| HOUSTON, March 6
HOUSTON, March 6 Engineering and construction
company Fluor Corp believes the main concern for
chemical companies with plans for new U.S. plants is a potential
labor shortage on the Gulf Coast where most will be built.
A North American glut of natural gas liquids (NGLs) like
ethane has led to a handful of announcements about new crackers
that convert ethane into ethylene, a building block for many
Peter Oosterveer, energy & chemicals group president at
Texas-based Fluor, said on Wednesday that between four and six
new crackers would ultimately be built in the United States.
But the construction alone on those slated for the coast of
the Gulf of Mexico would require about 50,000 skilled workers,
and that does not include maintenance and related work, he said.
"That makes a lot of people nervous," Oosterveer told
Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the IHS CERAWeek
conference in Houston.
On Tuesday, an Exxon Mobil Corp executive told the
conference about a multibillion-dollar expansion in Baytown,
Texas, already the country`s largest integrated
refining-chemical producing site. That project will convert
ethylene from a new steam cracker into polyethylene products.
Shortages of skilled labor are a worldwide challenge, which
Oosterveer said was behind his company's push to build more
sophisticated modules elsewhere that can be assembled on site.
In September, Fluor announced a joint venture with AG&P, a
Phillipines-based company specializing in modular engineering
and fabrication services, and Oosterveer said it was looking at
establishing similar capability in North America.
The executive, having just returned from the Middle East,
said the potential for U.S. energy independence made many people
there nervous, especially in light of the threat to security
posed by Iran's political stance combined with fears that
American commitment to the region might wane.
"If there's no need to jump in because you have your own
energy here - you're energy self-sufficient - that's a pretty
serious concern," Oosterveer said.
Asked about the death of Hugo Chavez, Oosterveer said the
questions about his health had for months been hanging over the
country, where Fluor has done some early engineering work for a
Chevron Corp project.
"I'm hoping that we'll see an environment that is probably
going to be a little more friendly to American companies," he
said, though he conceded there was no hard evidence for that.
For more stories on CERAWEEK, please see: