Training in Oil and Gas Upstream Industry; A Concern to Notice

The issue of training in different industries by considering the new occupational needs in various technical and managerial departments and the presence of expert human resources is of utmost importance. The significance of this issue in the oil industry is multiplied when investigating the statistics of the dependence of many industries on oil and gas. According to a IHS study, at least 32% of the industries in Asia and Europe, 44% in the Central and South America, 40% in the North America, 41% in Africa, and more than 53% in the Middle East are related to oil and gas sector. Therefore, there are a significant number of employees in the oil and gas industry; for example, according to the latest reports in the United States, which is known as one of the most advanced countries in the world with the lowest share of oil and gas in its industries, 2.1 million out of 9.8 million employees are working in the oil and gas industry. Moreover, it is predicted that this number of oil and gas employees will reach to more than 3.9 million by 2025. Indeed, this share of employment is much higher in other countries, especially in the ones with the huge oil reserves in the world. For example, in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Iraq, Mexico, UAE, Libya, Nigeria, and Venezuela, more than half of the employees work in the oil and gas industry.

By considering the oil and gas industries in three main sectors of upstream, midstream, and downstream, the present paper attempts to focus on human resources education and training in upstream oil and gas industry. If we take a quick look at different parts of the upstream oil and gas industry from exploration to production, we see a wide range of specialized occupations and activities that play a key role as the first business circles in the oil industry. In the exploration, reservoir, drilling and production sectors of oil resources, employees work at various positions of research, engineering, operations and management. The most considerable difference between the specialized activities in this field is on the engineering and operational sectors, where the oil industry is completely different from other industries.

Before discussing the issue of training the individuals, it is necessary to examine what duties the engineering and operational forces must carry out in the oil industry to make the necessary arrangements. In general, there are four types of positions in the upstream oil industry, and each needs its own technical expertise. The main task of the exploration sector is identifying and discovering hydrocarbon reserves. The reservoir engineering sector examines the behavior models of reservoirs, plans and designs the drilling and production methods in the fields. In the two branches of drilling engineering and drilling operations, the drilling sector deals with drilling oil and gas wells according to the specified programs. Finally, the exploitation and production sector is involved in managing the production from the wells drilled. The important questions in this regard are as follows: what are the characteristics of scientific and technical knowledge in each of these four major engineering sectors and skillful workforce? What should the engineers, as the most basic oil industry forces, have to do in order to reach professional career positions?

In response to this question, it should be noted that standard and basic steps must be taken to become professional engineers. First and foremost, there must be basic training in petroleum engineering. Academic education is a must in petroleum engineering. Petroleum engineers should have sufficient scientific knowledge and ability in this regard. They must have the minimum academic degree, i.e. B.Sc. in petroleum engineering. Many universities and educational centers provide necessary training for obtaining the degrees. Therefore, it is strongly suggested that those who want to be good engineers take university courses.

The second prerequisite is the personal qualities appropriate for the oil industry. Having proper characteristics for the oil industry is another prerequisite for the success in this lucrative profession. Engineers and employees in this sector are involved in activities requiring a relatively high amount of physical strength in their daily lives. They must have a strong spirit to work under hard and enduring conditions. Due to the difficulty of working conditions, calculations, and time constraints, petroleum engineers are required to have high intelligence in mathematics to complete projects with the least amount of challenges. Today, these issues play a major role in training good engineers in oil and gas industry. Many employees in this industry, who have not got enough knowledge of working conditions and could not fit in, never succeed in their careers.

The third prerequisite is obtaining qualifications and certificates required for and related to the organizational positions. Many sectors of the oil industry require professional and industrial certificates. These certificates do not need any prerequisites and can be achieved by attending short-term professional courses and workshops as well as participating in the relevant exams. One of the most prominent features of these courses is the use of successful and practical examples in the industry, resulting from the experiences of individuals and companies. Many professional petroleum associations such as the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) have established training courses for their members that have the above-mentioned certificates. The basis of the requirements defined by these associations is the principles of engineering, particularly the operational discussions and issues based on experiences, for using in the oil industry.

Beside the triple items mentioned before for a petroleum engineer in the technical sector, it is necessary to pay attention to strategic and management issues as well. It is important for oil engineers to know the regular procedures of the oil organizations and companies. Different companies may have their own procedures and tasks; a team working on the contracting sector, a team of employers, a group of consultants, and even companies working on the finance, investment, and other oil sectors including IT, knowledge management, logistics, etc. Therefore, to be a good petroleum engineer it is necessary to work on issues such as learning the economic value of foreign oil resources and influencing the oil industry, working with other sectors of the economic and financial departments, and experts from other relevant departments in order to explore and exploit the potential of the industry, get familiar with oil production rate strategies, etc.

The importance of human resources in all areas of education, retention, and compensation must be considered. However, it is beyond the scope of this paper. What is highlighted in this note is the training of an efficient and expert manpower for the oil industry to operate in each company for a job position, while the organizational issues of oil companies are not addressed. The human resources in the petroleum industry are trained in academic centers such as engineering and technical universities, technical and vocational schools and special training centers for oil industry. Understanding the importance and function of these centers, and their strategies in educational planning is a step towards improving employee’s levels. In the following, the universities and specialized educational centers of the world are reviewed in order to study the strategies, goals, capabilities, and the structural lacks of these organizations in the education and training of human resources for the petroleum industry. Also there is important educational advice for universities, industrial training centers and active oil and gas companies in the Middle East region.


Education at University

The University is considered as the main and largest center for theoretical training in the present period. In petroleum engineering, the first stage is to study in the fields of oil industry at the university. Basic training in oil and gas concepts which can be considered as university strategies, are industry-university requirements in petroleum engineering as well as other related sectors such as mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and so on. In this regard, the capacities of universities and the presence of academic professors in various topics can be used for major scientific developments, new patents and innovations and the solution of industry problem as most of innovation and industrial mutations are rooted in academic and laboratory activities supported by scientific studies. For sure, the limitations of such centers should be considered and the operational problems of the industry that require operational and industrial experience would not be addressed and the goals must be focused on research topics.

Today, the globally-renowned universities in the field of petroleum engineering have specific educational styles according to their own specific strategies. At universities, there are different engineering courses at different levels that vary in the approaches of learning petroleum engineering. Generally, basic and general principles of oil engineering are taught in B.Sc. degree and research methods are taught in M.Sc. Eventually, research solutions are provided at higher degrees of doctoral and postdoctoral degrees to solve fundamental industrial challenges and problems.

A number of universities have started to improve the knowledge of solving the problems and challenges of the petroleum industry based on their access to the industrial projects and cooperative agreements and now they are working on the research projects using their software and laboratory facilities. We rarely see the presence of the universities as the project developers and implementers and this is according to their establishment basis and application. There is a close and direct connection between the rate of growth and development of the oil industry and the level of countries’ universities regarding the presence of capable specialist forces, development of updated technologies and finally the position of the active companies in the country. In the study of more than 50 famous petroleum and gas engineering universities in the world, more than 40% are from U.S, 10% from Canada, 5% from Norway, Australia, U.K(each of them 5%) and only 2 % from other countries such as India, Indonesia, Turkey, Italy, Malaysia, Scotland and UAE. However, there exists only one university with a high international rank in countries such as Denmark, France and Qatar. In the analysis of the world’s top universities, it has been understood that the role of laboratory environments along with the necessary abilities to model and simulate the behavior of oil fields and different engineering conditions in the oil industry are so essential in different issues needed by the oil industry




If we look at the Middle East, it is expected to find more acceptable research facilities as the largest oil producing countries in the world are located in this area. However, unfortunately we do not come up with good results by looking at the major regional petroleum engineering universities. Comparing the universities of the Middle East with the world, only few names can be seen and they are in Qatar, UAE and Turkey. In the Middle East, there are a lot of universities, active in the field of petroleum engineering educations. A number of the famous universities are being supported by the governmental/international departments and some others are the branches of the top universities who aim to participate and eliminate project problems and work on the educational regional issues.

