IOGCC: US petroleum workforce size increasing

March 5, 2007
Government and industry are making progress in increasing the number of qualified petroleum professionals in the US, says the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission in a new report.

Government and industry are making progress in increasing the number of qualified petroleum professionals in the US, says the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission in a new report.

Particularly encouraging is “evidence of public-private partnerships at every level,” IOGCC said. “The task force recommendations for establishing internships, scholarships, and other programs designed to attract young people to petroleum science careers have taken root in all areas.”

The report, “Blue Ribbon Task Force: A Follow Up Report,” updates the results of a task force created by North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven in 2001 to investigate the shrinking numbers of petroleum geologists, geophysicists, and engineers in the US workforce. Following its analysis, the task force issued recommendations to federal and state governments, colleges and universities, the oil and gas industry, and other groups for collaboration in counteracting the situation.

“The progress is encouraging,” said Hoeven, who currently chairs IOGCC.

In 2001, the original task force noted that enrollments in petroleum-related majors at US colleges and universities had decreased over many years. The updated report, which IOGCC issued Feb. 26, says that the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in petroleum engineering rose to 322 in 2005 from 260 in 2000, while the number of geology degrees fell slightly to 3,300 in 2004 from nearly 3,500 in 2000.

“The imperatives for action in the next 3-5 years include new directions in public policy, education, and resource development and management,” the report says.

Federal performance

Grading the various sectors’ performances, the IOGCC report finds that the federal government has been strongest in creating internships within federal departments for geosciences graduates and undergraduates, and in working with other federal departments and the IOGCC in a coordinated effort. However it was weakest in funding pilot and research programs, advising the IOGCC and its member states of available grants, and alerting them of similar projects to avoid duplication.

Oil and gas research funding, a federal budget reduction target since 1989, remained relatively flat from 2001 to the present. “Of the $8 billion budgeted in 2006 for energy R&D, only $65 million was slated for oil and gas R&D,” noted the latest report, adding that the 109th Congress failed to approve the fiscal 2007 budget altogether.

“To date, nothing is budgeted for oil and gas R&D within the US Department of Energy. All that remains is the $50 million allocated from royalty receipts under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for ultradeepwater and unconventional hydrocarbon development,” IOGCC report said.

Despite reduced funding, it continued, some interesting federal research has occurred, including progress in developing clean and renewable energy sources by DOE’s fossil energy office, reduction of methane emissions through DOE’s Natural Gas STAR initiative, and funding from DOE’s natural gas and petroleum technology office for a global partnership to reduce gas flaring and venting associated with crude oil production.

The new IOGG report also notes progress as other federal departments and agencies have developed partnerships with the oil and gas industry. These include the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and Minerals Management Service, which both have addressed royalty regulations in ways designed to offer incentives; the Internal Revenue Service, which revised rules applicable to depreciation and amortization, and the Department of Commerce, which established an emergency oil and gas guaranteed loan fund.

State, industry progress

States have been strongest in involving their employment services, regulatory agencies and education entities into oil and gas training and education, says the report. States also have done well in creating partnerships with the industry, providing internships, continuing education for teachers, working with career counselors, and funding of research. They also reached out to the federal government through the Western Governors Association and other groups.

“Progress in this sector has been stronger overall. Of the IOGCC’s 37 state members, 30 reported positive activity toward improving the investment climate for the petroleum industry in their state,” the IOGCC’s new report indicates.

The industry’s biggest contributions, it says, have been to provide summer jobs, reach out to high school and college students, and develop scholarships and grant programs for employees to extend their education. Oil and gas executives also have alerted human resources professionals of the need for a sustained effort, and they financially supported public relations, public education, and scholarship/internship programs.

The popularity of summer job and internship programs has soared as sophomores make $4,000/month and juniors and seniors make $5,600/month, according to the report. “From the students’ perspective, internships not only help fund their college expenses, but they receive valuable training in the various aspects of their chosen field. From the companies’ perspective, they are recruiting qualified people familiar with their culture and operations,” it says.

Copies of the report can be ordered from IOGCC or viewed online at