Here in New England, we just had our first snowfall, and it’s exciting to think of all the winter activities we can take advantage of soon. However, with the white stuff also comes concerns about the rising cost of natural gas and whether there will be enough to go around. Recent headlines indicate natural gas supply chain shortages could be a reality this winter, with rolling blackouts reminiscent of the 2021 Texas outages.
Natural gas powers electrical plants, and the colder it gets, the more we reach for the thermostat. Unfortunately, scheduled outages can happen, so the entire grid doesn’t go down. Leaving some wondering why the slowdown in natural gas supply in the first place? According to the Brookings Institute, disruptions in natural gas supplies are due to several factors, including:
- A rebound in energy use following the COVID-19 pandemic
- Increased usage despite a continued shortage in natural gas supplies
- Heightened demand equals higher prices
- Global competition for gas supply
- A decline in coal power generation and more reliance on natural gas
All of which also leads to higher costs in the energy market to the extend some analysts predict rising natural gas prices will continue into 2025 as prices in Europe rise and some U.K. suppliers have been forced to close due to a lack of workers. In some instances, the shortage of natural gas has even led to the re-powering of coal plants (Coal is a non-renewable fossil fuel that, when burned, emits sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide, which is a contributor to global warming).
While coal isn’t a clean energy market source, the industry has found ways to reduce harmful emissions, including flue gas desulfurization equipment, also known as scrubbers, to clean sulfur from the smoke before leaving their smokestacks. The coal industry and the U.S. government are also developing technology to make coal more energy efficient. Meanwhile, the U.S. is the world’s largest natural gas producer, with Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Louisiana topping production. We also have the most miles of pipelines (1.2 million). In addition to being used for home heating, natural gas is also a raw material for paints, fertilizers, plastics, antifreeze, and medicine, contributing to shortages.
What does all this mean for energy jobs?
In a previous blog post, we discussed how the North American natural gas infrastructure is a highly integrated distribution grid of producing wells, gathering lines, processors, transmission and distribution pipelines, compressor stations, and storage facilities. It can transport natural gas to and from nearly any lower 48 States with over 90% efficiency. All of which requires workers.
Post COVID-19, however, it’s thought that more baby boomers are opting for early retirement, a trend we’re seeing with contractors. Just as there is a demand for natural gas though, there also exists a need for workers. The American Petroleum Institute (API) predicts 1.9 million job opportunities through 2035, providing ample opportunity for millennials (those born between the 1980s and 2000).
Additionally, the average earnings for oil and gas workers can’t be beaten. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for petroleum engineers in 2020 was $137 330. Here are some more top-paying oil and gas jobs and their earnings:
- Chemical Engineer – $68K to 108K/year
- Drilling Operator – $29/hour
- Oil And Natural Gas Landman – $100k/year
- Oil Rig Roughneck – $42k/year
- Geologist – $93k/year
In summary, the natural gas grid plays a crucial role in our energy independence and is where the future of energy lies in the United States. The industry is preparing by investing in inclusive, diverse, and resilient workforces. In particular, energy staffing firms like FootBridge can assist in the search for qualified workers.
For more information on pursuing a career in the energy industry, please contact FootBridge Energy Services today.