One of the many reasons I find the oil and gas industry so fascinating is the amount of opportunity and the many different facets it has available for jobs and investments: everything from the roughneck on the drilling rig to the convenience store clerk that takes payment from those folks who don’t use the pay at the pump option. There are literally millions of jobs in thousands of occupations involved with getting oil and gas out of the ground, transported and processed into its final state as the energy used to power our economy.
Quite often the oil and gas industry is divided into three major components: upstream, midstream and downstream. Upstream, also referred to as exploration and production (E&P), is what I first think about when I think about the oil and gas industry. Geologists, seismic hands, landmen, lawyers and many others are involved in exploring for oil and/or gas and then putting the prospect together so the finance people can raise money to drill wells — and hopefully produce hydrocarbons. The drilling rig hands, company men and many oil field service contractors involved in drilling and completing a well comprise a highly-skilled workforce that engages in the most labor-intensive part of the entire oil and gas industry. The lifespan of a typical well drilling and completion phase provides far more jobs than the longer production phase.
Midstream is the storing and transportation of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids. You need to be cognizant of the fact that many midstream companies are moving into processing and marketing, especially of natural gas and natural gas liquids. This change is starting to blur the dividing line between midstream and downstream firms. It is important to realize that while upstream firms can range from extremely large to rather small in size, almost all midstream companies are large because of the capital required to fund the infrastructure needed to provide the facilities for transportation and storage of hydrocarbons.
Downstream is usually defined as the refining of petroleum crude oil as well as the marketing and distribution of products made from hydrocarbons. However, different commentators have differences of opinion on how far down the retailing, distribution and processing trail they want to go and still call it part of the downstream industry. The downstream industry — if you define it as primarily refining — will, of course, be made up of large capital-intensive companies. If you expand the definition to include more of the marketing and distribution chain, you will include many small and medium-sized companies.
This article can only give you a quick taste, nevertheless, we have learned there are many jobs and many different types and sizes of companies involved in the oil and natural gas industry. They range from large publicly held companies operating in many different countries and many different facets of the industry to small, one or two-person shops that only operate in one small geographic area and only do one thing. These small companies are typically privately owned, but in many cases, they still provide a good living to their owners and employees.