Natural gas – the engine of employment growth

This is very good news, especially for factories in the country’s periphery, where energy costs are a substantial part of their operating costs.

Israel Navy missile ship patrols near Tamar gas field‏ (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel Navy missile ship patrols near Tamar gas field‏
Since the discovery of the large gas fields Tamar and Leviathan, Israel has entered into a new era in which natural gas is the main fuel for the country’s electricity production. Today, over half the electricity consumption in Israel is based on the use of natural gas. Israeli industry is also aware of the advantages of natural gas, because of the saving in production costs, together with the fact that it is a much cleaner source of energy, and wants to use it. The government itself has even defined acceleration of the connection of industrial plants to natural gas as an important goal, and has undertaken to remove obstacles through the Arrangements Bill. What this means is that hundreds of factories will be connected to natural gas in the coming years, and will need a skilled workforce in this field.
This is very good news, especially for factories in the country’s periphery, where energy costs are a substantial part of their operating costs. Natural gas is cheaper than other fuels such as fuel oil and diesel, and therefore helps factories to reduce their production costs and be more competitive in international markets.
According to estimates by the Economy and Trade Ministry, many new jobs will be added in this branch, and it is anticipated that in the coming decade, over 5,500 new jobs will be added every year for engineers, inspectors, operators and installers. Government ministry assessments project that around three quarters of the people employed in the branch will be operators and installers.
In view of this, it is clear that an opportunity has arisen for a genuine revolution in forming new professions that have not previously been on the already crowded shelf of professional training courses, and the development of an entire industry out of nothing. This is a real challenge, with elements of innovation and pioneering, for me and for the leading team at the Noble-Ruppin Center.
As a leading technological college, the subject of energy has always interested us and we have understood its importance and the employment potential it contains for the State of Israel. We therefore joined up two years ago with Noble Energy, the only international energy company operating in Israel, which is responsible for the discovery of Tamar and Leviathan. Together we set up the Noble-Ruppin Center for Energy and Natural Gas, which has become an enormous venture with the global company leading the field in Israel.
The Noble-Ruppin Center for Energy and Natural Gas, which has already been in operation since the end of 2014, today has laboratories, top lecturers, and study programs under the supervision of the National Institute for Science and Technology Training and the Economy and Trade Ministry.
The immediate challenge is to train skilled manual workers to maintain, lead and deal with the natural gas systems that will be installed in factories and industries in Israel, and in fact prepare the professional infrastructure for the coming revolution.
Many entities have entered the field of training courses for natural gas, but the Center’s advantage is that our collaboration with Noble Energy gives us exposure to Noble’s international experts and professional knowhow, access to databases and a long-established heritage in the gas and oil industry, thus positioning ourselves at the cutting edge of the industry.
Natural gas training courses
The field of training in natural gas is the result of collaboration between the Professional Training and Personnel Development Division in the Economy and Trade Ministry and the Natural Gas Authority in the Ministry of National Infrastructures Energy and Water Resources.
Because of the importance of the field and the considerable degree of professionalism required of the training courses, the accreditation procedure for schools qualified to operate in the field is particularly rigorous, and only colleges for natural gas that have passed the appropriate and stringent inspections, have a connection with international knowledge companies and have set up laboratories with a “live” natural gas system will be able to train workers for this sector. Only at the end of the training course and completion of all the requirements, including the final examination, will graduates receive a license to work in the field.
As of now, at Ruppin we are training two classes of around 80 students in the “machine practical engineering – energy and natural gas” track, while training has been completed by seven classes in the “natural gas training course for safety supervisors,” as well as the first classes of “polyethylene system welding inspectors” and “grade 1 natural gas installers.”
At the same time, we have held courses in the field of “introduction to natural gas” for high school students around the country, in cooperation with the “Sprint to Industry Association.” The aim of these meetings was to interest high school students and open up a new occupational horizon for them in the developing industry.
The gap between what is and what should be
Signing the gas framework plan has been delayed by many months, involving keen public debate, so that in fact there has been slow progress in 2015.
Public polemic on the subject has led many entities connected with the branch to drag their feet and hold back decisions that have already been taken.
At the same time, there is an undertaking by the State of Israel to connect some 450 factories to natural gas by 2020, and the oil replacement department, established by government resolution, is working to promote natural gas-based oil replacements for transport in Israel.
We can see a trend of improvement in the field of natural gas, and we are looking at a better economic future and a developed and established economy.
Extensive occupational horizon
To date, professional workers employed in the field of natural gas in Israel have mainly been foreign experts working with the delivery and distribution license holders. Today various training courses are open to everyone, including retraining programs or professional training for adults, mainly in branches of industry.
Although the rate of connection of factories to natural gas is slow, and there is also bureaucratic foot dragging in laying the gas delivery pipelines, the direction has already been marked out and the wheels are turning in the right direction, and here at Ruppin we are very optimistic regarding the future.
This is what it was like for the country’s pioneers, and this is the pioneering of today – remaining optimistic, and developing the subject of professional training in the new field, in order to train skilled professional workers.
The collaboration between Noble Energy and Ruppin Technological College will make it possible to realize the vision of developing the natural gas market in Israel and turning it into a big, strong and innovative branch. In addition, I am certain that this collaboration will contribute to training skilled and professional personnel that will be integrated in the gas sector that is currently taking shape. At the start of the new academic year, there is no doubt that anyone considering an interesting and innovative technological profession, with a promising future in terms of work and salary, will find the perfect answer in studying the gas and oil professions.
The writer is executive director of Ruppin Technological College, which trains professional workers and managers as part of the natural gas revolution, at the Noble-Ruppin Center for Energy and Natural Gas, established in 2014 as a joint venture of Noble Energy and Ruppin Technological College.