Energy companies in Calgary, Alberta, are attempting to make their first network of natural-gas export terminals as lucrative a business as their counterparts in Texas. The first step, however, is finding almost 50,000 workers willing to make the move to Alberta.
Over the next decade, the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada estimate that as many as 47,900 oil and gas jobs will need filling over the next decade, and if British Columbia’s efforts are included, more than 100,000 jobs could be created. In order to tempt workers to make the trip, housing complexes with significant amenities are in the process of being constructed. Workers will find their homes boast indoor golf driving ranges, two-story gymnasiums and even private movie theaters. Calgary-based company, Atco, has even added squash courts, a running tack, and recreation rooms with Ping-Pong and foosball tables.The atmosphere and entertainment options are a not-so-hidden attempt to mitigate the isolation workers from across the globe may feel if they do decide to join one of the many future projects.
It’s difficult to tell if any perk will overshadow the isolated West Coast, but perhaps the wage inflation might. Remoteness may become more bearable when considering that labor shortages in Canada have already resulted in many oil and gas workers’ wages skyrocketing as much as 60 percent higher than the same job pays in the United States, according to both U.S. and Canadian labor data. Workers in Texas, often envied for their high wages, make approximately $29.50 an hour. Those same positions in Canada can earn up to C$44.80 ($42.01) an hour, according to the numbers from Nabors Industries.
The main instigator for Canada’s sudden wave of gas export construction is the country’s desire to meet rising demand in Asia. Last year, Japan alone imported $58 billion of liquefied natural gas last year. Chevron, which is among the Alberta Natural Gas companies looking to profit from this venture, is aiming to build a pipeline across Canada’s western mountains as well as a plant on the country’s freezing Pacific Coast to allow shipping to Asia. That project alone will require as many as 5,500 workers.
Other companies looking to benefit from Asia’s need are Royal Dutch Shell, and Petroliam Nasional. The project leaders, which include Chevron, intend to secure financial partners and long-term contacts with suppliers before proceeding with the proposed ten export LNG terminals already looking to receive building permits. If even five of the projects are built by 2021, then at a minimum, 21,600 workers will be needed, and an estimated C$47.8 billion will be spent.
The housing alone will cost Canadian energy companies an average of $200 a day per person, since competition to acquire workers has resulted in work camps that function more similarly to a hotel than the previous dorm style living standard. Now, labor costs can make up to as much of half the construction budget of a typical LNG plant, and Canadians can expect the living price to continue to rise. In Australia, similar competition resulted in resort-style living. In addition, due to the demand for skilled workers, such as those who could weld cryogenic equipment, some workers earn as much as $500,000 a year.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark is hoping for British Columbia to make a similar, if not bigger contribution to the natural gas energy market as Alberta. Clark says that as much as 150 years worth of natural gas reserves can be found in B.C. fields, as much as Alberta has in their oilsands. Clark believes that B.C. and Alberta will be doing the “biggest favor for the environment” by helping China and the rest of Asia reduce dependence on coal. As she says: “[Canada] would be doing a huge favor to the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions because we all share that air.”