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Big Oil Worries About The Next Boom

Christopher Helman, 12.08.09, 04:17 PM EST

The top concern of energy execs is that they’ll be too short-staffed when demand returns, according to Schlumberger consultant.

HOUSTON — Antoine Rostand started his career with Schlumberger 23 years ago as a wireline field engineer, gathering geological data from oil and gas wells.

Today he runs Schlumberger Business Consulting. With just 200 people, SBC is a tiny division within the larger Schlumberger ( SLB news people ), which boasts 77,000 employees and $20 billion in revenues, bigger than rivals Halliburton ( HAL news people ), Weatherford International ( WFT news people ) and Baker Hughes ( BHI news people ).

Whereas the bulk of Schlumberger’s work is directed out in the field, drilling wells, managing geological data, operating plants and pipelines, the Paris-based Rostand’s focus for the consulting group is on the executive suite. He and his consultants advise top oil and gas executives on how to manage their resources from the top down.

What’s the biggest concern facing Rostand’s clients now? “Whether they will have enough people to face the surge in demand in three to five years from now.”

This is interesting for several reasons. First, that oil companies expect a surge in demand when the global economy recovers. Second, that they’re not worried about Peak Oil–the pessimist dogma that oilfields have been run down so much that supply growth will soon be impossible. (Says Rostand, “There’s enough resources to provide the oil that the world will need for many years to come.”) Rather the worry is that oil and gas companies, Schlumberger included, that cut hundreds of staff when prices plunged, won’t have enough hands on deck to develop new resources fast enough when demand growth returns.

Rostand says it’s vital that companies keep up links with universities and continue to invest in training and new facilities. “The number one message we have for our clients is: keep recruiting.”

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