Texas is a state long famous for its towering oil rigs and an economy that was largely dependent on what they were able to bring out of the ground, and Houston is no exception. Today, the city is at the forefront of the nation’s petroleum industry, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting in 2016 that Houston had over 51,000 jobs in oil extraction alone, or just over 28.5% of all such jobs in the nation.
Oil Exploration and Refining
While other industries have moved into Houston in the past 50 years, oil and gas is still a large part of the area’s economy, and Houston is still a major world player in the industry. Oil was first discovered in the Houston area around 1900, and since then the city has grown to be one of the largest petroleum exploration and refining centers in North America. Houston is home to more than 750 companies devoted to exploration and production and 800 oilfield services companies, accounting for many high-paying jobs in oilfield and refinery operations, management, and research & development. This number includes 40 of the 134 publically traded exploration and refining companies in the United States, and 10 of the top 25. The Houston Metropolitan Area is home to nine of the nation’s largest refineries, which together process in excess of 2.3 million barrels of crude oil every day – over 13% of the country’s entire refining output. Major companies in the industry headquartered in Houston include Shell Oil, which has called Houston home since 1971; CITGO, which moved its corporate headquarters to the city in 2004; British Petroleum (BP), which established its American base of operations in the city in 2007; and Occidental Petroleum, which moved its operations to Houston in 2013. In addition, in 2015 ExxonMobil completed work on its massive energy campus in the city; located on 375 acres, the campus will be home to over 12,000 workers.
Of course, once it is out of the ground and refined, the petroleum end products have to be moved. Houston is also home to 15 of the nation’s top 20 oil pipeline companies, which include division and corporate headquarters. All told, the companies control 44% of the oil pipelines currently in use in the United States and total just under 67,000 miles of pipe. And speaking of pipelines, 52% of the country’s natural gas pipelines – around 103,000 miles – are controlled by companies with national or division headquarters in the Bayou City. In addition, the Port of Houston – the second busiest port in the United States – ships millions of barrels of crude and refined petroleum products to destinations throughout the United States, Europe, and the Asia/Pacific Rim every year. Companies with a significant presence at the port include Valero Refining, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Pasadena Refining, and Houston Refining. The petrochemical complex at the port is one of the largest in the world. Today, nine of the top 25 Houston employers are in the oil and gas industry, and these nine account for almost 80,000 area jobs alone. The industry is the cornerstone of Houston’s burgeoning energy sector, which has over 4,000 companies located in the area. While the oil and gas industry has been shaky throughout the United States recently, Houston is weathering the storm better than most cities and continues to strengthen its footprint in the sector with stable production and refining operations, and increased investment in R & D and technology, helping Houston live up to its reputation as the “Energy City.”