Petrofac boss says digital revolution can bring ‘whole world’ of oil jobs

John Pearson, Petrofac’s chief corporate development officer and group managing director, Western Hemisphere
John Pearson, Petrofac’s chief corporate development officer and group managing director, Western Hemisphere

Petrofac’s John Pearson believes the digital transition can better the life of those working in oil and gas by offering “a whole world” of new jobs.

Speaking at the Future Oil and Gas Conference in Aberdeen, Mr Pearson said that a digital world will not “limit” workers to jobs which are merely local, but worldwide.

Mr Pearson, the company’s chief corporate development officer and group managing director, Western Hemisphere, said: “I think people’s jobs will undoubtedly change but I think they’ll become even more rewarding, frankly, because you’re not just limited to the jobs that are on your doorstep. You’ve got the world of oil and gas brought to you by digital methods.

“How many years have we been bemoaning the industry’s skills shortage? Frankly, I think we’ll be able to have access to all the good people in our company and put good work into good people and that should make us sustainable in the long term.”

Mr Pearson was speaking in response to the wider cultural change that many in the North Sea oil and gas industry feel needs to happen.

Some believe that the industry hasn’t been as fast as other sectors, such as retail, in shifting to the digital transition.

Mr Pearson outlined what the industry has to do in the short term to keep up with the pace of digital change and particularly cultural change.

He said: “The good thing is that in the last few years the whole industry  – that’s government, regulators and operators – everyone’s taken the price of taking a barrel out of the ground and halved it. It’s amazing, no one ever thought we would do that.

“As the industry changes and gets busier again, which it undoubtedly will do, there’ll be a need to stay focused on how we can keep that efficiency and actually build more in – for me this isn’t optional. It’s something we’ve really go to do.

“Petrofac has been in the UK for a very long time, we intend to stay here for a very long time to come and for me people shouldn’t be afraid of these new ways of working. In fact, this is something we’ve all embraced in our personal life and can’t live without anymore. So for me, many of the things we’re doing is looking at how we can use the skills of our people in the best way in what is a global industry.”

Asked what Petrofac aims to do to remain digitally relevant, Mr Pearson said: “For us the key is to find what will transform our customers business, and focus on them, and then find cool technology that actually makes that happen.

“In brownfield projects, which is a main part of the Aberdeen market, if all Petrofac did was deliver every project 100% on time and for half the market rate I think Petrofac would do well in any oil price. So we’ve said ‘that might be quite ambitious’ but what would it take to do that? Could it it be done? How can modern digital technologies allow a different business process that will actually get at that value?

“There’s a lot of talks about agile methods. In a world that’s moving so fast, it’s really easy to invent something that’s out of date all the time. The idea is let’s get something good up and running quickly. So for a company like Petrofac, let’s work with our customers, let’s work with our suppliers so we get a proof of concept so that we get something good – it might not be perfect or finished – but we’re up and running.”