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'The lows are low and they hurt really bad' | Houston oil and gas workers talk about rapid downturn

Experts predict thousands of people in oil and gas could lose their jobs as demand decreases due to COVID-19

HOUSTON, Texas — Oil prices were up Wednesday in the middle of what’s been a disastrous week for Houston’s biggest industry.

But the fallout for thousands of oil and gas workers may be unavoidable.

"It’s not good," said Stephen Morgan, president of the Young Professionals in Energy Houston chapter. "You know, I think everyone has heard the word 'unprecedented' one too many times at this point, but it is just that.”

Morgan also owns a midstream services provider called TransTex Treating.

"Our demographic and our membership are young families working in the oil and gas industry that are faced with a circumstance that they’re losing their livelihoods," Morgan said. "That’s nerve-racking, that’s crushing.”

A significant lack of demand due to COVID-19 compounded an already challenged industry.

And the extreme oversupply helped prices plummet into negative territory for the first time ever on Monday.

One expert said anything less than $40 per barrel means lots of layoffs.

“I’ve been laid off and I’ve had to lay people off,” said longtime oil and gas industry employee Deanna Young.

She heads up the Women’s Energy Network in Houston and knows first-hand the tough decisions many companies are making.

"Nobody wants to let anyone go," Young said. "It’s not easy. Nobody wants to do it, but there has to be some sort of effort made in order to keep the company alive.”

Young believes it’s a chance for workers to learn new skills and leverage themselves outside of oil and gas as everyone waits for the volatile industry to, perhaps, settle back down.

"It's an up and down business," Morgan said. "The lows are low and they hurt really bad and the highs are great. And one thing’s for certain is that things will get better, that’s what’s for certain.”

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