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Petroleum Technicians


In the 1950s and 1960s, the oil industry was relatively stable. Oil was cheap and much in demand. The international oil market was dominated by the "seven sisters"—Shell, Esso, BP, Gulf, Chevron, Texaco, and Mobil. However, by the end of the 1960s, Middle Eastern countries became more dominant. Many nationalized the major oil companies' operations or negotiated to control oil production. To promote and protect their oil production and revenues gained, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela formed OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). The Arab producers' policies during the Arab/Israeli War of 1973–1974 and the Iranian Revolution in 1978 disrupted oil supplies and oil prices skyrocketed, indicating just how powerful OPEC had become.

By the early 1980s, economic recession and energy conservation measures had resulted in lower oil prices. There was, and there still is, a worldwide surplus production capacity. OPEC, which expanded membership to countries in the Far East and Africa, tried to impose quotas limiting production, with little success. In 1986, prices, which had once again risen, plummeted.

The events of the 1970s and 1980s significantly altered the nation's attitude toward the price and availability of petroleum products. Domestic oil companies came to realize that foreign sources of oil could easily be lost through regional conflicts or international tensions. The drop in prices during the mid-1980s, however, reinforced the need for domestic producers to continue to find economical oil-producing methods to remain competitive with foreign-produced oil.

These developments have fostered great changes in the technology of oil drilling, in the science related to oil exploration, and in the management of existing oil fields. In many old abandoned fields, scientists found that they still had nearly as much oil as had been produced from them by older methods. New technology is constantly being developed and used to find ways of extracting more of this remaining oil economically from old and new fields alike. The use of hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," has increased the ability to access previously inaccessible hydrocarbons.

The petroleum technician occupation was created to meet industry challenges. Technological changes require scientifically competent technical workers as crewmembers for well drilling and oil field management. Well-prepared technicians are essential to the oil industry and will continue to be in the future.

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