Powering the Future: The LNG Opportunity

Development of Canada’s LNG sub-sector predicted to create thousands of jobs

As Canada’s energy industry emerges from the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with historic low oil prices, a sustainably developed liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector can play an important role on the road to economic recovery.  

Why LNG? 

The LNG sector serves markets for natural gas when pipeline access is not feasible. Unlike domestic distribution through North America’s vast network of pipelines, the process of shipping to markets overseas requires the natural gas to be cooled into a liquid state for ease, safe storage and efficient transportation of large volumes.

Canada has an opportunity to develop its vast, low-cost natural gas reserves to meet burgeoning demand for energy from international markets and, at the same time, help reduce global carbon emissions. While the events of 2020 delayed or deferred decisions on some proposed LNG projects – LNG Canada is furthest along – an LNG industry presents opportunities for the future.

LNG and transferable skills

Although the LNG sector is just emerging in Canada, many of the required occupations, skills and qualifications for day-to-day operations of the liquefication facilities are like other oil and gas industry processing operations — including natural gas processing, in situ oil sands, upgrading and refining—making transferability from those operations relatively easy. While more workers are generally involved in the construction stage, some can also transition to maintenance and operations roles. And the pipelines constructed to deliver feedstock to the LNG export facilities will also drive additional pipelines jobs, leveraging the same operations and maintenance occupations currently employed by pipeline companies. 

Jobs at a typical LNG plant 

Direct employment varies between 100 workers for a small LNG plant to upwards of 800 workers for a large plant with a typical Canadian plant employing 200 to 350 direct roles. Employment also varies depending on the technologies implemented.  

Hiring typically ramps up 12 to 18 months in advance of operations to ensure workers are adequately trained and able to assist with plant commissioning and start-up activities.  

In terms of the types of jobs, an LNG facility relies largely on traditional trades, such as industrial mechanics/millwrights, instrumentation technicians (especially key for digital/automated operations), electricians and plant operators. There are also administrative and managerial positions to oversee operations, ensure compliance and perform accounting, procurement and other centralized functions.  

About 70% of the roles at an LNG project are expected to be in operations (e.g., power engineers and control room operators) and engineering and maintenance (e.g., mechanical and chemical engineers and industrial electricians); with the balance in functional support, marine, technology and HSSE (health, safety, security and environment) roles.  

Based on the typical plant of 200 to 350 workers, this would mean approximately 80 to 140 roles in operations; 60 to 105 roles in engineering and maintenance; and 60 to 105 roles for centralized functions.

Skilled trades workers are also required for the ongoing maintenance of these facilities, as the reliability and safety of the plants are imperative to minimize unplanned facility outages and production downtime. There is potential for workers to transfer from shorter-term construction jobs into maintenance and operations roles. 

Beyond operations roles, development of an LNG industry will also create thousands of construction and employment opportunities across a spectrum of other industry sectors that supply the goods and services to support both the initial construction and ongoing operations of liquefaction facilities. In fact, development of the LNG sector is expected to create almost 100,000 direct and indirect jobs across sectors.

Conference Board of Canada, A Rising Tide: The Economic Impacts of BC’s Liquefied Natural Gas Industry, (2020). 

Upstream Natural Gas Benefits

The development of LNG projects on Canada’s West Coast will be of particular benefit to the upstream sector in British Columbia and Alberta as workers prepare, drill and complete the wells required to meet the projects’ natural gas demand. 

According to a study by the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC), which examined the workforce impacts of LNG Canada’s first project phase, an estimated 3,600–4,200 direct and indirect jobs per year would be created in the upstream sector. And if all proposed projects move ahead, an additional 8,300 direct and indirect jobs per year could be created in Canada’s upstream natural gas sector.

You are seeing the customers involved in the [LNG Canada] project who may be associated with providing gas starting to think about the runway and how they are going to get there.

For Trican, that equates to more work as companies ramp up their exploration and production. Certainly, [for 2022 and 2023] there’s going to be more direct activity to ensure there is the reserve base and construction base to fulfill their requirements. 

Bradley Fedora, President and CEO of Calgary, Alberta-based Trican Well Service Ltd.
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