Expectations and Reality: The Fate of a Recent Petroleum Engineering Graduate

By Adebola Olanrewaju

So it’s official! The Petroleum industry is going through its worst years in recent memory. Oil prices have reached new lows; four, five times? I have lost count myself. Petroleum Engineering graduates like me have made bookmarks of websites like Reuters, CNBC and Bloomberg on our browsers as we constantly monitor the slump. For the sake of knowledge, I would do a quick recap of how this crisis started.

The slump in oil price is a classic Economics 101 case of Demand and Supply, as CNN’s Richard Quest rightly explained. Demand for crude oil has greatly reduced over the last couple of years due to the drop in the growth rate of major economies while supply has increased significantly.

Also, the crisis had been fueled by America’s discovery of shale oil in early 2014 – one they have been able to economically extract. With this, America went from being a major importer to an exporter of crude oil.
As if that was not enough, Saudi Arabia and Iran (both are members of OPEC, lest we forget) decided to start their own ‘economic war’ which further affected oil prices.
Sanctions placed on Iran were lifted late 2015/early 2016 and Iran is bent on claiming its oil market share by increasing oil production by 500,000 barrels a day. In summary, even with the low demand, oil supply is still on the rise, causing oil prices to plummet.
So where does that leave us, the Petroleum Engineering graduates?

While in the University in Nigeria, there was this common notion: ‘Just finish school and start collecting armed robbers salary’. That was the expectation. Oil was selling at well over $100 per barrel and all seemed to be well.
Now that our dear oil companies have aggressively halved their workforce and stopped recruiting due to the dip in prices, it is apparent that the landscape has changed considerably. This is the reality we face as graduates in this volatile industry. So where do we, the Petroleum Engineering graduates go from here?

As dire as the situation seems, there are still quite a number of options for the Petroleum Engineer. The most obvious route, especially for the gurus, would be to obtain a  Masters degree. A friend of mine attended an Oil and Gas conference, met a representative of a company (name withheld) and asked about job opportunities. “This is the best time to go back to school” was the laconic reply he got. I would go no further on that option.

Another alternative would be to choose another sector such as the Accounting sector. January 29 2016 made it exactly a year since I wrote my final exams at the University of Ibadan and I have hardly applied for oil and gas jobs. Not because I don’t want feel like working in an oil firm (LOL! of course, everybody wants to) but because most oil companies are not recruiting. I find myself applying for jobs at the likes of KPMG and PwC. Trust me, it’s saddening but hey, that’s the reality. Man must chop!!!
The last route will be to look for an Oil company;  if you know someone that has an Uncle who knows a friend that owns an Oil servicing company (i.e. if your legs are longer than Usain Bolt’s), please use them and get that job while you wait for the mega job.
History has taught us that oil prices will rise again, therefore patience is the name of the game (It rose from $28per barrel to $35 per barrel today due to Russia’s intervention. That’s some good news).

The oil industry goes through periods of crests and troughs and I strongly believe the next crest is just around the corner. It is therefore essential to be fully prepared for this crest. If you have to go to school, please do so. If you can gain experience, do that as well. Whatever you do, just make sure you are on the move. Do something worthwhile, else you will find yourself competing with the present 200 and 300 level students when that mega job you always dreamt of comes around.
Now how would it feel if you don’t have an edge over them?

This article was inspired by Stephen Hunyinbo’s personal message on BlackBerry Messenger: “The gap between expectations and realities though. Sometimes, it just pays to be a pessimist.”

Adebola Olanrewaju is a graduate of Petroleum Engineering from the University of Ibadan

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4 thoughts on “Expectations and Reality: The Fate of a Recent Petroleum Engineering Graduate

  1. Ebele Obodoeze says:

    Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all (Dale Carnegie).

  2. Azeezat Otulana says:

    Bruv, true talk o. This is a wonderful piece. You dipped right out of most petroleum engineering graduate heads. Or at least, everyone that’s had the dream of collecting armed rubber salary. Rightfully spoken. Bravo!

  3. Olomson says:

    Well articulated bro, lots of reasons for the slump from politics to technical….This volatility of the price of oil makes our industry unique in a way. But I see light at the end of the tunnel, what we just need to do is to be prepared and not just lay around until the turn around….There is an aphorism within the E & P sector, that says, “one is still a nouveau if the person have not seen an oil price cycle”…I guess we seeing the trough of the cycle yet, the crest is coming.

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