Currently, it is required to develop universities in the countries of the region, and there are not enough specific institutes in this field. Some countries have considered effective plans over the past decade. Texas A&M and Herriot Watt universities have set up institutes in Qatar and the UAE. The King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia has improved its position over the past decade by revising its educational principles. The oil and gas industry in Azerbaijan has been able to reach a new stage of its life through the establishment of strong links to the oil industry, and to conduct petroleum engineering trainings. There are also universities in the UAE and Turkey, which are among top 50 universities of the world.

According to the above results, this question comes to mind: “What steps shall be taken in the education of other countries in the region, such as Iran, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Kuwait, Bahrain and etc.? What are their weaknesses and problems? What are the educational problems in developing the oil industry in these countries? What is the difference between countries with the correct planning of education and other countries in the region?”

By studying the development of the upstream oil industry in the countries of the region, it is concluded that strong and powerful human resources have been able to improve the situations of producing oil countries in the manufacturing sector. Undoubtedly, the presences of large corporations, financial resources, etc. are also significant, but in countries with no technology, useful human resources are the best and most affordable solution of problems and planning for a powerful industrial future. To promote the level of education and the establishment of great universities in accordance with the procedures mentioned above, the first step is the effort and decision of the top oil industry leaders to create such institutes. Other factors include providing adequate funding, creating processes for attracting students and intelligent human resources to study at petroleum universities and therefore employment in the oil industry by considering special awards and scholarships, establishing the proper mechanisms for connecting universities with industrial centers in order to understand the needs of the industry and identifying academic abilities to apply in projects. It should be noted that if the regional countries do not have proper strategies in their universities, they will have a weakness in the powerful technical forces and should solve this challenge, not permanently but temporarily, at a high and multi-level cost in the near future.

Beside the universities, there should be an international specialized regional center for studies and research that is supported industrially by all countries in the region to conduct the projects and problems of mutual fields. Currently, national research institutes are equipped with new laboratory technologies and specialized scientific education ready to become research centers in the region and certainly it will be very effective to create specialized centers in different fields of EOR, drilling, exploration and etc. in the countries of the region with joint cooperation. In the development of the oil industry, all member countries will be very fruitful. However it has rarely been done and poorly in the world due to high costs. While the best situation for this event is in the Middle East due to its specific oil and gas conditions. Major universities of the countries can also be used to become international research centers in the region with specific approaches. Certainly educating and training researchers who are experienced in the regional oil fields will be much more effective to develop the ME oil industry than researchers working in other parts of the world.


Industrial Training Institutes

Secondary needs for training petroleum engineers involve acquisition of specialized training tailored to career and job positions. In this type of training the educational content is developed and the practical solutions are presented to eliminate obstacles and problems at different levels based on the teachings and experiences of the work. Today, vocational training centers which are mostly affiliated with major oil companies and considered to be active oil industrial institutes, provide such training. These centers train technicians with no university grade for industrial occupations and improve the technical capabilities of petroleum engineers for strong presence in operational positions.

The training of these centers is aimed at instructing graduated students, creating the technical capabilities of the oil industry and completing the educational chain. The training headings of the industrial training centers are different from those of universities and mostly rely on the operational bases, and are intended to prepare individuals for career progression, and do not have much to do with academic and theoretical discussions.


