The U.S. shale oil and natural-gas development boom is spurring tens of billions of dollars in design and construction work, speakers and panelists told attendees at the ENR Energy Construction Summit in Houston on Nov. 15.

John Chevrette, president of the management consulting division at Black & Veatch, in his morning keynote address, said the shale boom is already creating large volumes of work for engineers and contractors at production wells, new and repurposed pipelines, and new petrochemical and other industrial projects.

Chevrette said that work will continue for several years and be supplemented soon by construction of several multi-billion-dollar liquefied-natural-gas export terminals. Applications for LNG export projects totaling more than 30 billion cu ft per day of capacity have already been filed, he said, although only a portion of those projects are likely to be built.

In the afternoon keynote, Charles Nevle, manager of energy analysis at Bentek Energy, said a combination of low natural-gas prices and tightening federal rules on coal-fired generation have led to development of scores of new gas-fired powerplants to replace retiring coal units.

Nevle said that, in 2013, some 8,200 MW of new gas-fired capacity is under construction in the U.S. and southern Canada; at least another 11,000 MW will be under construction by 2017, he said.

The one-day conference, ENR's first on shale-related opportunities, drew more than 250 attendees, including representatives from oil and gas companies, pipeline and petrochemical plant owners, and engineering and construction firms.

Other speakers said tens of thousands of skilled workers will be needed to meet projected demands in the near future.

Bob Nussmeier, vice president of business development at Kiewit Oil, Gas and Chemical North America Group, said that, by 2015, the Gulf Coast region could see an increase of 30,000 to 50,000 construction craftspeople, with many of the new jobs in the Lake Charles area in Louisiana and the Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont areas in Texas.

But three experts—Danny Hendrix, business manager at Pipelines Local 798; Tim Johnson, executive director at the Central Gulf Industrial Alliance; and Stephen Toups, senior vice president at Turner Industries Group—said that both the union and non-union sectors of the construction industry will be hard-pressed to train all the skilled workers that will be needed.