It’s a new year, and I’m hoping for another strong period of growth for the pipeline industry. Despite the historic game of Wait-N-See that has overtaken the approval of what many once saw as a no-brainer in the Keystone XL pipeline, many contractors and service providers saw 2013 as an up year in the cyclical pipeline industry.
Continued development of shale oil and gas — particularly in the Bakken, Marcellus, Utica and Eagle Ford regions — has created an explosion in production in the United States, and the Canadian oil sands remain a leading source of energy resources worldwide. In December, the industry received positive news from Mexico, which ended the monopoly of state-owned PEMEX. That’s good news for private companies interested in drilling for oil and gas in the country’s fertile soil. Mexico is considered one of the 10 largest oil producers in the world, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, its production has reportedly declined 25 percent since 2004. A friendlier marketplace for drillers could spell major growth for the country’s economy, as well as for North America’s already expanding energy production.
By all accounts, the state of the industry looks strong for 2014. We reached out to a panel of pipeline contractors and engineers to discuss their thoughts on market trends, challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. In our cover story on page 20, we hear from John K. Allcorn of Willbros, Ben Nelson of Michels, Eric Skonberg of Trenchless Engineering Corp., Don Thorn of Welded Construction and Kevin Waschuk of Waschuk Pipe Line Construction. Their consensus seems to be that 2014 will show more growth, but the industry must address concerns related to public perception and filling the ranks of its aging workforce with young pipeline professionals.
The issue of public perception — and dealing with activist groups — is further explored on page 26 by Bill Shireman and Rebecca Busse, who discuss the top stakeholders involved in the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, climate, oil sands and fracking. By getting to know what these groups represent, the authors argue that both sides of the aisle will be able to find common ground. In the end, everyone wants the same thing: a safe and just world and a thriving economy.
The next several months will be filled with opportunities to expand the oil and gas pipeline infrastructure in North America. Doing so in the safest manner possible and educating the public about the merits of pipeline transportation compared to truck or rail will go a long way to ensuring a robust industry in 2014.
I look forward to providing you with the biggest news and most interesting stories driving the pipeline industry this year. Follow me on Twitter (@NAOGP1) for the latest updates that affect your bottom line.