Now that President Obama has delayed the Keystone XL pipeline project, those job seekers who were
looking forward to those jobs are shrugging their shoulders and asking “What Now?” Here is an idea: There are hundreds of potential natural gas pipeline replacement construction projects that will create jobs and go unnoticed by media and general public. Interesting, right? Let me widen your view:
Natural Gas Pipeline Replacement Projects: Old Pipes, New Problems
America has nearly 2,5 million miles of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. Most of them were built before 1970. In 2010 and 2011, natural gas pipeline explosions ripped through neighborhoods in San Bruno, CA, Allentown, PA and Hanoverton, OH. The subsequent accident investigations revealed that the affected pipes needed to be replaced. After these incidents, some natural gas companies publicly stepped up their efforts to replace old pipelines but they are running into some problems:
Complex Construction Issues and High Costs: Replacing an old gas pipeline is not just a matter of digging a trench and putting it in the ground. Some pipelines are located in historic or highly developed areas where construction must be done with complex trenchless (little or no digging) construction techniques. The equipment, materials and people required to do these types of projects can drive construction costs close to $1 Million per mile. These high costs can have an effect on how projects are prioritized and executed. We could explore this aspect further, but our main focus is the jobs that can be generated.
Finding Qualified Workers: Jobs like construction inspector, natural gas technician, pipefitter or welder are not as glamorous as a software engineer, attorney or accountant, but they are important in revamping our country’s pipeline infrastructure. The Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) reported in 2009 that the energy utilities are facing a high number of retirements and a lack of qualified job seekers in its engineering and technician workforce. This issue may become more acute by 2015 as more employees enter the retirement window. Here is a breakdown of the situation CEWD reports is happening:
- Over 50% of the engineer and technician workforce will have to be replaced due retirement and attrition by 2015.
- Only 1 in 30 technicians and 1 in 50 electrical line workers make it through testing, drug screening, background check and interview process.
What Job Seekers Should Consider
The energy utilities are working with high schools, community colleges and training programs to increase the number of qualified applicants for these jobs. What is needed is more job seekers who are ready to learn new skills and fill these open positions.
- Near-term pipeline plans grow, longer-term projects sag (energyindependenceforstates.com)
- Picarro Launches Revolutionary Solution for Natural Gas Leak Detection and Management (environmental-expert.com)
- Senators Propose Tying Strategic Oil Reserve, Keystone XL (businessweek.com)
- Threat of new deadline cranks up pressure on Obama over Keystone XL (environmental-expert.com)
- Case for Keystone XL pipeline keeps growing (mysanantonio.com)
- Keystone XL oil pipeline makes sense, Buffet says (ctv.ca)