Compensation Tracker: Working in South America

South America is expected to become a major exporting region by 2020, according to GlobalData's energy 2010 report, "Focused Investments and Rapid Upstream Developments Transforming the Region." Recent discoveries are expected to boost production from 9.8 Million barrels of oil per day (MMbopd) in 2009 to 16.5 MMbopd by 2020, the report says.

Brazil is the major player in the region, with national oil company (NOC) Petrobras, the world's third largest oil producer, making significant offshore discoveries recently. According to Infield System's Latin American Market report, Brazil is expected to invest $54 billion in offshore exploration and production (E&P) from 2010 to 2014.

The EIA says Brazil's pre-salt fields have yielded the country's largest oil discoveries in recent years, but come with high risk. According to Business Monitor International's Brazil Oil and Gas Report, Brazil's pre-salt discoveries will generate complex multi-billion dollar projects. Look for Brazil to increase floating production system construction to develop these projects, which will create thousands of onshore construction jobs.

Argentina's YPF announced in December 2011 the discovery of 4.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven shale gas reserves in Patagonia. Development of this enormous shale gas find will require hydraulic fracturing, similar to the United States. Look for Argentina to tap into the U.S.' experienced fracking workforce to help them develop this resource.

Colombia had been facing steady decline, but revived its production numbers recently, the EIA reported. Open Round Columbia 2010 licensing rounds created FEED work in the country last year, but a new pipeline near the Rubiales field, located in Meta department, has renewed interest in that area of the country. Rubiales was discovered in the late 1980s, but with the new pipeline in place, the EIA reported production has increased from 12,000 bpd in June 2007 to more than 170,000 Bbpd in 2011. As reported by the EIA, the Colombian government claims the field contains 500 million barrels of total reserves with most of the reserves inland. The EIA report says a lack of infrastructure has delayed development and expects refinery upgrades and transportation to create job opportunities in Colombia soon.

Venezuela contains the largest oil reserves in the world and is one of the top 10 oil producing countries across the globe, mainly due to the Orinoco belt, which has proven reserves of 296,500 million barrels, EIA reports. However, Venezuela is unable to move forward, without increasing infrastructure and refinery capacity.

In a Granma International article published on Feb. 2, 2012, Energy Minister Rafael Ramírez said Venezuela is planning to build six crude oil improvement facilities, two refineries and 520 macollas, or groups of connected wells.

"All of this means the drilling of 10,570 wells and the erection of six terminals to transport and store the crude," Ramirez said.

It also means more oil and gas jobs in Venezuela.

South America Compensation

Rigzone's Compensation Tracker revealed a mixed picture for South American compensation, with some earnings increasing year/year, while others decreased. For instance, petroleum engineers working in South America reported average earnings of $86,252 in 2011 and $75,780 in 2010 (14 percent increase), whereas operations managers working in the region reported making an average of $130,062 in 2011 and $135,244 in 2010 (4 percent decrease).

Participants just getting started in the South American oil and gas industry in 2011 reported an average pay of $60,532, according to the survey. With two to five years of experience, respondents said they were paid an average of $80,173. Pay jumped to $109,022 after 10 years of experience and $137,633 after 20 years working in the South American oil and gas industry.

Oil and gas professionals who participated and identified themselves as having worked in South America reported companies operating in the region with less than 20 employees paid an average of $89,755 in 2011. Successive increases in the number of colleagues equated to higher pay including $90,499 for companies with 21-100 employees in 2011 and the largest companies, those with more than 2,000 employees, paid average compensation of $111,198 in 2011 compared to $107,493 in 2010.

Respondents working in South America reported a change in compensation based on career level. In 2010, staff positions paid an average of $85,042 and increased slightly to $85,526 in 2011. Likewise mid-level professionals reported an insignificant increase in compensation from an average of $112,599 in 2010 to $113,726 in 2011. However, compensation for upper level positions decreased 7 percent from $137,602 in 2010 to $127,523 in 2011.

Offshore jobs paid more than onshore jobs in South America. The average onshore South American employee made $91,776 in 2011 compared to $112,000 offshore. Likewise, employees' schedules altered average earnings, the survey found. For those who worked fulltime in 2011, the average compensation was $91,833. Rotation workers averaged about $117,871.

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