Belmont College Training New Crop of Natural Gas Pipeliners
ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Belmont College officials believe full development of the Utica Shale natural gas and oil play will require workers to weld together thousands of miles of pipelines across the Ohio countryside.
Thursday, college leaders showed Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor how they are working to train local residents to perform jobs that are mostly now going to those from southern states.
“We want these jobs to go to Ohioans,” Taylor said during the tour of the college’s Energy Institute. “We need to address the demands of this industry. Belmont College is helping us meet the demand.”
In the natural gas industry that continues to boom across eastern Ohio in counties such as Belmont, Monroe, Harrison, Jefferson, Columbiana, Noble and Guernsey, there are both transmission pipelines and gathering pipelines. Transmission lines are ones that lead to, for example, an interstate pipeline to carry gas across the nation. Gathering lines carry the gas from the wellheads to a processing plant or compressor station, from which it will then go to the transmission lines.
According to Robert Guentter Jr., director of Workforce and Economic Development at the college, there will be about 14,000 miles of pipelines built across Ohio in order to move all of the Utica Shale natural gas, oil and natural gas liquids such as ethane, propane and butane.
Local hotels, apartments and campgrounds are largely filled with pipeliners from states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Although these workers inject money into the Ohio economy, Taylor and Gov. John Kasich have made it clear they want to see more of the jobs going to Buckeye State residents.
Dirk DeCoy, director of Industrial Trades and Contract Training at the college, said the chance to earn tens of thousands of dollars per year by welding pipelines has increased enrollment in the school’s welding program.
“Five years ago, we had seven students. This year, we have 60,” he said in emphasizing the impact the natural gas business is having on the college’s enrollment.
“Any company that needs to train their workers in pipeline welding can send their people here – or, we can go to them,” DeCoy said.
Paul Huffman, a welding instructor, said there is a significant difference between what he termed “pipe welding” and “pipeline welding.” Just because one is trained to weld pipe together does not mean he or she is qualified to work on a pipeline, he said.
“There are major differences between the two. The muscle memory and coordination you need are different. Plus, you are just dealing with bigger stuff when your are welding these pipelines.”