“An example of this job growth is in the US production growth of key chemical components such as methanol, ethylene and ammonia,” says Mike Nash, global director of Syngas Chemicals at information company IHS.

Shale gas is a major game-changer for the US – moth-balled petrochemical units have started back up, units are being relocated to the US, and other investments are planned across the country.
Mike Nash, global director of Syngas Chemicals at IHS

“An abundant supply of low-cost North American shale gas resources is driving capacity additions for these and other core products. According to IHS estimates, by 2018, we expect combined North American capacity additions for these three products to exceed 17 million tonnes annually. Shale gas is a major game-changer for the US – moth-balled petrochemical units have started back up, units are being relocated to the US, and other investments are planned across the country. This means more jobs.”

Construction of new facilities

“The shale energy revolution is not only revitalising the North American petrochemical industry, it is transforming the entire US economy, and that phenomenon is reflected in the demand across key manufacturing sectors such as metals, cement, glass, plastics and other materials critical to construction of new facilities,” adds John Larson, an economist and vice president of Economics and Country Risk at IHS.

”Initially we see construction jobs created, since these workers build the new plants, but then we see other infrastructure jobs related to pipelines, transportation or storage, as well as workers who operate the plant. Beyond the plant gate, there is a cascade effect of both direct and indirect job growth that is created, since lots of industries and job disciplines are required to support, maintain, supply or operate these facilities, as well as to house, feed and provide other retail and support services to workers over time.”

Training required

These jobs are attracting new people to the industry worldwide, many of whom lack training or specialised skills to compete, according to IHS, which is launching new courses designed to address this.

The IHS Professional Training and Education Program: Chemicals and Energy Series now includes new, three-day, open education courses. 

According to Jeffrey S. Plotkin, vice president of training and education at IHS Chemical, these courses provide attendees with the basic framework and industry fundamentals needed to understand and cope with changing dynamics.

”This dramatic, rapid growth in US chemical capacity additions and demand has created an interesting challenge for chemical employers worldwide, since just a few years ago, many forecasters were predicting the decline of the US petrochemical industry and few people were encouraged to pursue careers in the industry," he notes.

"That is clearly changing, but there is a workforce gap between skills and opportunity that we are hoping to help address with our public training programme.”

The 2013 public courses will launch in Houston in June, and follow in London, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, Sao Paolo, Frankfurt, Beijing and San Francisco/Santa Clara, California.