The Suburbanite
  • Stark State oil and gas program develops

  • This fall, Stark State College will offer its first class specifically designed to train oil field workers.

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  • A class designed to prepare workers for jobs in eastern Ohio’s oil fields will be offered this fall at Stark State College.
    It marks the beginning of what Stark State expects will be a series of programs and classes aimed at preparing workers for future jobs in the oil and gas industry.
    Eventually the college expects to open an Energy Center in downtown Canton, where classes and training for oil field jobs will be held. The state has allocated $10 million toward developing the building.
    “We’re looking at it from all aspects and trying to address the needs,” said S. Kathleen Streere, a petroleum engineer who has been named coordinator of Stark State’s oil and gas programs.
    The initial class will teach “floor hand” duties to prospective workers on drilling rigs. Stark State is working with ShaleNET, a federal grant program developed to train oil field workers and place them with drilling companies. ShaleNET is based in Pennsylvania and provides training through 20 community colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
    Key to the program is workplace safety. “We want a trained workforce because you don’t want to see an accident,” Steere said.
    Students who complete the initial class will receive SafeLandUSA certification, which companies require for someone to work at a drilling site. The SafeLand program covers a range of workplace safety issues.
    The initial course runs three weeks. Students will be certified in different areas. The certifications can be combined with 15 other career courses offered at Stark State. The college hopes the different classes can be used by students to attain an associate’s of applied science degree in two areas, lease operator training or natural gas compressor training.
    Stark State is one of three Ohio technical colleges establishing oil and gas job training programs. While there is a debate as to how many, it’s expected that thousands of new jobs will be created as drilling companies step up exploration of the Utica shale formation.
    Companies have been moving into the area for the past two years, leasing or buying mineral rights and lining up areas for large drilling horizontal wells. The drilling is projected to continue for up to 20 years, with thousands of new wells anticipated. While workers from out-of-state companies are drilling the wells now, it’s expected that Ohioans will be filling the jobs in the future.
    While Stark State is offering programs that could lead to drilling rig jobs, the planned degree programs focus on jobs that will be needed after wells are completed and producing oil or natural gas.
    For example, lease operators monitor equipment at completed well sites. They will check pipes and storage tanks used to collect and store oil, gas and brine. Lease operators already are monitoring the nearly 3,000 active wells in Stark County.
    Page 2 of 2 - A worker trained in natural gas compression might find a job at a well site, working on pipelines or at a compressed natural gas plant, Steere said. Several companies have announced plans for facilities to process the dry and liquid natural gas that companies expect to find in the Utica shale.
    Both degree programs must be approved by the Ohio Board of Regents.
    Stark State is receiving plenty of guidance as it develops the oil and gas program.
    A number of companies — Hammontree Construction, EnerVest, Kenan Advantage, AEP, Dominion East Ohio, Marathon Petroleum and Chesepeake Energy — serve on an advisory council. Other members include representatives from the Canton, Massillon and Jackson Township’s chambers of commerce, the Tuscarawas County Port Authority and the Employment Source.
    Steere said local businesses and organizations have been supportive. “They want to help us be successful helping people in the field,” she said.
    On-the-job training will be part of the course work, with students working in the field for local companies. Stark State’s planned Energy Center will have equipment — including a storage tank battery filled with vegetable oil and water — so students will be able to test their classroom experience.
    “Getting that hands-on training, there’s not going to be anything like it,” Steere said.
    Stark State continues weighing options of possible locations for the Energy Center. The school will hire an architect to help make final evaluations.
    • For more information about oil and gas training programs check websites for ShaleNET at www.shalenet.org or SafeLandUSA at www.safelandusa.org.