By Stephany Romanow
HOUSTON -- Conditions have changed for the engineering and
construction (E&C) industry, especially in North America.
That was the consensus of attendees at the 16th
annual Rice Global Engineering & Construction (E&C) Forum, held
this week at Rice University.
The theme of the conference was getting ahead of the curve and
adapting to the accelerated pace of changing pace in the
The good news is that a reversal in project bookings is under way.
Previously, new construction projects were
predominately located outside of North America. However, as the
full effect of the shale gas and oil wave continues, North
America is now the location for new major E&C projects.
Mike McAtee, senior vice president with BASF, believes
geography is part of the present uptick in construction activity. But other
factors are involved, especially for the downstream. Low energy
prices stemming from the abundant shale gas supplies are
keeping prices very low. Likewise, cheap natural
gas supports expansion of the North American petrochemical and chemical
Experience matters, said Keith Manning,
executive vice president at Zachry Holdings, Inc. in San
Antonio. During the lull in petrochemical projects, US E&C companies have
been involved in other major projects such power projects. Many
of the experiences from constructing coal or natural
gas fired-power plants can be transferred to refining and petrochemical projects.
The shale wave is also facilitating new E&C
firms to enter the US market. Keith Claus, president and CEO of
SK E&C, shared that international E&C companies view
North America as a very favorable location to conduct
multi-billion-dollar, lump-sum turn-key projects. SK E&C, as one of
those companies, is considering North America as an option
to employ its global workforce as opportunities in the Middle
For more information about Rice E&C Forum
activities, please visit the forum's