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Pipeline Transportation Jobs

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There are more than three thousand separate occupations in the petroleum industry, but we are concerned here with only those that pertain to pipeline transportation. Amoco Pipeline Company operates 15,700 miles of pipeline, extending from Utah in the west to Indiana in the east, and north to south from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. The company is a subsidiary of Standard Oil Company (Indiana) and is responsible for transporting petroleum and petroleum products from oil fields and refineries to markets. Discoveries of new fields, declines of older ones, and changes in marketing requirements mean constant changes for the system, as new pipeline is added and existing lines are modernized and revised. Here are the specialist occupations Amoco lists, together with the training required for each:

Aircraft Patrol Pilot (A)

Aircraft Mechanic (B)

Carpenter Foreman (A)

Chemist (B, X)

Chief Deliveryman (A)

Chief Operator (Pump Station) (A)

Civil Engineer (A, X)

Connection Foreman (A)

Corrosion Engineer (A, X)

Electrician (A)

Foreman (A)

Gager (C, D)

*Code: A. Work requiring a high degree of precision, long experience, knowledge of intricate machine operations, special education or unusual aptitude. B. Work requiring one year or longer in training, and involving any or all of the following: precision, accuracy, familiarity with specified basic processes, or special education. C. Work requiring between six months and one year of training before a new worker is qualified with respect to skill, reliability, or production. D. Work requiring less than six months of training before a new or upgraded employee is competent. X. Jobs that require four years of college training in a recognized professional school.

Lineman (B)

Loader (D)

Material and Warehouse Supervisor (B)

Mechanic (A)

Mechanical Engineer (A, X)

Operator (B)

Operator (Metering Station) (A)

Pipeline Construction Inspector (A)

Pipeline Crew Foreman (A)

Radio Technician (B)

Right-of-Way and Claims Agent (A)

Shop Foreman (A)

Station Superintendent (A)

Supervisor (Radio Communication) (A)

Tank Foreman (A)

Terminal Man (C)

Tester (Laboratory) (C)

Welder (B)

Welder Foreman (A)

Work Equipment Operator (C)

If you are considering an engineering career, pipeline companies need engineers of various disciplines to handle pipeline construction and operations, according to a company spokesperson. They are interested primarily in holders of bachelors of Science degrees in mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering. Typical assignments include evaluations for new facilities such as crude oil gathering systems, cross-country pipelines, pumping stations, metering installations, and tankage. Their engineers are responsible for electrical and mechanical design, development of material and construction specifications, supervision and inspection of construction, and supervision of operations.

Two typical pipeline positions are those of dispatcher and inspector. Here are brief descriptions of each:

Dispatchers watch over and regulate the flow of natural gas in the pipelines. Sitting before an instrument panel, they can tell how much oil or gas is passing through the pipe as well as its temperature, pressure, and speed. In the case of gas, they may have to decide how much will be needed by customers during the next few hours so there will be an ample supply on hand. They do this after taking into consideration the outside temperature and expected weather conditions, the time of day, and past needs. Then they change the flow by adjusting switches that open or close valves and regulate the speed of compressors, all of which may be located many miles away. In the event of an emergency they must make quick decisions and take appropriate action. Some dispatchers stationed at the end of oil pipelines are responsible for routing the crude through smaller lines to the storage tanks of their numerous customers. Promotion may be to the job of chief dispatcher. This person supervises dispatchers, does long-range planning for the movements of gas or oil through the pipelines, and keeps various records of the operation for departmental accounts, government reports, and other uses.

Inspectors use test equipment as they travel along the pipelines looking for leaks or signs of other problems. Depending on the terrain, they either drive a truck, which contains their equipment, or walk along the buried or above-ground pipe searching for signs of leaks. Some companies use airplanes to patrol those above-ground lines that run through remote areas. In cities, inspectors' work is more complicated as they watch over pipes that run under streets and sidewalks and branch into buildings.

It goes without saying that although the list of Amoco specialist positions did not include the usual office positions open to clerical, financial, sales, public relations, purchasing, and legal personnel, they are as essential to any pipeline company as the engineers, dispatchers, or inspectors.

Employment Outlook

In 1994, approximately 31,000 workers were employed on gas and petroleum plant and systems occupations. Prospects for employment in this industry are not promising, although the natural gas industry is one of the largest employers in the country. Since both the gas and oil industries are essential to the nation's welfare, they are not affected by recessions as much as most other industries. Pay scales are generally high, employee benefits generous, and working conditions on the whole are good. Pipelines are the most important means of delivering gas and oil from wells to customers or refineries. Remember, though, that there are additional employment possibilities with oil companies, since petroleum products are also transported by ship, railroad tank cars, and tank trucks. Although petroleum is not found in every state, practically every city and town has a distributor of oil or petroleum products, and distribution means transportation.

High school graduates have better chances of finding beginning jobs than those without a diploma. If you have had some related part-time experience during summer vacations, it should prove helpful in finding a job.
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