Monday, December 30, 2013
**Local Updates **
Skilled labour shortage threatens $50B LNG plans
Demand for scarce workers drives up budgets, slows development
Rebecca Penty, Bloomberg News
Energy companies trying to raise almost $50 billion for Canada’s first network of natural gas export terminals will face an even more basic challenge: finding the workers to build them.
Housing complexes boasting an indoor golf driving range, a two-storey gym and a private movie theatre are among perks companies are mulling to lure tradespeople to Canada’s West Coast and mitigate wage inflation that could blow up project budgets. Labour shortages already have pushed wages for some oil and gas workers as much as 60 per cent higher than counterparts in the U.S., according to U.S. and Canadian labour data.
“The lack of skilled workers is a major component for the reason why you’re often behind schedule and over budget,” said Geoff Hill, partner and oil and gas
leader at financial advisers Deloitte Canada in Calgary. A dearth of labour for oilsands and mining will be “exacerbated” by a new wave of construction to enable gas exports, he said.
Chevron will need as many as 5,500 workers to build a pipeline across Canada’s western mountains and a plant on the country’s Pacific coast , according to company estimates.
The company may be vying for workers with as many as nine other proposed liquefied natural gas, or LNG, export terminals on the West Coast that have received or applied for permits. Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Petroliam Nasional Bhd. are among energy companies planning to profit from rising gas demand in Asia.
LNG project leaders such as Chevron are working to secure additional financial partners and negotiate long-term contracts with suppliers before they make their final investment decisions to proceed. If five of those Canadian projects are built by 2021, they’ll require 21,600 workers at the peak of construction, according to estimates from Grant Thornton LLP, an audit, tax and advisory firm.
Producers are expected to spend $47.8 billion building five LNG export terminals in Canada by 2021, according to a forecast from National Bank Financial.
Investors want to prevent spiralling labour costs that contributed to a budget overrun of more than 20 per cent at Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project in Australia. Canada’s development in oilsands, shale fields and mining has put a premium on skilled workers. Oil and gas drill operators, for example, can earn $44.80 an hour in Canada, compared with $29.50 for the same job in Texas, according to figures from Nabors Industries Ltd .