The easiest way to describe the E&P industry in 2023 is to call it “The Year of the Deal”. The quantity of long-time, resource play-focused E&P firms that were acquired in 2023 were plentiful, but the real story is the size of these deals. 

In the Permian alone, acquisitions announced in 2023 totaled over $100B, with deals in the Haynesville, Eagle Ford, Rockies, Marcellus and Mid-Con getting done at a steady clip throughout the year. To name a few, ExxonMobil and Denbury, ExxonMobil and Pioneer, Chevron and PDC, Chevron and Hess, Permian Resources and Earthstone, APA and Callon, Chesapeake and Southwestern Energy, and Occidental and Crownrock. And if you’re up in Denver, you’ve likely noticed that Civitas has acquired several of the smaller operators in town and rolled them into one publicly traded, $6.5B market cap company. 

All these deals will lead to job changes, not for everyone in the acquiring company or the acquired firm, but for many. A lot of experienced professionals that did not anticipate changing employers will be dusting off resumes and posting “Open to Work” on their Linkedin profile. 

Take Pioneer – the company has significant quantity of employees with 10+ years at the company. The firm is well liked by those working there, many of these are people embedded in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, they do their job well and have built great relationships within the company. Leaving Pioneer, for many of these long-timers, was the LAST thing on their mind when entering 2023. Sure, the rumor mill talked about an acquisition of Pioneer by ExxonMobil for years, but the reality of a Purchase + Sale Agreement (PSA) and press release is something entirely different. 

For some, these deals will mean retirement. That may be voluntary – a nice severance check at the close of the deal and a Linkedin post that says “Thanks for the memories – I’m goin’ fishin”. That said, retirement may not be the desired choice for some in their 50’s and early 60’s, but the reality is that the market doesn’t value 35+ years of experience like it has in previous eras of the oil & gas industry. Or the individual may have a niche skill set and be highly valued presently but performing a function that many smaller E&P companies outsource or ignore altogether.

For mid-career staff, these deals can be a boon, an opportunity to move up into leadership, or try their hand at an entrepreneurial venture, or join a smaller company with a ‘high upside’ equity share. Still, change is rife with anxiety and stress, even when new opportunities are appealing. 

The big question, and one that likely won’t be answered for several years, is whether the industry has a place for all the people that want to stay working in the business. Will there be adequate demand for the displaced engineers, geoscientists, landmen, land administrators, field staff, financial analysts, IT personnel and support professionals? We certainly hope so, as the industry has lost too many good people in recent years. 

We at CSI Recruiting estimate that the domestic E&P industry has approximately 30% fewer professionals working in full-time positions than in 2015. That downward trend needs to abate for us to do all the work necessary to keep growing production here in the U.S. and to continue innovating. This next 24-36 months will tell us a lot about where the E&P employment is headed for the coming decade.