Ahmedabad: A little over a year from now, the country’s largest oil and gas exploration company expects to be two years younger. Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC) is hiring young people to replace older employees who have chosen to retire voluntarily in an attempt to create a fitter workforce to cope with the rigours of the exploration business.
“We have hired over 750 people, aged between 20 and 25 years. We are also in the process of hiring 1,500 more youngsters by March 2009. They will replace the older people who have opted for voluntary retirement scheme,” said A.K. Balyan, director, ONGC. Over the past two years, around 2,500 employees have opted for a voluntary retirement scheme being offered by the company.
ONGC has 33,000 employees on its rolls. Of this number, 24,000 work across the company’s various offices, while 9,000 are employed on rigs.
Though the work at rigs for drilling and exploration and production of hydrocarbons is technology-driven, many operations are still carried out manually. ONGC stopped recruiting people for field operations in 1984. Thus, most of its employees who work on rigs are over the age of 50. ONGC has also lost more than 1,400 of its field staff to private sector competitors. As a result, ONGC has barely as many employees trained to operate rigs as the rigs themselves. “Two years ago, we had over 1,600 rig men. Now, we are left with just 200 to manage 178 rigs,” said an ONGC executive who didn’t wish to be identified. The company has 75 onshore drilling rigs, 74 workover rigs and 29 offshore rigs.
To address this situation, ONGC has hired 750 people on a four-year contract to operate rigs and other equipment used in exploration and production work. “By March 2008, we will have new people operating all the rigs of ONGC and exploration work,” Balyan said.
ONGC is also in the process of hiring younger 1,500 graduate engineers. “With all the induction, we hope that the average age of employees in ONGC will go down to 44 years by March 2009, much in line with the average age of many global hydrocarbon companies,” Balyan added.
According to Balyan, ONGC will replace a large proportion of its field staff by 2011.
“You will soon see a new ONGC emerging with the average age of the company employees coming down to less than 40 years,” he said. A Mumbai-based oil and gas analyst said the infusion of fresh blood would help ONGC increase exploration and production efficiencies. “Younger people on rigs may help ONGC improve productivity of its rigs and exploration and production work,” added the analyst who did not wish to be identified.