How to Find a Job in Natural Gas
Natural Gas Jobs, Still A Bright Future
Why Natural Gas Jobs and Why Now?
Natural gas is poised to become America's new fuel of choice as we move away from dirtier fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Eventually solar and wind power will provide much of our energy but that will be years away, even under the most optimistic of scenarios. Looking toward the future, some existing natural gas networks across the world are already being used to transport green hydrogen gas, or hydrogen gas that is sourced from renewable energy.
Natural gas is now very plentiful in North America. A few years ago experts were forecasting the we only had a decade or less worth of supply remaining. Now thanks to the "shale gas revolution" or the discovery of massive quantities of natural gas in shale rock formations deep underground, there is plenty of gas to go around
Jobs In Natural Gas
Some of the fastest growing jobs will be in the energy sector as a whole. This includes solar, wind power, geothermal and of course natural gas. Within the natural gas sector there are many facets, from exploration and production to distribution and marketing.
Natural Gas Exploration and Production Jobs
Already there are many new jobs being created by the exploration and development of the Marcellus shale, located primarily in New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Initially the jobs created by shale gas drilling, such as in the Marcellus shale, will be related to well drilling, hydraulic fracturing, well location construction and pipelines. Oil rig jobs pay quite well, as do all of the service company jobs that support the oil and gas industry. The industry as a whole has been in a slump recently but hiring is picking up again.
Next will come the maintenance and production jobs related to extracting natural gas from wells and distributing it to utilities through pipeline networks. These jobs include well gaugers, pipeline maintenance and inspection employees, compressor station workers, state and federal regulation agency jobs and many more.
Natural Gas Distribution Jobs
As natural gas becomes more widely accepted as a motor fuel there will be an increase in the number of CNG or compressed natural gas filling stations. Already there are a number of CNG stations scattered across the nation, mostly to serve the needs of cities and government agencies who have converted buses and fleet vehicles to natural gas.
Construction of even more CNG stations will create many new jobs. A new technology called GTL or gas to liquids will also create many new jobs in the refining sector. GTL, as developed by Mobil and Shell, among others, converts natural gas to gasoline or diesel. Those holding or pursuing chemical engineering or petroleum engineering jobs might want to look at this part of the natural gas job sector.
Environmental Jobs In Natural Gas
With natural gas being a fossil fuel it may seem like an oxymoron, however there are environmental jobs related to natural gas production. Companies such as EOG Resources, a major producer of natural gas, are increasing spending on reduction of "fugitive emissions" or natural gas that escapes from tanks, compressors and other equipment. Even though emissions standards for the industry have been relaxed by the current administration, it is in the interest of responsible companies to reduce fugitive emissions since it increases the amount of product available for sale rather than wasting it. Natural gas companies are now hiring emissions specialists to visit production sites and install gas capturing technology on tanks and production equipment.
Home Fuel Cells Mean More Natural Gas Jobs
Local utilities will have to hire more employees to expand natural gas distribution networks as natural gas becomes more widely accepted due to the relatively low price of the fuel compared to electricity, fuel oil and propane. One very exciting aspect of the natural gas revolution is that of home fuel cells.
Several small utilities and cooperatives scattered around the country have offered incentives for homeowners to install natural gas powered fuel cell units. The timing of these programs unfortunately coincided with a rise in natural gas prices a few years ago. Now that many more shale gas wells have come on line and the market is saturated with cheap natural gas, there is renewed interest in home fuel cells.
What Are Home Fuel Cells?
Home based fuel cells fit either inside a mechanical room or outside a home or business, and can be engineered to fit within a building's design. A home fuel cell unit works much like a furnace, hot water heater and electricity plant in one compact unit.
Because home fuel cells convert natural gas chemically, instead of burning it, they produce much less CO2 and other emissions. Efficiency of home fuel cells is much higher than can be achieved at a faraway power plant. Instead of creating power miles away, losing much of it in the lines on the way to a home, energy can be created on demand by a "mini power plant" in the home. Fuel cell installers will be in great demand in the coming years, especially with new federal rebates. Those with a journeyman gas fitter license and an electronics and technical background make good candidates for these kind of natural gas jobs.
Prospective employees for any of the above natural gas jobs should check with your local community college for curriculum that matches the requirements of the specific job. For those interested in fuel cell technology there is a good program at Michigan Tech.
One thing is for certain and that is there will be thousands of new jobs in natural gas created over the coming decade. If you want to be part of a growing and dynamic industry then the field of natural gas may just hold a job for you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.