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石油工程师,能源巨头喊你来上班

Shelley DuBois 2011年07月28日

越来越多的能源公司希望加大其在美国的石油天然气勘探与开采力度,因此,高校石油工程专业的招生规模也在不断扩大。所以,眼下应该是让孩子就读石油工程学院的大好时机吧?

    “石油工程师”这一职业或许并不如“医生”或“律师”等行当耳熟能详,但它很有希望与这些传统的热门行业一争高低,成为家长们希望孩子捧起的另一个“金饭碗”。

    石油行业财源滚滚,石油工程师的技能无可替代,因此这一职业在就业市场上的地位一向稳固。而且,由于一系列事件的影响,这一职业眼下在美国的就业市场上格外受人青睐。

    美国劳工统计局(Bureau of Labor Statistics)2010年5月的统计结果显示,美国目前约有28,000名石油工程师。六年前这一群体还不足15,000人。而根据该部门2010年的统计,美国目前从事律师职业的人数约为560,000,这一数字也许可以作为某种参照。

    由于诸多原因的影响,尤其是石油价格的上涨,高校石油工程专业的招生人数也在持续增加。玛丽埃塔学院(Marietta College)石油工程系主任罗伯特•蔡斯表示:“这一专业的招生人数会随着石油和天然气的价格变化出现波动。两者几乎互为参照。”

    而且,与其他行业的情况相同,随着婴儿潮一代“退休潮”的到来,就业市场中的石油工程职位空缺进一步增加。

    石油工程师在就业市场中如此受人青睐还有另外一个原因:在过去5年左右的时间里,财力雄厚的美国公司在家门口发现了新的石油与天然气储备。

    这些新发现的石油与天然气蕴藏在一种名为页岩的岩石中,这种岩石在美国的储量十分丰富。从5年前开始,美国的大型石油公司便采用一种名为“水力压裂”的技术,从本国的页岩层中开采石油和天然气,既节省了成本,同时又提高了钻探效率。这种技术是通过水力压裂周围的岩石进行开采。自从采用水力压裂技术取得飞跃后,大型公司开始将注意力转向美国国内可以进行页岩开采的30个地区。

    近期,美国的两大石油天然气公司埃克森美孚公司(Exxon Mobil)与雪佛龙公司(Chevron)都扩大了名下的页岩资产:今年5月份,雪佛龙公司在宾夕法尼亚州南部的马塞勒斯页岩区购买了220,000英亩土地;而今年6月份,埃克森美孚公司则在马塞勒斯页岩区附近新购入了超过300,000英亩土地。

    据美国能源信息协会(Energy Information Association)披露,自2009年起,页岩天然气占美国天然气供应量的14%;该协会预计,到2035年,页岩天然气将占美国天然气供应的45%。

    为了跟上本国产量的增长幅度,石油工程学本科与研究生学位的招生人数也在持续增长。过去5年,德克萨斯农工大学(Texas A&M)该专业的研究生招生人数增长了一倍,目前就读人数已经超过200人。俄克拉荷马大学(University of Oklahoma)、宾夕法尼亚州立大学(Pennsylvania State)与德州理工大学(Texas Tech)(这三所高校分别位于伍德福德、马塞勒斯和巴涅特页岩层附近)的石油工程学研究生课程招生规模也出现了类似、甚至更大幅度的增长。

    石油行业则颇具先见之明,纷纷提前与高校协商,由高校针对他们的需求定向培养人才。七年前,史蒂芬•霍迪克开始担任德州农工大学石油工程系主任。他说,当时,一个专门负责石油行业对外联系的单位找到他们,希望扩大石油工程系的规模,以确保美国能有充足的工程师来填补婴儿潮一代迅速老龄化所产生的职位空缺。

    霍迪克称:“尽管我们的毕业生人数翻了一番甚至两番,但他们在就业市场依然非常抢手。这极有可能是得益于页岩天然气开采业的发展。”

    这一趋势不仅仅发生在德州农工大学。科罗拉多矿业学院(Colorado School of Mines)的毕业生也非常抢手。该学院负责学生就业的珍•曼宁•克拉克主任表示,在2010年12月至2011年5月期间获得石油工程学硕士学位的学生,都在能源工程行业找到了工作。

    尽管就读石油工程专业的招生规模仍在扩大,但毕业生的就业率却依然保持在较高水平。部分顶尖的学生甚至在毕业后获得了多份报酬丰厚的工作机会。霍迪克称,即便美国的能源构成发生变化,这一趋势可能也不会改变。

    在可预见的未来,在满足美国的能源需求方面,石油仍将占较大比重,而天然气也会越来越重要,这意味着能源公司依然需要招聘技术纯熟的员工,把这些能源从地下开采出来。所以,如果下次你的孩子说他在法律学位和石油工程学之间举棋不定,那你应该心中有数了吧?

