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WVNCC Hosts Oil & Gas Seminars

By Staff | Jul 19, 2017

Photo Provided In this file photo, now-former students of Chemical Operator Instructional Specialist and Program Director Steve Ledergerber pose for a photo outside of Dominion’s Hastings plant, in Wetzel County. WVNCC strives to make sure its students, in oil and gas industry-related programs, receive plenty of hands-on experience.

Those seeking more knowledge, or even a future career, in the oil and gas industry do not need to travel or look far. West Virginia Northern Community College’s New Martinsville campus will be hosting two seminars next week for those interested in learning more about the oil and gas industry in the Upper Ohio Valley, as a prelude to entering that job market.

“Oil and Gas Industry Basic Training” will be offered at July 25, 6-9 p.m. in Room 110 at the New Martinsville campus. A second seminar, for students interested in learning more about the Chemical Operator Technology program at Northern, will be held at July 27, 6-9 p.m. in Room 110 of the New Martinsville campus.

Through “Oil and Gas Industry Basic Training,” individuals will learn about “Safety and Protecting the Environment,” “Introduction to Jobs and Areas of the Petroleum Industry,” “Industry Terminology,” “Basic Equipment Identification and Uses,” “The Importance of Technology and Automation,” “What to Expect on the Job,” and “Next Step Ideas for Those Wanting to Enter the Industry.” This seminar will be presented by Curt Hippensteel, WVNCC Petroleum Technology Instructional Specialist.

The July 27 seminar is available for persons interested in learning more about the Chemical Operator Technology Program at Northern and is a great opportunity for those to learn about a fast-paced education experience that will prepare the student for a position as a chemical process operator in the oil and gas industry. Classes begin Aug. 28.

This seminar will be presented by WVNCC Chemical Operator Technology Program Director Steve Ledergerber.

Oil & Gas Programs At WVNCC

The Petroleum Technology, A.A.S. program at WVNCC is designed to prepare students for employment in the natural gas drilling, gathering and field operations industry associated with the development of Marcellus and Utica Shales. The program provides a strong foundation in oil and gas exploration, production and development in the Appalachian Basin. Laboratory classes include a strong emphasis on hands-on experiences. Safe work practices are emphasized and several industry certifications are embedded within the curriculum.

Graduates of the program will be able to follow conventional industry safety practices; perform procedures and tasks commonly used in production of oil and gas in the Appalachian Basin, correctly and safely use lifting equipment and rigging hardware in the handling of machinery, supplies, and loads; demonstrate correct procedures to use in various drilling technologies; explain considerations that go into designing a well completion; use orifice measurement of meter gas; apply principles of hydraulic, pneumatic, and electrical systems to the drilling, production, and services industry.

Job opportunities for graduates of the program are high as the oil and gas industry is one of the fasting growing industries in the region, if not the nation. Production workers are in high demand as employers move to extract the gas and associated petroleum liquids from the Marcellus and Utica Shales. The program qualifies graduates for employment in such positions as field technicians, pumpers, drilling technicians, measurement technicians, compressor operations, and many others.

Chemical Operator Technology, A.A.S. prepares students to be employed as operators in the process industry. A chemical process operator works in the safe production, refining and transfer of various chemicals in three states of matter – solid, liquid, and gas. Production is carried out in reactors and converters. Refining is done in distillation columns, filter presses, separators and other types of equipment. Chemicals are transferred through pipelines to shipping containers or storage tanks. In operating equipment, the operator must observe, interpret and record data from gauges, instruments, computer displays, log books, and laboratory analysis data. The operator will need to make changes in pressure, flow, temperature, level and other parameters by operating control devices including valves, switches, and levers.

Operators may also be required to operate moving equipment such as aerial work platforms, forklifts, and track mobiles. Minor maintenance activities requiring the use of hand tools is done frequently by operators. The operators must be able to solve simple math problems and be able to run lab tests to assure quality products are being made. An operator must have good written and verbal communication skills. Being able to recognize unusual conditions and troubleshoot problems are essential traits for a chemical operator.

The chemical processing industry (CPI) is anticipating severe shortages in skilled technicians to operate their plants. As the large baby boomer group quickly approaches retirement age, the CPI braces for a 70 to 80 percent employee turnover. This occupation shows a growth potential of 17 percent.

The Future Of Oil & Gas

Those who are interested in an oil and gas industry-related career, need not be intimidated by the coursework either. According to Steve Ledergerber, Chemical Operator Instructional Specialist and Program Director, he is absolutely available to aid students with questions or concerns they may have. WVNCC also offers a free tutoring center.

“We are definitely geared toward the students’ success,” Ledergerber states.

And a successful graduate of the program could definitely reap rewards in the oil and gas industry. Employment opportunities in the Ohio Valley are very promising for graduates of the program, and officials at WVNCC are always looking for paid-internship opportunities for students of the programs.

Those with a job in the industry could be paid as much as $20 to $30 an hour, according to Ledergerber. When asked if what a possible ethane cracker plant – located in the Ohio Valley – would mean to graduates of one of his programs, Ledergerber states, “These would be the people working the jobs.”

If it comes to fruition, graduates of one of WVNCC’s oil and gas industry-related programs could maybe even possibly find a job someday working with the “Appalachian Storage Hub,” which United States Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), along with Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) have all encouraged the development. The representatives have encouraged the development of the natural gas liquid storage and distribution hub in the Appalachian region.

In a letter to Gary D. Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council of the White House, Senators Manchin and Capito say the project could possibly attract up to $36 billion in new chemical and plastics industry investment, and create 100,000 new jobs.

At the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 State of Wetzel County breakfast, held in June, Greg Kozera, of Shale Crescent USA, spoke optimistically about the future of the oil and gas industry.

Kozera spoke extensively on the possibilities related to the area’s supply of natural gas. He said that in 2016, the United States was one of the top five oil producers. He noted that, for months in 2015, the United States fluctuated in the top five. Ten years ago, the United States was not even in the list.

“Ten years ago, we were building facilities to import natural gas for us. Now, we are exporting.”

Kozera compared this region as being the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” stating that by 2020, the states of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania will account for 35 percent of U.S. natural gas production.

“What you are sitting on is a gold mine,” Kozera said.

Kozera said the gold mine also “offers people hope,” as he referenced the area’s drug problem. He noted that those who might be feeling hopeless, without a job, can get a two-year degree in an industry-related field and have their debts paid off quickly with “a high-wage job.”

WVNCC is certainly opening the doors for that hopeful success, as it offers a few different programs for those seeking a job in the fast-growing oil and gas industry – Petroleum Technology, A.A.S., Petroleum Technology, C.A.S., and Chemical Operator Technology, A.A.S. Financial aid is also available, through Workforce and for those who qualify.

“I am excited that students in our local communities, who are interested in the oil and gas industry, can obtain their education at the New Martinsville Campus,” said Debbie Bennett, Manager/Campus Operation at WVNCC.

“These two programs are new to the New Martinsville campus and provide students the opportunity to obtain high-quality training close to home,” agreed Larry Tackett, Vice President for Economic and Workforce Development.

Tackett added, “This really is an incredible opportunity and we at WVNCC will do everything we can to help prospective students get started and complete these programs. But the journey to a good paying, professional level job begins with each individual, so contact us and let us join you in your journey to success.”