Every operating agreement has a designated individual or company that conducts and manages all operations related to a well. This officially hired person or firm is known as an operator.  

An oil and gas operator is a company, individual, foundation, or trust that looks after developing and exploring an oil and gas lease or well. This entity is also responsible for the production of oil or gas from a particular source. 

If you haven’t come across this designation before and are interested to know more, keep reading this article. From what operators do to their expertise and average salary, we have everything mentioned below. 

What is an Oil and Gas Operator?

An oil and gas operator is responsible for the day-to-day activities of the exploration, acquisition, development, production, refining, transport, or distribution of natural resources. Some operations can span decades. 

Moreover, this job entails maintaining equipment and safety standards at all times while protecting the surrounding environment. 

While this isn’t a common industry designation on paper, employers hire employees with no experience and train them to become operators.


The upstream sector of the oil and gas industry is mainly operated by an Exploration and Production (E&P) organization, also known as an oil operator. 

Exploration and production are the two early stages of the energy production process. These include finding and then extracting natural gas or oil. An E&P organization or an oil operator identifies viable fields and then drills the well to test the collected samples. 

The primary responsibility of an oil and gas operator is to use various technologies to find hydrocarbons buried under the surface of the earth. Moreover, an operator should also conduct 2D and 3D seismic tests for research. This step is then often followed by drilling a sample well to analyze the searched reservoir’s potential. 

If a particular reservoir has excellent potential, an operator takes assistance from a drilling contractor to drill a particular oil well and initiate economic production. 

Besides, an operator is also responsible for making natural gas and crude oil free from debris, sand, and moisture. Once done, this company or individual then transports or sells crude oil to petroleum refineries to produce different petroleum products. 


As mentioned earlier, an oil and gas operator can also be an individual rather than an organization. So, to become an oil and gas operator, candidates are typically required to have a high school diploma or equivalent certification. 

However, some employers may require additional certifications, such as an associate degree in applied science. Training is usually provided by oil companies themselves once they’ve selected potential employees based on their resumes.

Salaries of Oil and Gas Operators in the USA

According to research, an oil and gas operator in America makes $62,736 on average. Moreover, the salaries of operators start from $17,550 and go up to $90,740.

The operators with average experience make about $54,410, while those on top posts make above $90,000.

Considering the above data, it is safe to say that oil and gas operators are paid well. 

Why Does the Oil and Gas Industry Need an Oil or Gas Operator?

Employees in the oil and gas industry are responsible for conducting operations throughout the entire supply chain. It means that everyone involved is considered an operator. 

This involves people who extract the natural resources to those who transport them to a refinery. 

Moreover, an operator is required to work with dangerous machinery and equipment as well as volatile chemicals daily. This isn’t possible for any other person and so an operator is specifically hired to do this job. 

Texas Laws for Oil and Gas Operators

Under the Texas Occupational Code, an oil and gas operator must have a commercial driver’s license to drive heavy equipment. In addition, all operators are required to obtain proper training for this occupation before being allowed to work with hazardous materials.

Precautions Practised by Oil and Gas Operators

Oil and gas operators must have a safety orientation on new technology before being allowed to operate. If you’re an oil and gas operator, you should wear steel-toe boots to protect your feet from falling objects. Your employer will provide additional equipment that can help protect against accidents such as slips and falls.

Oil and Gas Operator- Frequent Transition

Many gas and oil assets have experienced regular changes in operators in the last six years. This transition has mainly happened after new companies or operators have acquired rights or international companies acquired divested. 

New operators bring a fresh start to the exploration and development process through different technologies and methods. But at the same time, this transition also triggers instability and increases the risk of extraction failure.

Why Do Incoming Oil and Gas Operators Fail to Achieve a Good Production Output?

Here are some reasons that can explain this question: 

  • A lack of solid collaboration between the incumbent and acquirer can cause multiple issues. Every new operator faces this, which leads to inefficiency in the production process and employee engagement.
  • Every new operator goes through a cultural change in a new set-up. Not everyone has a similar business vision, so new operators need to discuss their ideas after the transition.

So, What Should an Oil and Gas Operator Do to Maintain Production?

To avoid losing control on a new project, an operator should: 

  • Pay utmost attention to the safety and continuity of the exploration and production processes
  • Act fast through a disciplined approach 
  • Make efforts to reduce production risks
  • Prioritize and make critical decisions as soon as possible
  • Identify cultural differences and focus on successful business integration

Final Words

An oil and gas operator is an integral part of the oil and gas industry. This individual or organization is responsible for exploring the best oil fields and taking measures to make oil and gas production smooth and successful. 

Without an efficient or experienced operator, it might be difficult to perform all the upstream operations legally. Moreover, it may also be impossible to conduct a successful hydrocarbon production.

While an operator is paid well in the US, this individual must follow certain safety precautions to deal with heavy machinery and chemicals. So, if you want to become an operator, make sure you are ready for all the challenges.