, assets, and highly skilled professionals.
Talented candidates with specialist skills are always in high demand, even during an economic downturn. Whilst there may be fewer jobs in previously popular sections of the industry, and companies may take longer to recruit, certain areas of the market remain candidate driven.

Lowering recruitment costs

How To Lower Recruitment Costs When The Right Talent Is Hard To Find
How is your organisation addressing the talent shortage or talent gaps?

10 tips to write a CV and get the job

Having nearly 40 years’ experience in recruitment, we are confident that we could provide some useful tips to write a CV that gives jobseekers a better chance of succeeding in their applications. We hope these tips will also act also act as a quick reminder on the qualities that define a great CV for an applicant.

Follow Up

Every job seeker should think beyond just writing the CV, following up on an application will also make an application stand out for employers. The best way to follow up is actually a non-intrusive follow up email. Making follow-up phone calls is a good idea, however they should not be less than a couple of days after the application. Just like in the beginning of any relationship, being too eager or too intrusive too soon might actually detriment your application.

Be specific on your application

Companies are looking for people that have the ability to contribute to their future plans. So one of our top tips to write a CV centres on how you will bring value to an organisation beyond the job description.
Even though you may have limited information about the employer’s future plans, news about them in the public domain should help you to understand how your skills could be applicable.
An application for a drilling engineer would be a lot better if you highlight experience beyond the core skills; perhaps the understanding you have developed working alongside people with allied skills.

The recruiter is your advisor

As we are a recruitment company, many candidates believe by working with us they will short cut the application process and some are even under the impression recruiters may use less than honourable practices to guarantee they place a candidate. Neither is true.
As the experts in people moves, we keep our reputation by ensuring the applicants we present to clients are relevant to their recruitment brief. However, given that we do this every day, we are in a good position to help a good candidate with relevant skills and experience present themselves in the best way.
Most recruiters are great networkers, they know how to bring value to a relationship, and you could take a few tips on that when thinking about how you communicate with a recruiter. Ask them for tips on where to meet employers and of course, take time to think about your relationship with your recruiting contacts from a networking perspective that might help you in the future.
People buy people first so think about your relationship with these advisors as part of the process of influence that is involved in earning a new role.

Be aware of the qualification context

A lot of candidates get removed from the race for a first place job because they appear to be applying under their experience level. One of the highest rated tips to write a CV is to ensure your skills and experience are appropriate – being too good can rule you out as well as being underqualified.
Job titles and salaries don’t always tie up as the requirements for a role given the same title is often in line with the context of the size or reputation of the organisation. An example of this came across our placement desk last week, where a jobseeker having worked in a managerial role in a small engineering firm for 10 years applied for an engineering position.
The job went to an engineer with 6 years’ experience because the first candidate was overqualified for the applied position. For the purposes of this study, we checked the reasons for his application and he argued that his job doesn’t pay as much as the job he applied for.
It might seem obvious but tailor your CV based on the job for which you are applying. Also try to understand the business context of the potential employer. If his CV displayed engineer with 10 years’ experience instead of engineering manager – the applicant may well have been shortlisted.

Don’t lie – we check everything

Recruiters, especially in the oil and gas field, are heavily based on references and verification of education and certificates. We check, and re-check them as far back as we can. It is especially important in this field, as compliance with standards is essential to keep people safe.
Calling your previous company and asking about the reasons for your “Excellence in The Field of Oil and Gas Award” that you’ve won there, should not result in questions about its existence. Keep this in mind especially when looking for great tips to write a CV.

Be clear on your specialism

Having experience as a marine engineer, although many skills are transferable, is very distinct so applying for allied disciplines need to be approached with caution. Don’t waste your time, as well as that of the recruiters.
Your application will not even be looked at in detail if the obvious key words related to your discipline are missing from your CV. Keeping relevant to your domain is a hint we always give to people when writing CV’s, to the people experts ‘HR and recruiters’ it’s obvious when you are making up tenuous experience and talking-up non-exact skills.

Do your CV justice under pressure

This refers to your ability to verbally quantify your CV assertions. This applies especially to an interview, where confidence can put you above other applicants with more experience or better qualifications.
Particularly in behavioural questioning, the interviewer will be looking for evidence,  so at the very least be sure you can expand on the summarised examples in your CV, not just repeat the same lines and better still offer some fresh material.

Make sure your social media is up to date

Believe it or not, recruiters actually look at your Facebook/Twitter and social media profiles. Having pictures of you wearing a pink tutu while partying for 3 days straight would not benefit your case when trying to portray a reliable, professional person.
Make sure you delete/remove anything that you think might damage your application, before starting your applications. Keeping an eye out and refraining from posts after the clean-up is recommended as well. Following all the tips to write a CV will not help you here.

Think about how your values match those of your future employer

The recruiters, as well as, identifying a good fit between a candidate’s skills and experience are also tuned into the culture of an organisation. Just like 80% of all communication is non verbal, much of a candidate’s and employee’s success is down to how well the environment enables them to behave closely with their values.
Sometimes this is referred to as using your emotional intelligence, in terms of understanding and evaluating ‘how things are done around here’. A recruiter’s job is to find people that fit the description that the business provided as close as possible. This includes the organisation’s point of view and decisions on how the candidate needs to demonstrate key characteristics such as leadership, tenacity or adaptability for example.
One of the most overlooked tips to write a CV is to make your CV match the brief that is posted in the job description as there will likely be some obvious give away attributes that will give you a clue to the culture. For example, asking for attention to detail may well be a sign that the organisation prizes compliance.

