Refiners are looking for workers
After years of running flat out, U.S. Gulf Coast refiners are lining up repairs to plants in 2017 - but facing a severe labor shortage that could delay work, drive up costs and raise accident risks.The pipefitters and ironworkers are busy with construction jobs for petrochemical plants that are being constructed in Texas and Louisiana. There was already a shortage of such workers and some technical schools are turning them out as fast as they can. They have an opportunity for jobs that pay more than starting college graduates in some professions and without the heavy student loans to repay.
Fuel producers such as Marathon Petroleum Corp (MPC.N: Quote) and Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N: Quote) have delayed routine work in the past 24 months amid high margins. Those margins collapsed this year in a global fuel supply glut, providing an incentive for refiners to undertake the shutdowns necessary for maintenance.
But refiners are now competing for pipe fitters and ironworkers with a host of billion-dollar energy projects, including Cheniere Energy's (LNG.A: Quote) liquefied natural gas export terminals and a new petrochemical unit for Dow Chemical (DOW.N: Quote).
Without undertaking the work they need, refineries run the risk of more unscheduled outages at plants. Plant shutdowns can disrupt fuel supplies and are closely tracked by oil traders because they directly affect demand for crude and supply of fuel.