Educational Headings of Drilling Schools

Most of the industrial training centers are owned by the oil contractors and are operating in countries with major oil projects. Some of the most desirable centers are Aberdeen Training Center, Malaga, Next Schlumberger, and IFP. The nature and strategy of these centers in the oil industry are mostly related to two parts of the petroleum engineering and drilling centers. The centers of petroleum engineering deal with reservoirs, exploration, HSE, project management, etc.; and drilling approach centers deal with technical topics of the drilling section in drilling operations and technical drilling services.

The situation in the Middle East countries to access the educational centers is favorable, and they are permanently active in many countries such as Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. In other countries, training courses are held in different seasons by these centers; the rest of the countries must have at least one training center in cooperation with the international centers. The reason for the activity of at least one professional training center in each country is to examine and use the specific experiences of each country in different areas that are needed to be addressed in the training.

It should be noted that the establishment of professional schools owned by governments is not necessary for countries, due to the need of these centers for professional training and using of equipment and workshops. While private contractor companies are appropriate for the establishment of professional human resource training centers due to having necessary prerequisites and requirements for this type of training.


Improving HR Quality; a Necessity for the Region

Investigations at universities and educational centers can help in finding valuable points for the development and optimal management of human resources in an organization. As mentioned before, training is considered as the main parameter for determination and enhancement the qualitative level of the employees in an organization that has become more effective than the past as the activities of the oil industry have become specialized.

In this regard, managers and experts of the company should be aware of the nature, goals and advantages of universities and industrial schools in training individuals. Principally, at the universities, theoretical issues related to the knowledge processes in the field of technology creation, inventions and research topics are investigated and most of the efficiency in these centers is obtained by creative and intelligent engineers. On the other hand, the application of operational experiences and project teachings are the basis of designing training courses in the institutes of oil industrial training. Therefore, these institutes mainly train operational technicians and improve the quality of the university graduate engineers to participate in the oil industry operations. Hence, it is better to consider specialized items for each department in the training programs of the staff.

The second point, which is very important, is the plan of universities and industrial education institutes to develop their activities. There is no university in the world that can train specialists for specific activities in the industry solely with the principles and theoretical courses. The main task of the university is to teach concepts and provide scientific research that may also appear in investigating the specific problem-solving of projects. Of course, this process is done in many countries by professional research institutes and providing the necessary hardware and software. Such institutes will help the companies to solve their problems. The institutes of human resource training in the oil industry should also closely associate with active companies in this industry and investigate the challenges and problems of career processes to determine job-related courses, and be able to match the staff of this sector with their jobs in the companies. The more this process be applied and improved in each industrial sector, the easier it will be to train the staff efficiently.

In addition to the existence of universities for studies and research in each country, there is a need to establish an international specialized regional institute that is supported industrially by all the countries in the region which have oil industry. Regarding the common fields, the projects, and dilemmas of many studies are joint. Nowadays, national research institutes are equipped with new laboratory technologies and specialized science education and so they are ready to become research centers in the region. Due to high costs, this has rarely and poorly been ready in the world, and the best condition exists in the Middle East due to its specific oil and gas situation. The major universities of the countries can also be used to become international research centers in the region with specific approaches.

The last point that the oil industry really needs for the management departments is mastery of managerial concepts. It is necessary for oil universities to utilize other sciences and combine the science of management and oil engineering to define new academic disciplines and prepare the process of financial, economic, and managerial education for oil engineers. Undoubtedly, this part of the training will be the best indicator and innovation in the field of oil education in academia in the future. Since companies need to compete to reduce costs, the principles of professional management, cooperation, business, etc. which requires professional education. Moreover, it seems better if oil engineers who are with a combination of oil and management knowledge become the managers of petroleum organizations.

Eventually, it should be noted that the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and even Oman have a better situation in the terms of education and training among the countries in the region, and this situation also exist in the oil and gas industry of these countries. It is necessary that other countries in the region, such as Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kuwait, improve their situation in this sector due to their dependence on the oil industry as the only domestic competitive factor is the quality of human resources.


Saber Panahi Shokouh

Member of Drilling Magazine Editorial Board

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *