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The oil industry has changed much since I first entered it some 30 years ago, and still more dramatically since I completed the first edition of Elements of Petroleum Geology in 1982. In the past 15 years major changes have occurred in the way in which the oil industry is organized and in how it conducts its business. Traditionally, the leading edge of research was conducted in the laboratories of the oil companies. Now it is conducted within service companies and consultancies. Whereas traditionally the oil companies were regarded as the best employers in terms of opportunity and continuity of employment, today this is no longer true. The service companies and larger consultancies may now provide better long-term career prospects than the major oil companies.
Although the fundamental concepts of petroleum exploration have changed little, the technology has accelerated at a fast rate as a result of the powerful computers that are now available. Concomitantly, the skills required by a petroleum explorationist have changed immeasurably. In the old days petroleum was found by geologists, who tended to be bearded, tweed-suited pipe smokers whose continued employment depended as much on their wilderness survival skills as on their geological expertise. Today petroleum is found by geoscientists whose continued employment depends on their ability to manipulate a mouse, together with office survival skills. Certain skills required for successful petroleum exploration, however, remain unchanged. These include the ability to critically interpret complex data from different sources that are of varied reliability, and a fascination for the geological processes that operate in the earth and produce petroleum as a coincidental by-product.
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