OPINION: The UK government may be forced to bring in the Army to deliver petrol to the country’s empty filling stations.

The nation's second biggest refinery, Stanlow, is reported to be on the verge of financial collapse without help with its tax bills.

There is a storm over soaring natural gas and electricity prices, which has led to the demise of some smaller energy supply companies.

Arguments rage over whether these problems are the result of Brexit or part of wider geographic shortages of people and power.

Labour shortages

Panic buying has exacerbated the problems around the petrol forecourt, but an absence of tanker drivers is a key part of the mix.

The Road Haulage Association says the UK is short of up to 100,000 truckers, partly because many were foreign and left post-Brexit.

The government claims many countries around the world are suffering from a similar range of labour shortages affecting logistics.

It is true to some extent — and it is also true that the oil and gas industry is facing a future staffing shortage as demand returns after Covid-19 restrictions.

The oil price collapse last year triggered more job losses from the oil and gas sector on top of earlier ones due to low commodity values.

Upskilling

The industry now wants to skill up at a time when many millennials feel negatively about fossil fuels due to the industry’s role in global heating.

The oil majors used to attract the brightest graduates with relative ease, lured by high pay, high status and great future prospects.

But recent industry downturns and the climate crisis have made oil and gas seem like yesterday’s industry.

There is public debate about how to transition oil workers to the renewable power sector as safely as possible amid calls by the International Energy Agency for drilling to be halted.

So what can be done to retain staff and attract a younger generation that will be needed as the older staff retire?

There are no easy fixes, but European majors such as Shell, BP and TotalEnergies are at the forefront of pivoting themselves from black to green — trying to change their public image in the process.

Providing a positive picture

US companies from ExxonMobil to Chevron and services group Baker Hughes are also trying to find a profitable path to the future.

Carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and other new technological developments can also provide a more positive picture of the future.

Oil and gas will have to work harder to bring in new staff than the sector did in the past. This means offering better training and prospects than rival sectors.

Covid-19 has disrupted normal working patterns and led to many people spending time at home rather than the office.

Oil and gas companies must accommodate more flexible arrangements as they negotiate with potential new recruits.

Working from home does offer challenges to employers in terms of training and workplace engagement. But it also offers cost savings and potentially a global recruitment ground, among other benefits, to employers.

Companies seen as part of the future, as well as the past, can still excite young minds and secure new talent.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)