Labor shortage expected to crush $100 billion in planned petrochemical projects

An oil drilling rig in North Dakota.An oil drilling rig in North Dakota.

A lack of energy and mining professionals may cause the cost of these skilled workers, such as engineers and geoscientists, to double by 2020, potentially crushing $100 billion in planned petrochemical projects, Bloomberg reported.

Experienced skilled workers currently earn an average of between $183,000 and $285,000 a year, while recent college graduates earn an average of $120,000 a year. Those figures are expected to double before 2020 and the U.S. oil and natural gas industry are scrambling to find enough to pay them.

Salaries for skilled workers have already jumped in recent years. In 2012, engineers earned an average of between $183,000 and $285,000. In 2009, those figures were 20 to 50 percent lower.

This increase in salary can be attributed, at least in part, to the missing generation in the oil and gas industry. Many professionals in these fields are either in their 50s or in their 30s, with about half of the global energy workforce hitting retirement in the next decade.

This major loss of skilled workers puts about $100 billion of potential projects in the United States at risk.

One solution many companies like ConocoPhillips have begun using is poaching, in which a company will train graduates from other fields like electrical, mechanical and civil engineering to do work in petroleum engineering. ConocoPhillips has also begun planning a military recruit program.

Other solutions include college training programs such as those in Texas and Oklahoma and planning now for future employment, like Chevron Phillips is doing.