Plenty of Opportunities In Oil and Gas Industry
By CASEY JUNKINS
WHEELING –Ranging from roughneck well worker to petroleum engineer, the careers available in the Marcellus and Utica shale fields are as wide-ranging as the training required to get them.
Some jobs, such as those involving water transportation, may not require anything more than a high school diploma and a strong work ethic. Others require various levels of education, ranging from a one-year certificate program to a master’s degree program that could take up to six years to complete.
Still, with plenty of wells already producing and many more planned, a potential investment of $83.7 billion in West Virginia petrochemical facilities by China Energy, and a possible $6 billion PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker at Dilles Bottom, the career opportunities seem destined to grow.
“The resources are here, which means the job opportunities are here. They just need the right training,” said West Virginia Northern Community College Petroleum Technology instructor Curt Hippensteel. “Although it varies by company and position, someone can start out making as much as $60,000 per year right out of the program. And eventually, they could make a lot more than that.”
Belmont College in St. Clairsville also offers a similar program, which can be supplemented further by bachelor’s degree level classes from the University of Akron.
“Some of these jobs do require education beyond the associate’s degree. We are here to give Ohio Valley students a great opportunity,” Annmarie O’Grady, program manager for the University of Akron, said.
Hippensteel said 15 students have obtained associate degrees in the WVNCC petroleum technology program since 2015. He said 13 of these students have gone to straight to work for firms such as Southwestern Energy Co., Williams Energy, Stingray Energy and others. Of the two who did not enter the field, one managed to join the FBI, while the other works for Covestro.
Hippensteel said many of his students come straight from high school, but others are simply looking for new opportunities. He counts former coal miners and factory workers among those who have completed the program.
“A lot of people, when they hear ‘petroleum technology,’ they think that just means they’re going to end up being a roughneck out on a rig site. In fact, very few of the people who would come out of this program would end up doing that. Most of the people who do that, it’s because that’s what they want to do,” he said.
According to Belmont College, those who complete the school’s oil and natural gas training will learn principles of petroleum extraction and related geology, petroleum field mapping and site analysis, testing methods, instrument calibration, laboratory analysis, equipment operation and maintenance, environment and safety monitoring fields and facilities, facility inspection procedures, and report preparation.
“We work very closely with Belmont College,” O’Grady said. “We offer both liberal arts and applied technology degrees.”
“So many students at Belmont probably want to go on to a bachelor’s degree but don’t have the right opportunity,” she added.
Hippensteel said there are now 16 students enrolled in the WVNCC program, though he said the college could easily accommodate 30. The spring semester starts next week, but Hippensteel said most students begin the petroleum technology program in the fall. He said graduates receive training in drilling, fracking and production. They also take a class in midstream, which prepares them for careers at processing plants and compressor stations operated by companies such as Williams Energy, Blue Racer Midstream and MarkWest Energy.
For more information, go to www.belmontcollege .edu, www.wvncc.edu, or www.uakron.edu.