Oil rigs moored in Cromarty Firth. Invergordon, Scotland, UK -- Berardo62/flickr.com

UK Women Speak Out About Their Role in the Oil and Gas Industry

It’s easy to see the fledgling UK oil and gas industry as a microcosm for the issues we have in the United States. In some cases, the problems facing the UK’s energy sector are more pronounced than those at home. Take, for instance, the seemingly unending number of difficulties facing fracking company Cuadrilla as they launched their first fracking well in Lancashire. The fracker saw years of protests and litigation before they were able to begin work in earnest.

Fortunately for the United Kingdom, the march of progress would not be slowed, and the oil and gas industry in the United Kingdom is finally beginning to chug along. Cuadrilla discovered “a rich reservoir of high quality and recoverable gas.” Geologists have also found fresh reserves in the UK’s North Sea, as well. 

Progress is slow, but it’s happening.

Growing Pains in the Workforce

Now, however, the UK oil and gas industry is faced with another dilemma that echoes problems encountered in the United States: they need to draft more women. At the moment, only one out of four employees in the oil and gas industry are female. That runs about equal to the US, where 25.5% of the industry are women.

While the old days of seeing women as something of an oddity in the industry are long gone, that antiquated stigma — that oil and gas is exclusively a man’s world — still hangs around the industry’s neck.

Now, however, a new book from Katy Heidenreich titled The Oil Industry’s Best Kept Secret: A book full of inspiration and advice hopes to reverse the idea that women don’t belong in the United Kingdom’s oil and gas industry.

Diversity, Progress, and Adventure

One of Heidenreich’s case studies for her book, a petroleum engineer at BP explained, “Life offshore is a different world. The platforms and FPSOs [floating production storage and offloading] are amazing feats of engineering. The camaraderie is second to none, which is important when you’re together for weeks at a time. To round it off, I get to take a helicopter to work.”

For those women searching for a career that’s anything but mundane, oil and gas may be just the ticket. Of course, attracting women to the industry is about more than merely getting females on the payroll.

Writes Heidenreich, “Women can bring different leadership skills and behaviours, but it’s not just about diversity of gender, it’s about diversity of thought – more balanced teams make better decisions.”

Scrubbing Off the Wrong Idea

When it comes right down to it, it would appear as though the UK has in its success the same problem as the United States. It’s the same thing that keeps women from vying for lucrative, rewarding professions in the UK oil and gas industry and it’s the same thing that keeps protestors lined up outside fracking sites across the United States and the United Kingdom. That problem: decades of misinformation.

It’s a daunting hill to climb, but with enough education courtesy of writers like Heidenreich and enough perseverance like the kind shown by Cuadrilla and other companies like them, the industry is bound to get there.

DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos/Wikimedia Commons

Oil and Gas Isn’t Immune to the Government Shutdown

The Trump administration is showing blatant favoritism to the energy industry. 

That’s the complaint coming from several critics of the current administration who feel that state and federal outlets of the Department of the Interior should cease any and all oil and gas-related business while the government is shut down. It’s certainly tempting to believe that the president is twisting the government to his own capitalism-loving ends, but there’s nothing wrong (ethically or legally) with the Interior Department’s handling of the government shutdown.

‘Utterly Immoral’ Behavior from the White House

In the words of California Democrat Alan Lowenthal, “At a time when the shutdown is imposing pain on Americans across all walks of life, it is utterly immoral that the Trump administration treats one group of friendly businesses — the fossil fuel industry — as more valuable and deserving than all others.”

Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva jumped on the anti-energy bandwagon, as well, writing an open letter to David Bernhardt, the acting director of the Interior Department, chastising Bernhardt for, “making sure it’s business as usual for oil and gas industry.”

Those volleys make for intriguing headlines, but they couldn’t be farther from the truth.

A Slimmed-Down BLM

The Department of the Interior — and the oil and gas industry, by extension — has felt the pinch of the longest government shutdown in US history. Throughout the nation, individual offices of the Bureau of Land Management are operating on a skeleton crew. Projects approved before the shutdown and projects that were all but complete before the shutdown are the sole focus of the remaining employees at the BLM. 

New projects, by comparison, have been stopped in their tracks. Though some of the Interior  Department offices remain open for business, to say that the government agency remains untouched by the government shutdown is ludicrous.

You Don’t Want the Government to Halt Oil and Gas Projects

In response to the assault on oil and gas, Western Energy Alliance president Kathleen Sgamma countered, “Just because the government is shut down doesn’t mean private-sector economic activity grinds to a halt.”

Sgamma argues that partisan arguments impacting the government should not derail a thriving economic sector on which millions of Americans rely. There’s also the billions in tax benefits the oil and gas industry delivers every year. That’s to say nothing of the growing number of nations that rely on United States energy development to keep the lights on. 

In other words, to lock the door of the Interior Department would be to jeopardize not only the United States economy, but an energy revolution that’s changing the way the world works. 

That’s not favoritism. It’s a safety net.