Industry News: What We Can Learn from the Oil and Gas Downturn

By Evan Coulter
Vice President, Business Operations

You are no doubt familiar with the ongoing Oil and Gas downturn that has placed a multi-billion-dollar industry in a desperate economic tailspin. Predictably, massive layoffs have occurred across all layers of the industry. 

After reading this post in Automation World, I had a few thoughts about the culture we are building at UCEC. The post traces the familiar story of the Oil and Gas industry's hiring, firing and then rehiring when oil prices come back up. That culture isn't the story of UCEC. 

We do everything we can to keep our employees here through the slow times, because the cost of finding employees and training is so high. Also, the oil companies only innovate and automate in the slow times, when they are forced to. We like to stay ahead of that curve, so our innovations and optimizations are already in place if a downturn happens.

During the slow times, UCEC still innovates. We still search for new technologies. We plan to be ready for the busy times. Today, as I write this, the shop is full of detailed, custom panel projects. Our teams are trained, staffed and ready for the work ahead. But if a downturn happens, we'll be ready for that, too. 

We hope our friends in the Oil and Gas industry see their fortunes return; in the meantime, we celebrate the quiet and forward-thinking work of being optimized and prepared for the work that has already arrived at UCEC. 

This idea has been catching on with the oil exploration companies. They’ve come to realize that they need to think differently about their wildcatting tendencies, and focus on optimizing their operations. “The downstream industry has been very focused on incremental improvements, but upstream has been allowed to be inefficient, and just drill more oil wells,” commented Larry Irving, vice president of global oil and gas for Emerson Process Management. “It’s worked quite well in the past, so why change?”

With oil prices reaching historic lows, however, it’s not working so well anymore, and things have had to change. The operating efficiency mindset of the refineries has made its way upstream, and that is where the future lies, Irving said.
— From "What If Oil Prices Come Back Too Quickly?" on

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