My oil & gas wishlist for the New Year 2014

Last week, I wrote about my “One Year Challenge” for the New Year (so far, so good!).  This week, since it’s still early in January I want use the “New Year” theme one more time to share the things I hope to see in the coming year as they relate to the oil & gas industry.

Is it realistic to expect that all of these will happen?

No, but I can certainly hope for them.

The further you try to reach, the more you end you end up attaining!

A year that is completely safe for everyone working in and around the field

This one almost goes without saying, since safety should always be at the top of everyone’s mind.  Nevertheless, I hope that 2014 goes by without anyone getting hurt on the job, regardless of what part of the world they work in.  I’ve had a few close calls myself in the field, or been on jobs working alongside others who had their own close calls, and either way it’s terrifying.  Even presently, years after my last visit to a job site, I still find myself thinking “where would I be now if some of those incidents had gone differently…”

So here’s to a safe 2014 where everyone gets to enjoy the great parts of the oil & gas industry, and then go home safely to their friends and family.

Continued understanding and acceptance from the US public about domestic energy production

There will not be an overnight shift in popular opinion with regards to what we do, but you can definitely tell from the more positive tone in articles about energy production and the buzz around the possibility of the US becoming energy independent that people are starting to see the potential upsides of domestic energy production rather than the potential downsides.  I think this is great, and at the very least if more people become interested enough in the topic to research it and join the discussion, we can call that progress as an industry.

This is something YOU can contribute to.

Remember that you are the sum total of all the experiences you’ve had and groups you’ve been a part of, and because those shaped you, your actions can have an effect on how OTHERS VIEW those groups and experiences.  I’m proud of the fact that I graduated from three great schools, that I live in Texas, that I work in oil & gas and that I’m a member of the Society of Petrolueum Engineers, and I feel that out of respect to all of those groups it’s my obligation to carry myself all the time in such a way that they are proud to count me as a member.  The harder I work, the more I can contribute positively to the reputations of Rice, the University of Texas and Texas A&M, make people see how great living in this state is, and what a great group of professionals there are working in oil & gas.

Unfortunately, it’s much harder to build a solid reputation than it is to create a bad one (all it takes is one slip up!).  Remember, everyone that works in oil & gas is an ambassador for the industry, and everything you do or say can be used to its benefit or detriment.  When you’re on company business out of the office, act professionally and politely to everyone from the taxi driver to the hotel cleaning staff:  think of how much goodwill we would gain from the communities in South Texas or North Dakota if everyone working in the oil fields carried themselves this way!

If friends or family ask you questions about what you do, take the time to walk them through it, and don’t gloss over some of the “big” incidents that the industry has seen in the past few years; these things happened, and the more willing we are to face them head on and address them, the more we can continue to build trust with the public.

Continued outreach from the oil & gas industry to the general public

With oil & gas activities shifting from remote locations to more populated areas as a result shale oil & gas production, the public is being brought closer and closer to the oil and gas industry; whereas once we were sort of a “black box” far removed from society except for the end products that everyone utilizes, more and more communities are right alongside us from start to finish!  This is a trend that isn’t just happening here in the US, it’s starting to take place internationally, and will likely accelerate as more and more shale oil & gas is produced.

In my view, the best thing we can do to make this transition as smooth as possible is to communicate.  This can go not only from the “bottom-up” as I described in the previous point, but it can also go from the “top-down”, that is to say from oil producers and service companies to the end users of the products they bring to market.  On a small scale, that means more town hall style meetings such as the ones that have occurred in producing areas, but on a larger scale it means reaching out to everyone that consumes energy.  I’ve already seen some excellent, fun campaigns from companies such as Chevron’s “We Agree” and Shell’s “Let’s Go” as well as commercials from the American Petroleum Institute, and I hope that the industry continues down this path in 2014.

Less “politicizing” of the energy issue

Despite my view that we’re seeing a more positive tone in the US with regards to discussions about oil & gas, it’s still sad these days that depending on how someone feels about hydrocarbons and/or renewable energy sources, in my opinion you can often infer where they fall politically.  This is unfortunate because access to affordable and “responsible” energy is a national challenge to be addressed, not a political issue to be exploited, and it’s a singular issue that doesn’t need to be lumped in with other beliefs that may not be related.  When this happens, you end up with an exchange that has little to do with the facts, and much more to do with one political party trying to “win” over another.

In 2014, I hope we can all simply agree that we want an energy mix that allows for clean, long-term and affordable use, and then go from there.

A bigger push towards the “right” kind of early math and science education, and an emphasis on the kinds of things people can do with this kind of training

I’m neither an educator nor an expert in educational policy (so I’m not going to discuss what constitutes the “right” kind of education), but I can tell from looking at the current outcomes that the US is not where it would like to be.  With the job market today being what it is, there is lots of emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training and the fact that it can lead to well-paying jobs.

The truth though is that no one can become competent in math and science overnight, when they’re desperate for a job and looking to retrain.  My own journey in engineering took a lifetime (and it’s still ongoing), and the only reason I was able to push through in the later stages of my education was because I’d been made to face some hard lessons-failure included-in the early stages.

In this New Year, let’s set the bar in STEM as high as we can, and then tell children and people generally about the awesome things they could do in oil & gas (and many other industries) with the right kind of education so that they have something to strive for.  To me, this is a far better alternative than lowering the bar constantly so that by nominally training a larger quantity of students we feel like we’re making progress:  the further you try to reach, the more you end up attaining, right?

What are your wishes for 2014?  Let me know in the comments section below, or drop me a line through my website or by email at!





About The Author

David Vaucher is a director in the energy practice of management consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal. He is also a past editor-in-chief of "The Way Ahead" magazine, the Society of Petroleum Engineers' official publication for young professionals in the oil and gas industry. The views here are solely his own.