Look at other jobs

Probably the biggest mistake that jobseekers make is not looking at similar job posts. When you are applying for a position, the description of the job expresses what the company is looking for.
Comparing and contrasting the requirements that show up in more than one job description for similar jobs can show you what should be highlighted on your CV. If two jobs for a Civil Engineer position requires experience of using a particular brand of software, this means that this experience would-be desirable even for those job ads that don’t mention it specifically as a requirement.
So make sure if you possess the qualification they are stated clearly in your CV. Even in a competitive job market there are still some great opportunities.

In Conclusion

Finding a good position is more likely if you pay attention to how you communicate with recruiters,  market your CV to the most relevant jobs, tailoring where necessary and taking the time to see the clues to the culture of an organisation so both your CV and your presentation have an obvious fit with the employer.
We do give advice on CVs at the point of application so your application will reach its destination looking its best. However, to catch the attention of the recruiter to read your initial CV above the hundreds of applications they will see in a day, apply only for relevant roles.
Make sure you highlight the parts relevant to that particular role and be honest about your aspirations. Even if you don’t get shortlisted for that particular role and employer you make enough of an impression for the recruiter to consider you for new or alternative roles by getting into their talent network.
To apply for a job, please register and search for a job here

Newly appointed regional recruitment manager for sub Saharan Africa to spearhead growth

Petroplan has become globally renowned as a trusted partner in recruitment. Our industry experts provide specialist services for recruitment and contractor management exclusively for the oil, gas and energy sector. Petroplan’s proven track record of recruiting and placing exceptional industry professionals with leading organisations means they have a great reputation to maintain. Their specialist expertise and broad candidate network enables clients to rapidly procure the best people available for essential roles, in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

With this in mind, it was with great care and consideration that Lindsay Sher was approached. Petroplan defines its people as, Energy Talent Explorers, so it was essential to source a Recruitment Manager for the Cape Town office who embodied this ethos, and would keep the same high standards that had been set out across the other regional offices across the world.
Lindsay Sher, newly appointed Petroplan Regional Recruitment Manager for the Sub-Saharan African region is to front a bid to increase Petroplan’s visibility and impact within the region, and will expand the company’s local South African recruitment team. Ultimately, she will be responsible for the company’s growth, development and profitability within Africa’s Sub-Saharan region.

Lindsay has 12 years’ recruitment experience; she previously held the position, Head of Commercial & Engineering Recruitment, at one of South Africa’s largest permanent recruitment companies. Andrew Speers, managing director at Petroplan, describes Lindsay Sher as possessing “an in-depth knowledge of South Africa’s recruitment industry and [having] a demonstrable track record in driving business growth.”  He continues to say “there is a significant opportunity to support Sub-Saharan Africa’s emerging energy market, and Lindsay’s experience will be invaluable as we look to strengthen our position as a specialist recruiter in the region.”

Ms Sher is delighted to be joining the Petroplan team, she adds

“people are a vital asset in every business sector, so this is an exciting opportunity to take my experience and apply it to a new industry.”

Ms Sher recognises that multiple clients and candidates trust Petroplan as their recruitment partner of choice. Through years of carefully considered operations, the company has earned a positive reputation because of the professional relationships it has built and the high quality of results that have been delivered. Ms Sher reveals her goal is to build on the fantastic foundations already in place, drawing on Petroplan’s global network in order to fully realise the company’s potential in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Petroplan are perfectly placed to embrace the South African commitment to localisation, their extensive marketing resources can be used to connect local talent with national professionals. With their offices in the key oil and gas hub of Cape Town paired with Ms Sher’s innovative vision, Petroplan is also in a good position to expand into locations such as Mozambique.

The world is your oyster a glimpse into the life of an oil and gas recruiter

Matthew Branch didn’t embark on his career with a view to working in the oil and gas recruitment industry. He graduated with a degree in Accounting and Law, but quickly concluded that it wasn’t for him. “I had friends working in recruitment, making a good deal of money whilst enjoying the job” Matt says, “and I thought – if they can do that, I can too.”

Matt secured his first role as a trainee recruitment consultant and soon found that it suited his personality. “It’s all about mixing and matching people to roles” he says, “I found this hugely satisfying.”

Eight years on he was introduced to Petroplan, and considered the benefits of working in the energy industry: “I had some prior exposure to the world of oil and gas via my uncle, who works out in Romania in drilling and exploration. I had a real desire to travel and work in foreign climates and I knew from my uncle’s experience that the oil and gas industry is very global, affording its workers a lot of opportunity to do exactly this.”

After landing the job with Petroplan, Matt quickly found other distinct benefits to working as a specialist oil and gas recruiter: “It’s different to the other forms of recruitment I’ve had exposure to. You’re working to place intelligent people – experts in their field– which keeps things interesting and provides great experience in developing business relationships. You also take a bird’s eye view of an entire project as you’re responsible for sourcing talent at each stage, and feel very much a partner to the client. General recruitment is often much more narrow, you’re replacing roles without needing to understand the client’s operations or aims. The former is far more satisfying.”

Matt saw his desire for travel fulfilled in 2013 when he moved to Petroplan’s Canada office as a senior recruiter. “The role is a little different to what I was doing in the UK; instead of looking after one specific client, I place a wide range of candidates with various companies. I like the more hands-on nature of this work.” Matt’s current role sees him working regularly with major energy companies placing candidates into a host of contrasting positions from senior planners to engineers.

Why Canada? “Canada was always high up my wish list”, states Matt, “Margins on successful placements tend to be higher in this market while living costs are around the same as in London, meaning I have a lot more disposable income. Also, in Canada you’re fishing in an especially small pool of workers due to restrictive labour laws, so the work is much more of a relationship-based, headhunting exercise. This is precisely the work I enjoy as it has more of a personal edge.”

What skills have allowed Matt to get this far? “Tenaciousness”, he explains, “You need a go-getting attitude, and a willingness to persevere. Some weeks you’ll get nowhere, and then a bunch of leads will suddenly come at once. The key is to stay motivated. Given the importance of relationships, a thick skin and flair for diplomacy are also major pluses.”

Matt is now looking to use his newfound earnings to buy a house. And what of his future career? “Above everything else the travel aspect appeals to me”, concludes Matt, “eventually I’ll probably want to see where else my career takes me – South Africa is an attractive option. The great thing about working in oil and gas is that I’ve no doubt such opportunities will come my way.

9 things you didn’t know about Qatar

Simon Cottenham worked in Doha, Qatar as a Recruitment Consultant specialising in Offshore Operations, and is now working in our London office as a Recruitment Specialist specialising in Electrical, Controls and Instrumentation (EC&I).

There are plenty of reasons to consider working abroad and escaping the UK; maybe you’re sick of the miserable weather, done with the level of crime or simply that you are tired of paying a high amount of taxes? I however went for the adventure and experience.

I spent nearly a year living in Doha, and most of that time working internally with an international operator before packing my bags and returning to the UK. I learnt a lot during my time in Qatar, and here are some of my reasons to consider moving to Qatar and the 9 things you did not know about the country.

The ease in lifestyle

What more could you ask for than days in the desert, shopping in the dozens of malls or just relaxing by the pool? There is more to do than you would imagine; there are multiple bars and clubs in every hotel and even a local rugby club where expats gather on the weekends.

The lack of crime

Crime is virtually non existent! A crime, such as burglary, that would seem fairly common in London would be massive news in Doha.

The delicious food and drink

There are more nice restaurants than you could ever eat your way through. My personal favourite was a bar and grill style restaurant in the Radisson called Bentleys, which had really good steak and great wine.

The cheap cars and petrol

Around 17p a litre and no VAT… Need I say more?

The education and child friendly environment

Doha has a wide variety of international schools and almost every other person who you will meet in the Gulf is a teacher! Most companies pay an allowance for schooling and often provide assistance when it comes to finding the right school.

A more liberal attitude than you would  think

As ridiculous as it may sound, you can get an alcohol and pork license. They are easily obtained from the only ‘off license’ in Doha and are worth their weight in gold during Ramadan.

The beautiful weather

You will forget what a cloud looks like as it is hot throughout the year, although it can become unpleasant in-between May and September. Thankfully, everywhere in Doha is air-conditioned so you won’t ‘suffer’ too much.

The travel

Firstly, you have the whole of the Gulf to enjoy; I would personally recommend Muscat as a great place to go on holiday. Secondly, you are in the center of the world, which makes getting across to countries like Australia very easy.

The drawbacks

As with anything in life, there are some negatives to consider. It is only a very small country, which can become tedious if you do not take the occasional weekend away.
The traffic is a constant nightmare; there is virtually no driving test and the locals do not seem to fear death! No one wears seatbelts and you will spend most of your time second guessing what lane a taxi driver is about to veer in to!

Your employer will own your visa in the country, which means that you will need permission to exit the country or to take out any sort of loan. This is nothing to worry about in a large organisation but it is something to remember.

Always do research into local laws before you move to a new country, it will help you adjust and also make sure you’re more prepared before you travel.

I really enjoyed the experience of living in Doha, and whilst it may not be for everyone, less tax and lots of adventure certainly meant my time there was enjoyable and rewarding.


This post was written by Simon Cottenham, Recruitment Specialist, the views presented in this blog are that of his own and his own experiences.

Shale gas and fracking is there a future in the UK

The increasing demand for energy when combined with diminishing reserves have forced the world to focus on an unconventional source of energy, shale gas. The shale gas boom has introduced lower energy costs and created new jobs within the US, boosting domestic manufacturing  whilst delivering measurable environmental benefits as well. The success had by the US with shale gas could be emulated by the UK in the future to secure an alternative supply source and create jobs and tackle environmental issues within the industry.

The Energy Policy is an international peer-reviewed journal addressing the policy implications of energy supply and use from economic, social, planning and environmental aspects. The policy has to balance three key objectives – price, security and climate change. In order to deliver all three of these objectives, there needs to be a diverse energy mix, and in a world where rapid innovation is challenging all past certainties, it makes no sense to back a single energy source or technology in a constantly evolving industry, particularly one that is sometimes subject to unforeseen disruptions to supply.

Shale gas will not compromise investment in boosting renewables, nuclear and other low carbon technologies, and should have a limited impact on the environment. If explored in the right way, shale gas could be an alternative to coal, which emits high carbon emissions, and be the much cleaner option. It could provide the UK with an important new source of gas.
This new supply of gas could be a solution to climate change; it was suggested by the Fifth Assessment Report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that gas has a central role to play in cutting carbon emissions in the fight against climate change.

