Campers learn about the gas industry first-hand
The "Marcellus Institute" at Mansfield University is something that was developed by Lindsey Sikorski, director of community relations, in response to the natural gas industry because it is an area its graduates can be employed in locally and will also allow them to earn family sustainable income. It gives graduates a choice to stay local or go global with the gas industry.
In conjunction with the "Marcellus Institute" two new degrees from Mansfield University have just been newly approved. The two-year degree in Natural Gas Production and Services within the Geography and Geology department will prepare students for careers such as well site mud logging, pipeline inspections, well pad assessment, GIS applications, safety management, and environmental compliance inspection. Their four-year degree in Safety Management offered by the Health Sciences department, will integrate the health and human perspectives with the technical and applied sciences appropriate to the safety science discipline, preparing students to become safety managers for the natural gas and energy industries, as well as other industries.
There is more to the "Marcellus Institute" than just courses for college students. Working along with Chesapeake Energy, Seatrax, and Penn College of Technology, Sikorski and her colleagues put together a three-day, hands-on camp for students in 10th through 12th grades. The Marcellus Camp, held on July 8-10, offered an opportunity to learn about the development of the shale gas resources in the area, along with the career and educational opportunities available to them. This residential camp at MU included a field trip to an active well site and to Pennsylvania College of Technology's Energy Technology Education Center.
Also involved with the camp were Dennis Wydra, advisor for the Marcellus Institute, and faculty from the geology and geography department at Mansfield: Lee Stocks, Jenn Demchak and Russ Dodson, chair of the department.
There were 21 campers in attendance, mostly from Tioga County, Pa., with some from Indiana, Pa., Clarion County, Pa., and New York State.
In response to the opportunity for its students, the Southern Tioga School District sponsored seven students to attend the camp.
"I thought it would be an educational experience to learn about a growing industry in the area," said Andrew Craig, a senior from North Penn High School in Blossburg. "It's been fun. It's given me a good foundation for what the field is like; possible careers."
One of the 21 campers attending the Marcellus Camp, Craig isn't sure what specific career he is going into, but is looking at some small colleges in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
During an open discussion that took place at camp on Monday morning, Craig found that people are either really for the gas industry or really against it. He reiterated the valid points that came out for both sides. The arguments for the gas industry included the economic impact, jobs added, more taxes coming in, more businesses around the wells, and cleaner and cheaper fuel to burn.
On the negative side, the campers discussed the water contamination that affects wildlife and groundwater drinking sources, greenhouse gas emissions, and the diesel exhaust. Basically they determined that it boiled down to the economic benefits versus the environmental drawbacks.
The camp began on Sunday with a safety presentation. Monday morning, in addition to the open discussion, campers learned about water testing. With samples from different locations of the Tioga River, they learned how to test for ph, hydrochloric acid, and other harmful chemicals.
On Monday afternoon, campers were taken to a gas well site near Dushore. There, they met with a team from Chesapeake: Mike Narcavage, Rory Sweeney, Josh Brown and two interns from Chesapeake's corporate development office, Monika Crosby and Sarah Parsons.
Narcavage gave an informational talk to the campers that began with an emphasis to stay in school and graduate from high school.
"The one thing that's important in the natural gas industry is that you need to graduate high school. Even if you want to work as a general laborer, you need to have a high school diploma or a GED," Narcavage said. "We take that very, very seriously."
Narcavage talked about some of the careers involved in the gas industry, including careers in heavy equipment, chemistry, engineering, environmental science, surveying, public relations and even journalism.
Narcavage then emphasized the environmental side of Chesapeake. He went into detail on how surveyors and environmental scientists employed by Chesapeake work together when they are locating a well pad.
"On the environmental side, if you guys are interested in environmental science, you can come work for the industry and make a difference," Narcavage said. "We rely on engineering firms and surveyors to come out and take a look at where we want to put the drill rig to see if there are wetlands here. We do studies to see if there's any native or indigenous grasses, trees, flowers, and animals; whether it's a flying moth or a bird or what have you. So they do all that surveying for us before we get to this point."
Pointing toward the rig, he added, "You will see that there is an earthen berm that goes around the location. It's about 40 inches high.
So if there is an incident or we do get a lot of rain, that will not leave the location. Whatever falls on the location in terms of rain or snow we can suction that up and reuse that." Narcavage added that Chesapeake also uses a special batting that is a few inches thick, which the rig and all the equipment are placed on.
"In case something does leak, that's our first line of defense," Narcavage explained. "Before it would hit the soil, it would hit the batting. We have the opportunity then to dry it up or suck it up so it doesn't hit the ground."
Narcavage explained that none of the companies in Pennsylvania use the open pits anymore. There aren't any more of those huge pits of dirty water, and dirt and rocks.
"None of the operators in Pennsylvania utilize open pits anymore," Narcavage said. "It's all a closed-loop system. Number one, it's better environmentally because we're not storing our stuff in a pit, in the ground. But, number two, it allows us to recycle what's coming back out of the ground. So, what we're able to do, as the drill cuttings come out of the ground in the drilling mud, it allows us to separate out the drill cuttings from the drilling mud and recycle the drilling mud instead of putting it into a pit. So whatever is left of the drilling mud that is left from this location will be taken to the next location."
Narcavage continued, "A company like Chesapeake that just tries to raise the bar on the environmental side - that comes from having good environmental scientists and good environmental engineers work for us."
He also pointed out some of the parts of the drill rig, explaining that the derrick is nothing more than a crane. It helps to take the pressure off the drill bit so it doesn't wear out as quickly, yet be able to move it at a good pace. It also controls the heavy steel pipe.
"When we have to change the drill bit, that's what does all the work to haul the drill pipe out of the ground," Narcavage explained. "Our pieces of drill pipe are about 30 feet long, so you can imagine if we're 6,000 feet or 7,000 feet into the drilling and we need to change a drill bit, that 6,000 feet of pipe all has to come out of the hole so we can change the bit and then we have to send it all back into the hole."
On Tuesday, campers concluded their experiences with a trip to Penn College to visit the welding lab, the heavy equipment labs, and the emergency technology education center.
"This is the first shale gas camp in the country," Wydra said. "And we're planning to make it an annual camp."
Lindsey Sikorski's energy was endless throughout the three days of the hands-on activities she had been working for months to prepare. She summed up her feelings at the end of camp.
"We're very appreciative to have organizations like Chesapeake, Seatrax, the Mansfield University faculty, and the Penn College of Technology and the Marcellus Shale and Education Training Center at Penn College and their staff for giving these students an opportunity to come to camp and do their learning sessions, and to experience a lot about the natural gas industry," Sikorski said. "We were very happy with that. It was a really good opportunity for these kids to experience this first year."
This story also appears in the latest Northeast Driller, which is available today. To read select stories from the Northeast Driller, visit www.northeastdriller.com.