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Positive Pipeline Construction Market Predict By Experts
North America’s energy revolution is alive and well was the message at Pipeline & Gas Journal/Underground Construction/Pipeline News’ 10th annual Pipeline Opportunities Conference held March 25 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
Issues covered included quality control for gas pipeline construction, the Pipeline Safety Act, prospects for infrastructure expansions to support new supply sources, the outlook for labor and employment and the benefits of working in an energy state like Texas.
In the first session, Bruce Bullock, director of the SMU Cox Maguire Energy Institute, provided a national economic outlook that focused on the nation’s recovery following a six-year-long recession.
Calling the outlook “anemic at best,” Bullock said employment levels are just returning to where they were six year ago and total unemployment is at a 20-year high.
He also identified service, supply and refining as key trends negatively impacting the midstream sector and pointed out that proved reserve acquisition, finding and development and reserve replacement costs are all on the rise.
Next, Joseph R. Dancy, adjunct professor of energy and environmental law at SMU’s Dedman School of Law, overviewed major trends and opportunities in the energy sector including the massive boom in crude production in Texas and North Dakota. He said higher natural gas prices could be seen as early as summer and fall, due to increased consumption and storage injections falling short.
Following, Gary Evans, chairman and CEO of Magnum Hunter, presented an outlook on the nation’s shale gas and oil production and reserve development in which he critiqued production figures for each of the shale play areas and cited ripple effects to the economy. He said the Bakken formation which sits mostly in North Dakota has led to record low unemployment.
He said weekly wages in North Dakota have risen 140 percent since 2001 and unemployment is less than 2 percent. Moreover, counties within 100 miles of the Bakken had the next largest increase in wages and the lowest unemployment.
Business economist Bernard Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute, offered an economic forecast for Texas and the Southwest. On oil and gas exports from the U.S., Weinstein said “we’re going to have to export gas,” though he said that 31 LNG applications are pending with only seven approved. He said he does not expect the first crude exports from the U.S. until 2020.