    (翻译 刘进龙)

    It doesn't roll off of the tongue quite like "doctor" or "lawyer" does, but "petroleum engineer" could be a contender for the kind of similar, sensible career that parents often wish for their kids.

    Because the oil business is so lucrative and petroleum engineers have a unique set of skills, petroleum engineers have long enjoyed a healthy position in the job market. But thanks to a confluence of events, the U.S. job market is now particularly friendly to the profession.

    There are approximately 28,000 petroleum engineers in the United States, according to the most recent estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, taken in May 2010. That number is up from just under 15,000 six years ago. By way of comparison, there are approximately 560,000 lawyers working in the U.S., according to Bureau estimates from May 2010.

    Enrollment in petroleum engineering programs at universities is swelling, and for a host of reasons, most notably the rising price of oil. "Enrollment fluctuates with the price of oil and gas. You could almost plot it on each other," says Robert Chase, chair of Marietta College's department of petroleum engineering.

    And, as is the case in other industries, Baby Boomers are aging out of oil engineering jobs, creating even more openings in the market.

    But there's another factor that's contributing to the sweet spot in the petroleum engineer job market: in the past five years or so, big, wealthy American companies have gained access to new oil and gas reserves on their home turf.

    These new oil and gas reserves are in a type of rock called shale, which is abundant in the U.S. Beginning about five years ago, it became cost-effective for major oil companies to drill for oil and gas in shale rock formations in the United States due to a method -- often referred to as fracking -- that involves fracturing the surrounding rock. Since fracking has taken off, big companies have turned their attention to the roughly 30 areas in the U.S. available for shale development in the United States.

    America's two biggest oil and gas companies, Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) increased their shale assets recently: Chevron bought over 220,000 acres on the Marcellus shale in southern Pennsylvania this past May, and Exxon acquired rights to over 300,000 new acres of land near Marcellus this past June.

    As of 2009, shale gas made up 14% of the U.S. natural gas supply, according to the Energy Information Association. The EIA expects it to contribute 45% of the U.S. gas supply by 2035.

    To keep up with local production, enrollment at both graduate and undergraduate petroleum engineering programs has grown. In the last five years, enrollment in Texas A&M's graduate program has almost doubled and now includes over 200 students. Graduate programs at the University of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania State and Texas Tech (near the Woodford, Marcellus and Barnett shale formations, respectively) have shown similar or even faster growth rates.

    The oil industry was ahead of the trend, talking to schools to ensure they would produce the necessary workers to meet demand. Seven years ago, Stephen Holditch started as head of the petroleum engineering department at Texas A&M University. An industry liaison asked the school to expand then, he says, to make sure there were enough U.S. engineers to fill vacant slots from rapidly-aging Baby Boomers.

    "Even though we've doubled or tripled the number of graduates we have, there's still jobs for everyone," Holditch says, "and it's more than likely because of the shale gas development."

    That trend is not exclusive to Texas A&M. Graduates from the Colorado School of Mines are getting snatched up too. In fact, 100% of students who graduated with a masters in petroleum engineering between December 2010 and May 2011 looking for jobs in energy engineering found them, says Jean Manning-Clark, the school's director of employer relations.

    The percentage of employed graduates has remained very high even though petroleum engineering programs have grown, and the best candidates are getting multiple, high-paying job offers after graduation. The pattern should hold, Holditch says, even as the country's energy mix is changing.

    Oil will play a major part in fulfilling American energy needs for the foreseeable future, and gas is becoming more and more important, meaning companies that sell those fuels will still need skilled workers to figure out the best way to get them out of the ground. So the next time your child tells you that they are on the fence about that law degree, petroleum engineering, anyone?

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