Guest Commentary: BP at forefront of U.S. energy revolution

By John C. Mingé

The oil and gas industry has long been one of the pillars of the Texas economy, enabling Texas to flourish while much of the rest of the country struggled in recent years. But the prosperity generated by energy development is spreading well beyond the traditional oil patch. And that’s good news for the American economy.

At BP, we’ve hired over 2,700 Americans in the last year alone. Nationwide, we employ more than 20,000 people directly, with nearly 250,000 more jobs dependent on us.

BP has been a leader in this trend, but we are far from alone.

A study released last month found that, nationally, the U.S. oil and gas industry employed 971,200 people in the first half of 2012, up 7 percent from 2011. And these are jobs that pay significantly more than the average private sector wage.

While Texas and Oklahoma have enjoyed most of the recent energy job growth, states outside the traditional energy patch are benefiting too. North Dakota added 6,400 new jobs in 2012, Pennsylvania another 4,200, and Ohio — where BP has just taken a position in the Utica Shale — nearly 1,000.

You can attribute much of this job growth to rising demand. In BP’s recent Energy Outlook 2030 report, we estimate that the rise in world energy demand will equal adding the United States — twice over — to existing consumption.

So the industry is moving to find new ways of unlocking resources that have been out of reach until now. The United States – with its robust free market in energy — and Houston – with its unparalleled concentration of expertise — are playing central roles in this new energy revolution.

That’s one reason BP has invested over $55 billion in US energy development in the last five years, more than any other company and more than we invest in any other country.

Onshore, we are helping drive this incredible American energy renaissance in unconventional oil and gas development. Offshore, thanks in substantial part to BP’s pioneering efforts in seismic acquisition, the Gulf of Mexico — which was thought by many operators in the 1990s to be played out — has returned to life as one of the world’s great energy basins.

And now we are preparing to take the deep water to the next level. Worldwide, we believe billions of barrels of oil may be located under BP leases in the Paleogene, a 23 million year-old geologic layer some seven miles beneath the ocean floor — largely beyond the limit of existing technology.

To access these resources we have launched Project 20K™. This is our Houston-based cooperative effort to design and build equipment that can operate safely under as much as 20,000 pounds of pressure per square inch and temperatures as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

But even the most advanced technology is useless without the brainpower to develop and deploy it. That’s why BP is also investing in people.

Globally, we are more than tripling our recruitment of high-achieving engineering, science and business graduates. In 2009, BP’s Upstream business recruited fewer than 300 such graduates. This year, we will hire about 900 — and by 2014, we will be hiring around 1,000 every year.

And they will be blazing new trails with the support of our new High Performance Computing Center, set to open in a few months here in Houston. Upon completion, it will be the largest commercial research supercomputing complex in the US.

Oil and gas development is crucial to the economic future of the United States. With the right investments – and, importantly, a government that encourages those investments — BP and the rest of the industry will produce the energy we need. And at the same time provide the good jobs at high wages on which American prosperity depends.

John C. Mingé is chairman and president of BP America, Inc.