What are the biggest trends impacting pipelines and welding?

  • Articles
  • Feb 23,23
Hiring, cybersecurity and the energy transition are among the top concerns for welding and pipeline professionals. Here, Emily Newton reveals new trends in the welding and pipeline industry and where it could go in the future.
What are the biggest trends impacting pipelines and welding?

The leading welding and pipeline industry trends today are hiring, cybersecurity and the energy transition. These challenges pose serious concerns for welding and pipelines professionals. How are these trends changing the welding and pipelines industry and what solutions are on the horizon? 

Welder labor shortage
Labor and skills shortages are among the biggest welding and pipeline industry trends today. The American Welding Society estimates that the industry will need 336,000 new welders by 2026, which is almost half of the existing workforce. Approximately 84,000 jobs could be filled annually between 2022 and 2025. This indicates high demand for welding professionals through the mid-2020s. 

Diminishing interest in skilled trade careers among young people is a major contributor to this shortage. Less than 10% of welding professionals are under the age of 25, but over 20% are over the age of 55. Over the next 10 to 15 years, almost half of the existing welding industry workforce will be nearing retirement age. 

The pipelines and welding industry is innovating to adapt to a potential long-term labor and skills shortage. On one hand, new programs are emerging to encourage people to pursue rewarding careers in the skilled trades, such as Non-Traditional Employment for Women in New York City. 

Programs like this are vital for addressing the skills shortage. Most welding professionals today are men, so underrepresented groups, like women, could be a valuable source of new skilled professionals for the industry. Trade-specific programs are streamlined to give new welding pros all of the safety skills they need, a foundational knowledge of the industry and the ability to confidently perform all the main types of welds. 

Additionally, industry leaders are developing new technologies to help close the skills gap. For example, welding robots are emerging as a potential solution to the labor shortage. Robots exist today for performing the most common types of welds, including arc welding. While these robots do have limitations and aren’t ideal for field work, they are perfect for performing simple, stationary welding tasks. 

Climate change initiatives
Responding to climate change and shifting to green energy sources is important, but the energy transition is having a big impact on the pipelines and welding industry. Long-time pipeline industry veterans have expressed the widespread stress in the industry, with many people concerned about losing their jobs. 

Of course, the development of clean energy projects will create new jobs, but they will not be an exact match for the pipeline careers many people are passionate about. Welding will remain a valuable profession in the energy transition, though. Additionally, liquid renewable energy sources, like hydrogen, may be able to provide jobs similar to those in the fossil fuel industry. 

Many pipeline and welding professionals are particularly concerned about the speed of the energy transition. Strategies to rapidly switch to renewables may help curb emissions sooner, but they leave less time for adapting jobs and ensuring career stability. A hasty energy transition could leave many pipeline professionals behind, lacking the time to learn new skills for working with renewable technologies. 

In the rush to switch to solar and wind, lesser-known forms of renewable energy are being forgotten, as well. For instance, synthetic liquid fuel could be used to power traditional combustion engine vehicles without high emissions. This is a great alternative to fully electric vehicles for many applications, such as long distance driving. 

Higher investment in synthetic fuels could not only help the energy transition but also ensure job security for the thousands of people working in the pipelines industry. Synthetic fuels use a lot of the same infrastructure traditional fossil fuels use. Plus, new pipelines will need to be built to transport synthetic fuels from new production facilities around the country. 

There could be many clean energy jobs available in a new synthetic fuel industry that could also help pipeline professionals transition to the renewable energy market in a rewarding way. 

Pipeline cybersecurity
Reported cyber attacks rose 38% around the world in 2022. Cybersecurity is a top concern today in every industry, including energy. Since pipelines are a form of critical infrastructure, they can be particularly tempting targets for ransomware attacks. 

Everyone remembers the infamous Colonial Pipeline cyber attack in 2021. This attack not only caused a data breach but sparked panic along the east coast as millions of Americans feared there would be a shortage of gasoline. Government officials were only able to recover part of the $5 million ransom payment Colonial Pipeline Co. paid to the hackers. 

Additionally, “hacktivists” pose a growing threat to the pipelines industry. These hackers are motivated by political or ideological ends rather than financial gain. The pipeline industry represents fossil fuels and pollution to many people, making it a prime target for environmental hacktivists. Moving forward, pipeline companies will need to make cybersecurity a top priority in order to protect themselves and their customers. 

Understanding welding and pipeline industry trends
Welding and pipeline industry trends reveal the challenges the industry is facing today and where it could go in the future. Hiring, cybersecurity and the energy transition are among the top concerns for welding and pipeline professionals. 

These challenges reflect larger changes occurring worldwide, but they are also sparking innovation. New technologies and solutions could transform the welding and pipeline industry to help it adapt to more changes in the years to come. 

About the author:
Emily Newton is a tech and industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily.

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