Press release

4 Aug. 2020 Calgary, CA

Study finds pandemic, low prices accelerating job automation in upstream oil and gas

Press contact
Victoria McQueen

EY Canada Team Lead, Public Relations

Leading the development and distribution of external communications and social media across Canada. Can be found by the lake in the summer and on the slopes in the winter.

Related topics Oil and gas Workforce
  • Nearly one-third of oil and gas roles could be fully automated in the next 20 years
  • Technical job competencies twice as likely to be automated over leadership skills
  • Skill development in emotional intelligence, critical thinking and data analysis are critical

Over the next 20 years, technologies such as robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning could gradually reduce oil and gas workforce jobs by up to 30% and automate 50% of job competencies in the upstream sector. The EY Preparing for the future now: Rethinking the oil and gas workforce in 2040 report, written in partnership with the Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) Division of Energy Safety Canada, examines the future job landscape.

“Recent black swan events are pushing oil and gas companies to drive down operating costs and transform how work gets done to improve margins — and the unfortunate reality is that these cuts have resulted in job layoffs,” says Lance Mortlock, EY Canada Oil & Gas Leader. “As the prospect of a jobless recovery becomes more of a possibility, companies will be looking to fill roles and add capabilities through technology and automation to increase optimization and reduce costs even further. While many companies had already began this digital transformation, the pandemic created a sense of urgency to accelerate technology adoption.”

The report outlines the varied impact of automation on organizations. Technical competencies — such as managing finances, operations monitoring or quality control analysis — are more likely to undergo automation, whereas leadership competencies — such as troubleshooting, persuasion or conflict management — continue to require human interaction. Each job encompasses a broad grouping of job competencies, which determine their range of automation potential. Jobs can be grouped into the following families:

Job Family 2019 Job Numbers 2040 Job Numbers % decrease
Equipment operator 9,679 3,342 65%
Drilling operations 7,066 2,631 63%
Trades 12,878 5,002 61%
Marine and nautical 2,928 1,151 61%
Technician 4,767 1,920 60%
Facility operations 13,986 5,976 57%
Geology 5,395 2,725 49%
Business operations 7,641 3,947 48%
Engineers/technologists/operators 10,347 5,588 46%
IT 1,970 1,088 45%
Human resources 3,858 2,390 38%
Environmental health and safety 1,382 885 36%
Land lease operations 1,072 733 32%
Relations 1,809 1,292 29%

Human resource and IT departments will play a key role in driving successful adoption and sustainment of new technologies and the optimal workforce mix. Workers will need to develop skills in emotional intelligence, critical thinking, data analysis and managing the interface between human and machine to be competitive in the upstream oil and gas job market.

“Understanding the impact on different competency types can help individuals, organizations and educators retool skillsets as the shift gradually takes place,” says Mortlock. “These impacts may seem overwhelming, but they’re not unattainable. Knowing the potential impact on individual competencies, jobs and job families provides valuable insight into strategically planning the workforce of the future.”

To understand the range of automation potential for job families and individual job competencies, visit

– 30 –

About EY

EY exists to build a better working world, helping create long-term value for clients, people and society and build trust in the capital markets. Enabled by data and technology, diverse EY teams in over 150 countries provide trust through assurance and help clients grow, transform and operate. Working across assurance, consulting, law, strategy, tax and transactions, EY teams ask better questions to find new answers for the complex issues facing our world today.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. Information about how EY collects and uses personal data and a description of the rights individuals have under data protection legislation are available via EY member firms do not practice law where prohibited by local laws. For more information about our organization, please visit  Follow us on Twitter @EYCanada.

This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP.