Energy executives have begun to strengthen their workforces to prepare for the economic recovery and to ready for more unconventional natural gas and oil resource development, according to a new survey.

The annual survey by energy executive search firm Maxwell Drummond International was issued on Tuesday offering responses from about 100 energy executives who were asked about trends in 2010. The survey participants included leadership from all energy sectors including upstream, midstream, subsea, oilfield services and seismic/subsurface. Nearly two-thirds of the companies surveyed have international operations; most are headquartered in the United States. Company revenues ranged from less than $500 million to more than $10 billion annually.

“Our annual survey aims to tap the minds of leading energy executives from around the world, and in a sense, to find out what keeps them up at night,” said Vice President Jamie Ferguson. “This year is no exception and our findings reveal a few surprises, most notably that companies with revenues less than $500 million believe economic recovery to be at least 12 months away, while companies with revenues between $5 billion and $10 billion believe recovery to be three to six months away.” Overall, respondents agreed that the economic recovery had been slower than expected. However, they are taking advantage of the recession by improving their workforce and bolstering intellectual capital, especially in the areas of operations, reservoir engineering, subsea and sustainable extraction techniques, Drummond reported.

“While many energy industry executives believe full recovery to be at least six months away, addressing the ‘big crew change’ remains top of mind with almost 90% of respondents indicating their companies are actively investing in employee skills training and new talent acquisition to offset an aging and rapidly retiring workforce,” the survey said.

Energy companies, said Drummond, also want to capitalize on future sources of energy through research and development technology and strategic merger and acquisition activities. To unlock unconventional energy resources, respondents said they viewed solving water and environmental issues, and developing improved hydraulic fracturing techniques, as having the “greatest impact” on future development.

Respondents said:

Most consider West Africa the “leading” region for deploying production resources in the foreseeable future. Offshore North America and the Middle East were tied as the second most important areas for near-term production opportunities.

“The recent news from the Obama administration could be a game changer from a regional perspective,” noted Ferguson, who referred to the administration’s decision to open more areas to offshore exploration (see Daily GPI, April 1). “It will be interesting to see how the proposal for opening offshore areas along the Atlantic coastline, eastern Gulf of Mexico and north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling will impact the energy industry’s view on regional futures.

“While drilling in these new areas will likely not take place for years, the timing may work favorably as companies continue to strengthen their balance sheets and workforce talent in preparation for a global market correction.”

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