It could be argued that the UK should be exploring shale gas to establish whether it could join the North Sea gas as part of a lower carbon energy mix. A report by Chief Scientists at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), Professor David MacKay and Dr Timothy Stone, examines the carbon footprint of UK-produced shale gas. They found that, with the appropriate safe guards, emissions from production and transportation of UK shale gas would likely be lower than that of imported liquefied gas. It is thought the net effect of national emissions from UK shale gas would be relatively small compared to other sources of gas.

Along with a reduced impact on the environment, shale gas and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) could benefit the UK oil and gas economy. DECC and the Technology Strategy Board are providing £2million worth of funding for improved or new techniques that could reduce the environmental impact of shale gas exploration. This will open up opportunities for UK business to innovate and lead the way in green energy technologies.

The Energy Minister, Michael Fallon, has suggested that the use of fracking techniques could be worth £33billion to the UK economy; creating up to 64,500 jobs over the next 15 years and bringing 4,000 wells into production. Cuadrilla – an independent UK energy company – is currently bidding to drill for shale gas in Lancashire, raising the prospect of potential contracts and jobs for local residents.

There is a school of thought that the UK would benefit from following in China’s footsteps when it comes to shale gas exploration. PetroChina – the largest oil and gas company in China – plans to spend more than 10 billion Yuan (£950 million) this year on shale gas fracking, in a bid to emulate the success of the US shale boom.

The question that needs to be asked is, if shale gas development can be conducted in an environmentally friendly manner and will potentially benefit the UK by boosting energy output and strengthening the economy, should we explore this means of energy?

Investment in South Africa

It goes without saying that the super majors like Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil, would not have invested in South Africa unless they were certain of a noteworthy return on their investments. As well as these major players, it appears a number of other oil and gas companies, such as Sasol Petroleum, are also joining the emerging East African market. This buoyant oil and gas market in Sub Saharan Africa resulted in Petroplan opening an office in Cape Town in 2012, as the regional hub for our activities in Sub Saharan Africa.
It is anticipated that Mozambique has the potential to become the second largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by 2020. This could potentially uplift the previously war torn country through job creation and skills development for local Mozambicans. However operators face a challenge in the form of new energy policies being imposed by Government energy officials around taxation regulations and state participation.

With many experts in oil and gas exploration and production approaching retirement age, operators should be harnessing their skills and experience to train and mentor the new generation. Practical training, tertiary education and a greater push by companies and governments in the development of local talent will be critical in the achievement of resourcing targets and there is no time like the present to be progressing this initiative.

Angola is a prime example of the consequences of delaying the training of local nationals. With the Angolan Ministry of Petroleum authorities on a massive drive to reduce the amount of expats working in Angola, their drive to appoint locals in specialised roles is a challenge of monumental proportions. Before the authorities issue a working visa for an expat to enter Angola, the hiring company needs to prove that they have exhausted all avenues to recruit an Angolan national by (for example) creating a press advert and providing proof of  the number of applications – even if the candidates are unsuitable. Once an expat candidate has been earmarked for the role, detailed documents need to be completed outlining their skills and experience and justifying the issue of an Angolan entry visa.  Essentially, training programs should have been put into play 10+ years ago by the major operators and oil and gas service providers.

Cape Town is rapidly emerging as an energy hub for the wider Sub-Saharan region, with companies such as Chevron and Tullow opening regional headquarters in the city. Furthermore, Saldanha Bay – situated about an hour and a half’s drive up the coast from Cape Town – is being developed into one of the world’s few Oil and Gas Free Zones. These hubs provide a convenient central port for the maintenance of oil rigs along the global oil and gas supply chain; equipment is more easily cleared through customs, and transactions are VAT-exempt – making them a far more attractive proposition for operators than conventional ports.

Home to a plethora of companies specializing in activities such as engineering and fabrication, South Africa has long been renowned for its expertise and skills base in the area of oil and gas maintenance. Saldanha also has a distinct geographical advantage in the changing global marketplace; many oil rigs are produced in Asia, before being deployed to Latin America for exploration and drilling.  Saldanha provides a convenient mid-point along this route, as opposed to more distant alternatives such as Dubai or the UK. And needless to say Saldanha is well positioned to service future rigs taking advantage of Africa’s offshore reserves.

The case for the Saldanha Free Zone overlaps with the wider case for South Africa as a regional industry hub: good infrastructure, a first world business environment, English-speaking, the African continent’s largest economy, world-class business schools, high standards of living, good regional transport links, a strong relationship with other emerging producing countries such as Mozambique … the list goes on. And the region will certainly need a hub in the years to come: Africa’s proven onshore oil reserves stand at around 124bn barrels, with another 100bn estimated offshore, with its proven reserves of natural gas amounting to around 509 trillion cubic feet.

Since late 2007, South Africa’s electricity provider ESKOM has faced challenges to provide power from their coal fired power stations and meet the energy demands of South Africa. A number of different factors have contributed to these challenges, such as high supply and demand and the inability to generate the required capacity owing to a high supply and demand. The use of shale gas would significantly ease the current energy crisis; however there are many hurdles and challenges that need to be overcome before the country reaches that stage.  Conservationists and local residents have been furiously lobbying against fracking and the long term impact it will have on the region’s groundwater resources. Rural areas like the Karoo, inland settlements and towns are dependent on groundwater reserves, not only for human consumption, but for agriculture – their life blood.  The ghosts of fracking in the US are all too evident and the average man on the street is asking “to frack or not to frack”, THAT is the question!

