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IT professionals for oil and gas industry

Ines Arana, Sept 5, 2013, DHNS

HIGH CHANCES

The oil and gas sector provides plenty of breaks for IT specialists and graduates with some knowledge of the industry, better equipped to take on roles within it, writes Ines Arana.

The expansion of the internet has led to an unprecedented number of interconnected networks worldwide, enabling real-time, easy access to an ever-increasing range of services from a computer.

The oil and gas industry has embraced this IT revolution, relying on IT tools and services for its many operations in the global economy – from exploration and production to refining, marketing and sales. For example, offshore oil and gas production is not only controlled and monitored remotely, but the location from which these activities are conducted may vary throughout the day. Thus, teams in different parts of the world may play a role in the smooth running of a single platform.

Theory cum practice


IT Masters degrees are designed to prepare students for a successful career in that field. They must cover a number of relevant areas of IT, both at a theoretical and practical level. While theory is important in order to understand the key concepts, techniques, methodologies and tools in IT, practical skills are essential in order to;
* Develop well designed and implemented tools which provide the desired functionality and ease of use, and;
* Provide efficient IT services to the business.

Industry informed

Degrees must also be industry informed, in that they should help the student gain the knowledge and skills that are required by industry. Therefore, the involvement of suitable industrial professionals in a course is highly beneficial in ensuring that students are well prepared for a career in industry. Similarly, the availability of employability sessions where employers discuss their requirements with students and advise them on the best way to improve their CV is also highly desirable.  

Requirements

IT for oil and gas professionals are not only well sought after by oil and gas companies but also by manufacturing companies, software houses and others who serve the oil and gas sector. This industry requires IT graduates who have in-depth knowledge not only of IT but also of;
* Key industry-specific areas such as petroleum geoscience and oil and gas engineering, and;
* Specialist oil and gas IT tools and techs.
IT professionals must be able to communicate with, and understand the needs of, other oil and gas staff such as geophysicists and drilling engineers. In addition, they must be familiar with some of the industry-specific computer tools and techniques which are widely used across the industry.

Courses

While there are a high number of Masters courses in both IT and Engineering, courses which teach IT specifically for the oil and gas industry are scarce. This has led to the industry sending its new IT recruits on courses where they gain the additional oil and gas and IT knowledge required for them to undertake their job appropriately.

A Masters course in IT for the Oil and Gas Industry not only prepares graduates for a career in that sector by combining IT skills with key industry knowledge but also ensures they are well placed to pursue computing PhD studies or undertake research in the field.

Data visualisation techniques


The oil and gas industry generates masses of data every day. These data are extremely valuable to the company and must be kept in very large databases. IT tools which enable the storage, access, update, communication and analysis of these data are key to fully utilising and discovering the important knowledge (patterns) contained in the data.  Similarly, data visualisation techniques and tools provide experienced oil and gas professionals with the environment required to interpret data which is, otherwise, difficult to comprehend.

Indian scenario


India is both a producer and consumer of oil and gas on a huge scale, with the Indian oil and gas sector estimated to account for around 15% of its GDP. It is widely acknowledged that due to increasing demand for energy, the exploration and production of India’s own reserves will continue to be of growing importance to complement its importing, supply and delivery activities. Existing Indian reserves are considerable (9000 million barrels of oil and 1000 billion cubic metres of natural gas) and their development will require knowledgeable and skilled personnel, including IT specialists to facilitate the communications, data management and production control processes involved in efficient petrochemical production.  

Meanwhile, the knowledge economy has revolutionised the IT industry in India which has become a major player in the provision of IT services and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), employing millions of people. This rapid expansion has contributed significantly to the country’s GDP (7.5% in 2012), employment, and exports. Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata are major IT Hubs, playing an important role not only within India but also in exporting IT services throughout the world.

The oil and gas sector provides plenty of opportunities for IT specialists and it is clear that graduates with some knowledge of the industry are better equipped to take on roles within it. By providing courses which offer a blend of subjects spanning IT and oil and gas, universities will be able to satisfy the industry’s demand for IT professionals.

(The wrter is Postgraduate Programme Leader at the School of Computing Science and Digital Media, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.)

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