Developments in the Marcellus and Utica Shale have demonstrated the breadth of U.S. natural gas capacity to bolster regional and national economic growth.
Steve Columbus, Administrative Manager of the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers, explains that recent shifts toward natural gas in the energy industry have paired with pipeline projects to connect this crucial resource to market – and with jobs to develop and maintain this infrastructure.
Columbus lists the Shell cracker plant in Beaver County and the Mariner East 2 pipeline as examples of such energy infrastructure projects that stand to employ hundreds of engineers in their general operation over the next several years.
He stresses that there is a wealth of training behind this work, leading the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers to “conduct approximately 180 different classes covering about 13 different courses that are specific to the pipeline industry. A lot of it has to do with protecting the pipe, worker safety, and the proper procedures that go into installing those pipes – and also the monitoring that takes place after that.”
Columbus highlights that there are “also special certifications that are necessary in the pipeline industry. Most projects require a pipeline operator certificate – especially on this Sunoco Mariner 2 line [where] there’s a requirement for that. So all the engineers on that project will be certified with that pipeline operator qualification. That is actually one of the certifications that we started offering here at our training program specifically for that project. The amount of work that we’ve been getting in the pipeline industry for our members from the journeymen to the apprentices has been great – and it’s been very rewarding for those individuals [who are] out there [and] able to earn family sustaining wage that will carry them on for many years…either constructing the processing facilities, installing the natural gas pipelines, building the natural gas fired powered plants, and so on. That will lead to a lot of work for our members in the future.”