Drilling for talent the challenges facing UK north sea oil and gas

There can be no doubt that the UK North Sea will remain an important region for oil and gas for years to come. Most of its fields are expected to remain economically viable until 2020 at the earliest, and high oil prices have given a boost to exploration in the North East Atlantic basin in areas previously considered marginal and thereby uneconomic. The region still boasts estimated oil and gas reserves of 9.4billion boe with a 50% plus chance of recoverability…

Despite this, UK drilling activity is in decline, and nowhere near the levels necessary to unlock the area’s remaining potential. Production drilling has remained constant at about 120-130 wells/yr since 2009, but remains well below pre-2009 levels. More worryingly, the last three years have seen the lowest rate of exploration activity in the region’s history. 2013 saw 44 exploration and appraisal wells drilled, below initial forecasts, and down from 53 in 2012. This year may see a lower level of activity still, with plans to drill just 25 exploration wells and 11 appraisal wells. Around 66 further exploration and appraisal wells are expected to be drilled through 2015 and 2016, suggesting that the yearly rate is not expected to rise significantly.

This is not just a concern for the industry, but the entire country. UK offshore oil and gas continues to be the country’s largest industrial investor, paying more tax to the Exchequer than any other corporate sector. North Sea oil and gas supports around 450,000 jobs across the country and contributes to around 1.5% of national GDP. Without domestic production, we would have had to import an extra $US52 billion worth of energy in 2012. But we can only produce as much as we drill – ultimately, the stakes could not be higher.

So what are the factors behind this dip in activity, and what obstacles do drilling companies in the North Sea face? Much of the issue comes down to the sector’s inherent volatility. Drilling companies largely operate on a project-by-project basis, the availability and location of which are highly sensitive to moveable factors such as the prices of oil and gas, the emergence of new technology and new discoveries. Opportunities can arise with little forward notice, leaving companies scrambling to ready themselves to take advantage. On the other hand, a dip in prices can lead to prolonged periods of reduced or low activity. For drilling companies this volatility manifests itself in three major ways: access to rigs, access to financial capital, and access to human capital.

No money, no rigs

Demand for rigs, and their lack of availability during periods of high activity, is a major challenge facing North Sea exploration drilling. Of the 55-60 exploration and appraisal wells forecast to be drilled last year, 20 were postponed and four cancelled. 42% of these postponements/cancellations were down to a lack of rig availability. Another 8% involved cases where the company had in fact secured a firm rig slot to drill, but delays on other drilling sitesended up preventing use.

The number of mobile rigs deployed in the UK at the end of 2013 was the highest since 2008 (20 jackup and 19 semisubmersible rigs respectively) – however relative to the region’s potential this still very much represents a shortfall. Current high rig rates (combined with the fact that the average drilling period has risen to 17 days) only increase the strain. A lack of access to funding was also a significant constraint on exploration in 2013, accounting for a further quarter of the postponements and cancellations. As one might expect, this factor hit smaller drilling companies disproportionately hard relative to their larger, more resilient counterparts. As a result, small to medium sized companies contributed just 25% of wells in 2013, a lower share than in previous years (partly offset by increased activity on the part of energy utilities during the same period).

The people problem

Another major manifestation of volatility – though more subtle than the above two – are the difficulties inherent in getting the right people with the right technical skills to the right place for the right duration, often at short notice. To some extent this challenge is common to drilling companies across the world: the global oil and gas industry faces an acute skills shortage of workers with 10-15 years of experience, thanks to a near universal shut-down of training and recruitment programmes during the 80s oil gut, when prices hit record lows.

However there are additional issues particular to the North Sea region that exacerbate the challenge. Firstly, competition with other regions around the world – in an industry already short on human capital – makes it especially difficult to retain talent. Drilling personnel working abroad might typically command salaries 35-50% higher than equivalent North Sea-based personnel and the difference becomes marked when one includes taxes and bonuses.

And it’s not merely a matter of pay. It’s also a matter of job satisfaction and the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology. The North Sea is of course, a very mature, developed region, filled with aging ‘rust-buckets’ and manually-operated drilling rigs built on older technology. These do the job, but other newer regions tend to have a higher proportion of newer generation rigs. At the very cutting-edge this includes ‘cyber rigs’ – high automated drilling rigs

where instead of roustabouts and rough-necks rushing about switching pipes you are more likely to see staff in comfy chairs, pushing buttons and monitoring proceedings via highly sophisticated computerised control systems. Many newer generation mobile rigs boast far better conditions for workers, and come replete with a host of extra facilities designed to improve the living standards of those posted there.

Logistical acrobatics

Rig availability is largely a matter of supply and demand beyond the immediate control of drilling companies, as are the factors that dictate the availability of financial capital. Therefore drilling companies have limited options when it comes to mitigating the impact of volatility in these areas. When it comes to the impact of volatility on human capital, however, there is more that can be done.

We are increasingly seeing companies engage in ‘logistical acrobatics’ to minimize the people problem. Employers will incentivise workers to remain offshore instead of departing for leave, or work extra shifts. The ‘quasi-demotion/promotion’ is another weapon in the arsenal: e.g. an assistant driller might be promoted to a driller on a strategic per-project basis, and similarly a tool-pusher might be ‘demoted’ to driller in order to fill an urgent gap, while remaining on the higher tool-pusher rate of pay.

In the same vein, some companies in the UK North Sea are reorganizing shift rotations in order to make hours more appealing to prospective workers. ‘Roving trips’ are increasingly common, as they can afford candidates a chance to travel and get out onto different rigs. Another trick increasingly on the uptake (at least within larger organizations that have the capacity) is to identify when your international workers will be home, and use them at this point. For instance, say you have someone working on a 28 days on/28 days off rotation in Angola; that contractor may be amenable to doing a two week shift in the North Sea whilst he is back in the country visiting family. Mapping out where your workers are across your organisation, and when, and then using that information intelligently, can make all the difference.

