Working in Petrochemicals and Refining

Pursue a Career in Petrochemicals and Refining

An increased demand for petrochemicals is creating career opportunities in upstream and industrial construction. With new petrochemical projects planned across Western Canada, workers can apply their knowledge of oil and gas operations and processes within larger companies that offer safety-sensitive work environments.

The Career Change Pathway

Ease of Transition

A career change from oil and gas to petrochemicals and refining has a high rate of transferability. In most jobs, oil and gas workers will easily transition as the skills and experience needed are very similar.

Doing the Research

Before making a career change to a different sector, you should explore and assess your individual skills and experience, evaluate what technical skills may be needed to transition, consider consulting with a career advisor and identify how working in the sector may be different. Characteristics to consider in petrochemicals and refining include:

Skills and Experience
  • Increase knowledge of oil and natural gas operations and processes
  • Understand process and production optimization opportunities and techniques
  • Understand regulatory issues and the broader business environment
  • Improve negotiation and stakeholder relations management 
  • Understand local community benefit agreements 
  • Enhance understanding of predictive, preventative and corrective maintenance
  • Increase knowledge of control room technology
  • Compensation for jobs in this sector is likely similar to the average oil and natural gas salary range
  • Career development opportunities are similar to oil and natural gas
  • Petrochemical manufacturing does not require exploration, development or field production experience
Work Environment
  • Organizations are often large companies
  • Have well-established policies and structure
  • Safety-sensitive environments
  • Shift and rotational work hours for some roles
  • Generally more unionized than oil and natural gas

Did you know

With access to abundant resource feedstock and efficient transportation systems, Alberta is Canada’s largest refining and petrochemical cluster – able to deliver significant supplies to North American and international markets.

Invest Alberta. Petrochemicals.
Workers at a petrochemical plant

The Future of Employment in Petrochemicals and Refining

Petrochemicals currently accounts for over 10,000 jobs across Alberta. And while Alberta is currently the Western Canada petrochemicals hub, projects are also being considered in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Demand for growing feedstock requirements will create demand for upstream jobs within exploration, development and field operations. Watch for industrial construction jobs as new projects are approved.

Increased demand for petrochemicals is driving demand within other energy sectors. For example, the natural gas required for petrochemicals increases production and margins, which creates more upstream jobs.

Like other hydrocarbon-related industries, the petrochemical manufacturing industry is prioritizing cost- and carbon-competitiveness to address environmental commitments. This creates more demand for high tech digitization, automation, and cleantech solutions, and reinforces the need for an industry-wide wholistic approach.

As North America’s first integrated propane dehydration plant and polypropylene facility, the Heartland Petrochemical Complex in Strathcona County, Alberta, will produce polypropylene that is expected to have a GHG emissions footprint 65 per cent lower than the global average. (Source: Heartland Polymers)

The new Nauticol project in Grande Prairie, Alberta, will be powered by renewable energy and incorporate carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) to produce the 3 million tonnes of methanol needed annually for petrochemicals production.

With new petrochemical projects planned, and companies making their operations more sustainable, now is a great time to explore jobs in this sector. From project development, design and approval to construction, operations, maintenance, and manufacturing biochemicals, there could be a petrochemicals and refining opportunity that’s right for you.

Interested in Working in Petrochemicals and Refining?

Are you:  

  • Committed to working safely
  • Interested in building relationships with stakeholders and Indigenous communities
  • Good at working in cross-functional, integrated teams
  • Working towards technical excellence
  • Comfortable working in larger companies with well-established policies and structures
  • Willing to work rotational and shift work


Learn more about career opportunities in petrochemicals and refining.

Day in the Life

Skylar Operations Technician

After spending 7 years working on a drilling rig, Skylar decided to upskill and return to school to pursue a career in power engineering. Today, he’s putting his skills to use as an Operations Technician in the petrochemicals sector and couldn’t be happier with his decision to make a career change.

Curious about a typical day as an Operations Technician? Read Skylar’s story to learn more.

Read Skylar's Story

The career change I made was difficult, but I would do it a hundred times over.