Seven out of 10 us oil and gas jobs lost because of this years crash will not be reinstated by the end of next year, as a humbled industry overhauls the way it operates, according to new projections by deloitte.

The energy sector was forced to make sweeping lay-offs in recent months as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the market. analysis by the big four accounting group suggests a push to digitise and make operations more efficient means many of these jobs may never return.

[the sector] is going to change in constitution and a lot of the old jobs the way they were done are not coming back, said duane dickson, vice-chairman at deloittes oil and gas business. what we are seeing here is the reset button being pressed.

About 107,000 jobs were slashed in the us oil, gas and petrochemicals sector between march and august, according to deloitte. if, as expected, us oil prices remain around $45 a barrel and gas around $2.50 per million british thermal units, it expects only 30 per cent of these to return by the end of next year.

The industry has been a reliable employer for decades, especially in states such as texas and north dakota. over the past 10 years the shale boom drove employment to new heights as production surged to as much as 13m barrels a day.

But the pandemic crippled oil demand as planes were grounded and cars kept off the roads. prices plunged, with us benchmark west texas intermediate dropping into negative territory.

Producers and service providers were forced to cut costs across the board, sending activity tumbling and triggering mass lay-offs.

Output fell below 10m b/d and the rig count a key measure of oilfield activity dropped 75 per cent on the previous year.

Now, even as activity edges back up, the industry faces a combination of difficulty attracting investment and a lengthy period of depressed demand.

As companies are forced to transform themselves into slicker, more efficient operations many of the traditional lower-skilled roles from roustabouts to maintenance workers will no longer be required. instead, the focus will be on higher-skilled, digitally focused work.

What [the crash] has done is its really kickstarted a lot of these digitisation initiatives in a more significant way than companies had been doing before, said matthew fitzsimmons, analyst at consultancy rystad energy. were going to see a greater or faster adoption of some of these digital technologies, which will lead to some of these [traditional] jobs not coming back.

Job numbers in us energy have probably stabilised for now, according to rystad. but they are likely to begin falling again in the coming months and continue declining into the middle of next year.

When employment levels eventually pick back up rystad estimates numbers will return to 2019 levels by 2023 it will be driven by new roles in areas such as it, data analysis and remote operations.

The phase-out of lower-skilled work in the us and beyond has fed growing concerns over job security among oil and gas workers. in the uk, a recent study carried out by environmental groups platform, friends of the earth and greenpeace found that four out of five offshore oil and gas workers were considering leaving the industry.

We're not sitting here waiting for a bunch of things to come back to normal and rebound, said mr dickson. we're looking at a major pivot, a major change, based on the disruption that we've all been through.