Maximizing the size of your talent pool

But there is a limit to how far these ‘sticking plaster’ solutions can go. The real key to mitigating the impact of volatility on human capital is to widen the talent pool from which you recruit as far as possible. The potential talent pool that oil and gas companies tap into can typically be extended in two dimensions: geographically and into other sectors.

For various historical and cultural reasons, many oil and gas companies remain reluctant to hire outside of the local market, at least in mature fields within developed Western economies (such as the North Sea or Canada). Yet a planning engineer (for instance) is more or less the same whether he or she hails from London or Calgary.

To take an example: a senior project engineer from Dubai – who had secured permanent residency status in Canada – was looking for work at a major Canadian oil and gas company. Having previously applied for various vacancies via the company’s online portal without receiving a single response, he would come into the company’s office nearly every day of his final visit to Canada, frantically seeking work prior to the daunting step of relocating his family. Yet he was routinely dismissed. Interestingly, the company in question had installed a third party recruitment specialist firm that same week. Once said specialists reviewed his CV and got talking to him on the Tuesday, it became clear that his previous experience in Dubai would make him a very good fit for a role in the Canadian company. By Friday he had secured the role! The worker proved a good hire, was rapidly promoted to project manager, and the company is now far less reticent about hiring from outside of the local market. The talent was there, the barrier was cultural.

This is starting to happen among North Sea companies, who are increasingly recruiting those with experience on land rigs, particularly from North America and Eastern Europe. These workers require minimal training to get them up to speed on offshore rigs, and there is often a greater economic incentive for them, especially for workers from Eastern Europe.

For instance, a land-based driller from Croatia may be able to double their take-home when working in the UK North Sea. Roles in international waters, while attractive, are highly competitive – for these candidates the North Sea affords an opportunity to get into the offshore business and build valuable experience. More and more, companies are offering staff retention bonuses that rise with every continued year of service, as a means of encouraging skilled workers to stay put.

The other major way to maximize the talent pool is for the industry to overcome a similar historical and cultural reluctance to hire sideways from other sectors that cultivate transferable skills. In certain countries such as Australia and South Africa this can mean taking advantage of similar roles in said countries’ large mining sectors, and companies operating in the UK North Sea have access to a pool of ex-servicemen and women from the Army or Navy.

While companies can do more to mitigate the impact of the people problem than they can a lack of rigs or poor economy, there is still no magic wand solution. Companies need to be flexible and use all possible resources at their disposal to retain and attract talent in this crucial area. A common factor behind successful sideways and global hiring is the use of third party workforce specialists such as recruitment agencies. It was a recruitment agency which – thanks to its understanding of the industry together with its experience in the Middle East – helped the Canadian company see the potential in the project engineer from Dubai. In a situation where demand is so high, and timing so crucial, positions can be routinely filled in mere minutes after becoming available simply by being able to tap into a global network of highly skilled workers. To have access to the full picture of just who is available, and when, can put firms at a major advantage.

Kenny Dooley is regional director for Petroplan, a global organisation which delivers specialist recruitment, contractor management and support services throughout the oil, gas and energy industries. Located in Aberdeen, Mr Dooley has a wealth of oil and gas recruitment and engineering experience spanning nearly ten years. He joined Petroplan’s Aberdeen office in 2012, during which time he has grown the practice considerably through the provision of specialist recruitment services. This includes overseeing the expansion of the company’s service offering by introducing specialist recruitment divisions including drilling and commercial. This unique approach to recruitment has seen Petroplan bring in industry experts with hands on experience to lead the candidate search for each of its core disciplines in oil, gas and energy.

The world is your oyster: a glimpse into the life of an oil and gas recruiter…

Like many of his colleagues in the oil and gas recruitment industry, Matthew Branch didn’t embark on his career with a view to working in the sector, nor did he make the move straight from university. Matt graduated from Southampton Solent University just over a decade ago with a degree in Accounting and Law. “Like many graduates I didn’t have any clear idea of what to do at the time”, Matt says, “Despite my degree I quickly concluded that accountancy wasn’t for me, and that I’d likely find them boring. I had friends at the time who were working in recruitment and making a good deal of money whilst enjoying the job. I thought to myself – if they can do that, I can too…

As a consequence, Matt secured his first role as a trainee recruitment consultant in his home town of Guilford, placing candidates in IT roles with major insurance companies and other financial firms such as Lloyd’s and  Aviva. Matt soon found that as well as being a good way to earn money, the role of recruiter suited his personality and aptitudes. “Recruitment is all about mixing and matching people to roles” he says, “I found this was something I excelled at and moreover it can be very satisfying.”

Matt’s career soon took him away from Guilford and it wasn’t until eight years on, in 2011, that he would move into oil and gas specialist recruitment, when he was headhunted by another recruiter with the offer of returning to work in his home town. “It was where I lived at the time so the idea piqued my interest” says Matt. Matt was consequently introduced to Petroplan, which got him considering the potential benefits of working in the energy industry: “I had some prior exposure to the world of oil and gas, and its attendant lifestyle, via my uncle, who works out in Romania as Vice President of an upstream drilling and exploration business. I’m quite an international person and have a very worldly family – my father runs the South East Asian division of a major supply chain company. I grew up moving between different countries and it’s in my blood; I had a real desire to travel, and to live and work in foreign climates. I knew from my uncle’s experience that the oil and gas industry is very global in nature, and affords its workers a lot of opportunity to do exactly this. It occurred to me that recruiting within the industry might offer the same possibilities.” Matt consequently went for interviews with Petroplan and landed the job.

