Will Jump In Petrochemical and Refining Activity Create Skilled Workforce Crisis?
In recent years, the rapid development of shale resources throughout the U.S., coupled with increasingly strict environmental regulations, has resulted in a wave of spending on capital projects throughout the petrochemical and refining segment.
According to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), on the Gulf Coast alone, over 220 chemical projects valued at roughly $138 billion have either been planned or are currently underway (source: ACC). The projects have the potential to generate upwards of $100 billion per year in industry output and are projected to create between 650,000 – 700,000 permanent jobs by 2023. Those most in demand will include skilled craftsmen, such as welders, pipefitters, and electricians, along with technical personnel, such as engineers, automation professionals, and process operators.
In addition to the development of grassroots facilities, many of the projects on the Gulf Coast are upgrades, expansions, and large-scale modifications. One of the primary drivers of these capital improvement projects is the implementation of increasingly strict environmental regulations, perhaps the most notable of which is the EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Implemented in 1976, TSCA aims to control emissions from the production of chemical and petrochemical-related products. Over the years, the emissions standards set forth for in the act have become more stringent, thus forcing operators to make changes to their facilities in order to comply. The EPA estimates that the newest modification to the TSCA, which has yet to be implemented, could cost the industry as much as $15 billion (source: EPA).
Overall, the increase in activity throughout the petrochemical and refining segment will force operators to look for new and innovative ways to secure the skilled labor needed to keep their capital projects on schedule. Long-term, this will undoubtedly require an increased focus on attracting, engaging, and retaining talent; however, in the short-term, the use of additional human capital strategies such as staff augmentation could become more important.
Vice President – Refining and Petrochemical
Shawn Senf has over 20 years of experience in engineering, construction, and procurement for petrochemical and refining facilities. In his current position, Shawn is responsible for petrochemical and refining strategic initiatives, along with the company’s fiscal performance, quality assurance, and operational execution. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Houston.
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