The U.S. shale gas revolution is driving petrochemical investments from both domestic and overseas companies, seeking to take advantage of the cheap feedstock that allows them to operate at higher margins. But the projects announced to date, valued at $100 billion, are expected to present the industry with a brand new challenge. According to Peter L. Cella, president and chief executive officer of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., the industry will need 90,000 new workers next year as a number of major chemical projects are set to break ground in 2015.

Fears that lack of skilled professionals might be a problem for the rapidly growing industry are not new to companies. Cella stressed the fact that, while there will always be a need in the industry for college graduates with professional degrees, the biggest obstacle to launching new projects on time will be the significant shortage of workers available for jobs that require less formal training.

The petrochemical industry needs welders, riggers, operators, pipefitters and instrument technicians, among others, Cella told attendees at the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers' International Petrochemical Conference in San Antonio. He added that these occupations can be well-paid in a flourishing industry like the U.S. petrochemical sector.

Chevron Phillips Chemical has estimated that it would need 2,800 new employees over the next six years to be able to support its growth and expansion plans, Oil and Gas Journal reported.