Matt quickly found there were other distinct benefits to working as a specialist oil and gas recruiter: “Oil and gas recruitment is quite different to the other forms of recruitment I’ve had exposure to in my career, in two mains ways. Firstly you’re generally working to place very intelligent, experienced people – experts in their field across a real variety of roles – which both keeps things interesting and also provides great experience in terms of developing business relationship skills. The other big difference is that the nature of the industry means that the job you’re doing involves taking a bird’s eye view of an entire project. For example the project may be to extract resources and sell them downstream over a four to five year period. You’ll be responsible for sourcing talent for the client at each stage of the project during that period, and so feel very much like a partner to the client in delivering that outcome. This is as opposed to a lot of financial or general recruitment which is often much more narrow and reactive, where you’re usually replacing roles and don’t need to have much of a big picture regarding the client’s operations, or what its aims are as a business. The former is far more satisfying.”

But the primary appeal of the sector for Matt remained the possibility of international travel, and Matt saw his desire fulfilled in January of 2013 when he made a move to Petroplan’s Canada office as a senior recruiter. “The role is a little different to what I was doing in the UK when I moved across”, explains Matt, “whereas I was an account manager in the UK, which meant looking after a specific client – in this case BP – in terms of its overall personal needs and the broader Petroplan relationship, my role here in Canada is more on the general sourcing side, and I place a wide range of candidates with various clients. Personally, I like the more hands-on nature of this type of work, so the shift suited me.” Matt’s current role sees him working regularly with major North American energy companies including Enbridge Pipelines (one of the largest on the continent), Husky Energy, and Conoco Philips, placing candidates into a whole host of contrasting positions from senior planners to inspectors to pipeline engineers.

Why Canada? “Canada was always very high up my wish list in terms of countries to live and work in”, states Matt, “and there are particular benefits to being an oil and gas recruiter here. Margins on successful placements tend to be higher in this market (for example, 15 per cent as opposed to seven) while living costs are on balance around the same as in London,  UK, meaning I have a lot more earning opportunities, disposable income, and a far greater ability to save. This is a big motivator for me.” And whilst oil and gas recruitment is in general a relatively candidate-driven landscape thanks to the skills shortage and niche expertise required, this is even more the case in the Canadian market, as Matt explains: “working in Canada you’re fishing in an especially small pool of workers due to Canada’s restrictive labour laws which mean jobs usually only go to permanent residents or citizens. This makes for a much greater challenge; whereas in the UK I might, for instance, get 80 applications per job, and 10-20 would be high quality, in Canada I might be lucky to get 30 applications, and it may be that none of are of the required quality. This means that the work is even more of a relationship-based, headhunting exercise, which is perfect for me as it’s precisely this sort of recruitment work I enjoy and excel at as it has more of a personal edge, and often necessitates getting to know certain people very well over a good length of time.”

But it isn’t just about the job. Canada is perfectly suited to Matt’s wider lifestyle. “Culturally, and in terms of geography and climate, it’s a perfect fit for me” says Matt, “I’m very much an outdoorsman and Canada offers so much of that lifestyle. On any given weekend I’ll be camping, rafting through canyons, or spending long weekends by the lakes with friends. I like to play golf here a lot and it’s really quite a different experience to doing so in the UK, as some of the courses are up in the mountains, and you’re playing through a course surrounded by stunning peaks. I’m also a huge snowboarding fan.”

What are the skills that have allowed Matt to get this far, and what advice would he give to new entrants looking for a similar career? “Tenaciousness is a big help”, Matt explains, “you need to have quite a go-getter attitude, and a willingness to persevere through bad times as well as good. Some weeks you’ll get nowhere at all, and then a bunch of leads will suddenly come through at once later down the line. The key is to have the motivation to keep going. Given the importance of relationships to the industry, a thick skin and flair for diplomacy are also major pros. A good understanding of the oil and gas market is also essential, but this isn’t necessarily a prior requirement. My market knowledge was very basic when I joined Petroplan, which puts all of its recruits through an intensive oil and gas training course conducted by senior industry veterans. You learn the energy supply chain across a range of different scenarios, for example offshore versus onshore. So you needn’t be an industry expert, or even know much at all, to get your foot in the door. Far more important is the willingness to learn.”

Looking to the future, while Matt’s visa lasts until 2015 he is confident that he will stay on beyond this, and is considering applying for permanent residency status. “There are pros and cons”, says Matt, “it’s an 18 month process and once its granted you have to stay in the country for a period, which would be tricky for me as I still have family back in the UK – I’m weighing up my options.” In the meantime, Matt is looking to use his newfound earning potential to build up his savings with a potential view to buying a house. And what of his future career? “Over and above everything else it’s the travel aspect that appeals to me”, concludes Matt, “eventually I’ll probably want to up sticks and see where else my career can take me – South Africa is an attractive option, as is East Asia. The great thing about working in oil and gas is that I’ve no doubt such opportunities will come my way.”

