UpdateUS megaproject plans cause concerns on labour shortages

20 March 2013 03:32  [Source: ICIS news]

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS)--US megaproject activity has continued to increase as the projects themselves have grown in size and complexity, resulting in cost and schedule runs, as well as performance issues, an energy consultant said on Tuesday.

According to The IPA Institute’s forecast of industrial megaproject activity between 2000 and 2013, the megaproject market has been expanded at a rate of 24% a year, said Daniel Lumma, senior vice president of Kiewit Oil, Gas & Chemical North America.

A major concern in the industry is having enough skilled workers to build these megaprojects, he said during the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturer (AFPM) annual meeting.

For example, the Lake Charles area in Louisiana has a number of big projects, including Westlake’s cracker expansion, Sasol’s gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility, as well as other megaprojects by Trunkline, Sabine Pass and Cameron.

The impact that several multi-billion dollar projects will have on the Lake Charles area shows an increase that is unfeasible based on the amount of labour needed to meet the requirements,” Lumma said.

“[Industrial Info Resources] forecasts labour hour demand will grow by 329% at its peak in 2016 from 2012 demand levels,” he added.

While labour shortages continue to be a problem, owners and project managers will look for better project delivery models, Lumma said.

He said there were roughly 4.5m-5m skilled workers in the North American energy industry, about 1m less than in mid 2000.

In addition, US construction workforce demographics show there is an upward shift in average age as it has risen from the mid 30s in the mid 1980s to the early 40s in 2010, he said during the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturer (AFPM) annual meeting.

The average retirement age is 61, he added, and roughly half of the workforce industry will retire in about 10 years.

“Owners are very concerned how the availability of skilled craft labour will impact their projects," Lumma said. “With more experienced workers retiring and fewer young people entering construction, the problem continues to be significant.”

The AFPM annual meeting ended on Tuesday.

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By: Tracy Dang
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