Demand for Gas Technicians Increases The Buzz


Natural gas is clean, safe, abundant and economical. It also burns cleaner and gives off fewer pollutants than other fossil fuel sources. As the natural gas industry expands to reach more customers, it will need thousands of certified gas technicians.

Gas technicians, or gas fitters, perform various duties. They install gas lines in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. They install equipment such as gas meters, valves, burners and regulators. Some may repair and install underground gas mains.

Gas technicians may maintain and repair equipment at a customer's home. If a gas barbecue grill or a heating furnace isn't working properly, a gas technician would be called to the home to repair it.

Gas technicians may work for public utilities. They might work for plumbing, mechanical and heating contractors. Plumbing and gas fitting service companies also employ gas technicians. So do building maintenance companies.

Natural gas can be used in a variety of ways in homes, businesses, electric plants, industrial factories and cars.

Michael Dugan is the vice-president of education at the Institute of Gas Technology. "There is always going to be a demand for highly skilled technicians. The technology has been changing very radically. It's getting very specialized with a lot of computerization," says Dugan.

"Gas is predicted to grow. A lot of the growth in the gas industry is powering electric generating plants. Virtually all the new electric generating plants in North America are involved in using natural gas."

Residential areas are using an increasing amount of natural gas. For the most part, people interested in using an environmentally friendly and economical fuel are the ones who are using natural gas for their energy needs.

In the home, gas can be used for heating and cooling. It can be used to power home appliances such as stoves, clothes dryers, fireplaces and grills.

Today, natural gas can be used as a vehicle fuel. According to the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, there are about 135,000 natural gas vehicles (NGVs) on U.S. roads today and over 15 million worldwide. There are also 1,300 NGV fueling stations in the U.S.

Paul Kneeland is the owner of a company called The Gas Technician. "I think there is going to be a growth because the gas companies are expanding to small towns," says Kneeland. "The gas companies are always looking to expand service into new areas."

Kneeland decided to become a gas technician after working as a stationary engineer. (That's someone who operates and maintains systems such as boilers, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, generators and pumps.)

After he moved to a smaller community, he found that jobs for stationary engineers were "few and far between." He decided to earn a gas technician certificate at the local community college. This was a good decision, as he now owns his own business.

Kneeland's responsibilities vary. "I install fireplaces and service them."

He also helps people who buy natural gas barbecues. Sometimes he needs to turn the meter off, break into the gas line and run a new one. "This is all stuff that you need a gas technician's license to do."

"Distribution is up to the gas meter. And delivery is from the gas meter in. We're preparing people for installation and service for equipment after the lines are in," says Robert Redmond. He is a gas technology program instructor.

"If you look at the distribution side, or up to the meter in the ground, that's construction work. It's when it comes to the buildings...that we're preparing for, because that will be the running of the lines inside, the hooking up of equipment, the start-up of equipment, and the servicing.

"Long after the construction phase finishes, the part that we do will be ongoing."

The whole project will create various jobs in natural gas. "There will be a big demand for installers and service people," says Redmond. "There will also be a demand for inspectors and salespeople."

After completion of the gas technology program, participants will know a great deal about the gas industry. Some may consider sales.

"I have one student and that's his goal [to be a salesperson]. He will be a good salesperson because he will know the equipment," says Redmond.

Several community and technical colleges throughout North America have certification or apprenticeship programs for gas technicians. These programs range from one year for certification programs to three or four years for apprenticeship programs.

As natural gas use increases, so will opportunities in the entire industry, particularly for gas technicians.

Links

NaturalGas.org
A comprehensive site

Energy Information Administration: Natural Gas
Stats and studies on natural gas