Petroplan Opens Regional Hub in South Africa

Petroplan, the global recruiter for the oil and gas industry, is opening a new South African office. The office – Petroplan’s first in Africa – is located in Century City, a business development within the suburbs of Cape Town. It will act as a regional hub for Petroplan’s activities in Sub-Saharan Africa, covering various territories including Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Cameroon, and Tanzania. This move will enable Petroplan to further expand its operations and better service clients across an important growth region for the oil and gas sector…

The opening comes just in time for the 20thAfrica Oil Week, which, starting on the 5thNovember, will see the industry descend on Cape Town to discuss the continent’s prospects and challenges at a key point in its development.

African proven onshore oil reserves stand at around 124bn barrels, with another 100bn stimated offshore, while its proven reserves of natural gas amounts to around 509tn cubic feet. Recent discoveries highlight the significant upwards potential of these figures; South Africa alone is home to the 8thlargest technically recoverable shale gas resources in the world.

The new office will benefit from excellent data infrastructure, and good transport links with both Cape Town and the rest of the country. Jacques Rautenbach has been brought in to head the new hub as Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa. Having joined Petroplan in September 2012, Jacques brings 14 years of oil and gas sector experience to the role, having worked in a HR and Business Development capacity for drilling and resources companies such as Transocean, Ensco, Total, Shell, and Sasol across a variety of locations in America, Asia, Europe and Africa. Primarily responsible for business development, Jacques will oversee the overall office with a team that will initially include four recruiters, with this number expected to rise to ten – including two recruiters for permanent positions – by the second quarter of 2014.

Jacques Rautenbach, Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Petroplan, comments: Establishing a permanent presence in South Africa is a very natural step for Petroplan, given the number of clients and relationships we have in the Sub-Saharan region, and considering the region’s promising future in terms of drilling and exploration. There is no doubt that Africa will play a central role in the industry’s future growth. The location couldn’t be a better fit; South Africa remains the continent’s strongest economy, and Century City is fast emerging as an energy hub. For example, Chevron recently moved its headquarters here, and Tullow Oil is headquartered just down the road in Cape Town – the new office puts us closer to our clients, and will enable us to deliver a truly African service in terms of business culture.”

London Stock Exchange names Petroplan as one of 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain

Petroplan, the global recruiter for the oil and gas industry, has been named as one of the London Stock Exchange Group’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain…

Andrew Speers, managing director at Petroplan, said, “As a company founded and headquartered in Britain we are delighted to receive this accolade. It is a testament to the uniqueness of our service, our success to date, and our aspiration for global growth; we have just launched our first office in South Africa and will be opening a London base in the New Year, so this is a really exciting time for the whole company.”

The London Stock Exchange Group commissioned the report this year to identify the UK’s most exciting and dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises. It highlights the need to nurture, support and encourage these businesses, which it recognises as having significant potential for future growth.

To qualify for the list, companies had to meet a range of criteria for turnover, age, ownership and business type. Qualifying businesses were then ranked by a combination of revenue growth, growth in the value or number of contracts awarded, expansion of work space occupied, growth in the number of staff, and growth in the intellectual property owned or awareness of the business.

The future potential in South Africa

South Africa has a long history of drilling and exploration dating as far back as 1965, yet the oil and gas industry within the country still remains relatively unexplored. South Africa holds 95% of Africa’s total coal reserves and has the world’s ninth-largest amount of recoverable coal. The potential in the oil, gas and energy industry now however lies within deepwater drilling sites.

The biggest challenge faced in the oil and gas industry within South Africa is similar to that faced by the rest of the world; the shortage of skilled workers. Much of the skills shortage in South Africa relates to the areas of high expertise, such as engineers, but also stretches to the blue collar areas, such as welders and pipe-fitters.

The skilled workers in highest demand are the mid-tier level workers, those with around 10 to 15 years experience. In conjunction with this, the neglecting of trade skills training in favour of more academic routes, and the lack of training programmes at a university level in South Africa, has commensurately resulted in the greater demand for lower level skilled workers.

Challenges facing the shortage of skilled workers are met with strict quotas set by the Black Economic Empowerment Act in South Africa. The Back Economic Empowerment Act requires companies in South Africa to hire from the domestic talent pool, specifically from groups considered to be disadvantaged along the lines of ethnicity or gender. This act could exacerbate the skills shortage further, as South Africa does not presently have the volume of skilled workers they need for these roles within the their own pool of talent.

The industry within South Africa relies heavily on expatriates from Western nations to fill these skilled positions. Deepwater drilling conditions are similar to those found in offshore fields in the North Sea and Canada, therefore much of the expertise and technical skills have to be imported from such as these regions in to South Africa.

Efforts have now been made to combat the skills shortage in South Africa. A new scholarship has been offered to African nationals by the prestigious Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland. The university is offering a ‘training of trainers’ programme to boost local expert capacity in the lucrative South African oil and gas industry that has a limited number of experts.

The oil and gas industry is also embarking on significant training initiatives now that the South African Government has made it a tax deductible expense, with major companies recruiting 100-200 graduates a year. This will further help to increase skills availability, as workers at university level will have an opportunity to learn the desirable skills needed from major companies within the industry.

Petroplan feel that the exploration and refining capacity in South Africa will continue to increase in the future as new areas are discovered; although profit margins will, for the moment, be impacted as the local talent pool is limited. The skilled expatriates imported to work in South Africa will continue to be the key players in the industry until such time skills development in the region can provide entry level engineers in the various disciplines required.

For any more information on the oil and gas industry in South Africa, please feel free to contact our office in Cape Town on +27 21 250 0030 or email them on [email protected]

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