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Energy & Utilities careers

Exploration

What do people in exploration…explore?

Whether you’re looking for oil, gas, coal or other precious minerals, the principles for finding deposits are the same. If you pursue a career in this area, you will be tasked with finding natural resources, calculating how much there is in a certain area and whether or not it is commercially viable to extract it.

The entire world relies on the natural resources we find in the earth. Civilisation would literally not be able to function without natural resources. Try and find anything that does not contain metal, plastic or hasn’t been transported using fuel. It’s almost impossible. Finding more of these resources is of the upmost importance for human existence and for the companies that find and extract them for our benefit.

In recent years our ability to find new sources of these valuable deposits has become more and more sophisticated. Consequently, this area of work is dominated by people working in scientific and engineering roles.

What are the two branches of a career in exploration?

Careers in this subsector can be broadly divided into two different parts: 1) finding the minerals, and 2) calculating how much can be extracted. A range of tools and techniques are used by exploration companies to find deposits, from technical geophysics methods, to bore holes drilled into the ground.

You are likely to be either working for a specialist exploration firm, which may specialise in exploration for particular types of deposit, such as precious metals or fossil fuels. Alternatively, you may be working for the large energy companies, such as Shell or BP.

What are the stages of mineral extraction?

Geophysics is usually one of the first steps in the exploration of natural resources. Using specialist equipment, it is possible to investigate what is beneath the earth’s surface by measuring the magnetism, conductivity, density, radioactivity and gravity in a given location. These results can be analysed and compared with other locations where there are known deposits to see whether further exploration is necessary. Check out the occupational profile of a geophysical data processor to find out more! 

Once it has been established that there is something worth digging up below the surface, the geochemists get involved. Samples are taken from below the surface using bore holes (where possible) and above ground too. These are then analysed to provide concrete evidence of natural resources.

Once it has been established that the desired deposits can be found in a particular location, it is then necessary to calculate whether the resources are present in volumes that will make the extraction commercially viable. Will the company that extracts the resource make more money than what it costs them to move in equipment, transport the minerals or fossil fuels and staff the facility? This part of the process is known as reserve evaluation and definition.

Would I enjoy a career in exploration?

Deposits can be found anywhere on land or at sea, which mean careers in this field offer extensive opportunities for travel. However, often you could find yourself working in some obscure locations that may not be on most traditional tourist routes!

Essentially, these careers suit individuals that are happy to travel and are keen to spend hours, days and weeks in the field. However, there are also plenty of other roles in this area of work that involve spending time in laboratories, analysing samples of rock and soil from all over the world to determine their geological composition and the likelihood of finding commercial quantities of specific resources.

Deposits can be found anywhere on land or at sea, which mean careers in this field offer extensive opportunities for travel. However, often you could find yourself working in some obscure locations that may not be on most traditional tourist routes!

The ability to speak additional languages can be an advantage and it is likely that you will need a scientific background for most positions.

This career path may, at first glance, seem like a bit of a treasure hunt but it’s a tad more scientific than that, and pirates are rarely involved. Sound good to you? Then check out jobs in exploration or the following occupational profiles to find out more: