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Northern Holds Oil and Gas Industry Seminar

By Staff | Aug 23, 2017

West Virginia Northern Community College’s New Martinsville campus provided a wealth of information to the public on July 25 when Curt Hippensteel, Petroleum Technology Instructional Specialist at WVNCC, gave a presentation titled “Oil and Gas Industry Basic Training.”

The seminar was one of two held by Northern that week. A second seminar, for those interested in the college’s Chemical Operator Technology program, was held Thursday, July 27.

Hippensteel provided positive news concerning the college’s industry-related programs. He said four students each graduated in May 2017 with an Associate in Applied Science degre e in Petroleum Technology. Out of those graduates, three had accepted and started positions before their last semester of college was finished. All four had accepted jobs by graduation.

Hippensteel remarked that one student had interviews with five different companies, and was then offered a sixth interview with another company, which he subsequently turned down.

“I can’t believe how easy the jobs are to find now,” Hippensteel recalled one graduate remarking.

“Being in class with these students, seeing them get phone calls when around them, and talking with them it made me realize that right now is a good time to get in the industry.”

Hippensteel remarked on the amount of effort it takes to find a job however. Of a student, he said, “I will tell you that he spent time putting his resume out there. He did his work, but it paid off.”

Hippensteel said if a person is blessed with good health, not on drugs, and willing to work, “You can find a niche for yourself in this industry.”

He said those hiring, within the industry, “want people who will show up to work, work hard, and do the things they need to do.”

Industry expectations include being drug free and safe, protecting the environment, working long hours, and possessing “a good work ethic.”

HIippensteel explained that most in the industry work a 12-hour schedule, five days a week “on some type of rotation.” He said this is not necessarily a Monday through Friday job.

He said employees make a lot more, based on overtime.

“Show up to work, and be able to work. They reward that in this industry. You may have to work very hard, but here in this industry – more than any other I’ve worked in – people will have opportunities to move up.”

Hippensteel gave a short lesson on why the industry is so prevalent in the Ohio Valley. He noted that Marcellus and Utica shales are the reasons, as they contain hydrocarbons.

Because of newer technologies, oil and gas can now be extracted from the ground.

“When the technology became available, and when it became cost-effective – they already knew the gas and oil was here – things had to happen in a perfect storm.”

Pay in the oil and gas industry can range. Hippensteel said most people start off at an hourly-type of pay rate. He said many are wary of a salary position, because they do not benefit from the extra hours. Hippensteel said pay and benefits in the oil and gas industry, compared to other manufacturing facilities or construction, are usually far better. Furthermore, those who enjoy outside work will consider the oil and gas industry to be a reward.

“A lot of my students want to do that. They don’t want to be inside all day. Some jobs are inside, but there are a lot of opportunities to work outside with equipment. I always think it is good because in this industry you work with your hands and mind – and it is very technical – you are always learning, and it’s always changing.”

Also, “The people you meet – whether they have a college education or not they will teach you a lot. Whenever I go into the field, I try to soak up what they say. One thing I tell my students is that ‘If they tell you something you know, keep your mouth shut. The next 40-some things they tell you, you’ll never have heard. The veterans of the industry know so much.”

Hippensteel spoke extensively on the importance of safety in the industry. He said that, when interviewing for a company, an applicant will be “grilled” on safety. He noted that safety is especially important to the operating company – the company that is the start of the industry, the “big fish in the pond.” Hippensteel said operating companies have several service companies under them; however, the operating company is the company that is under the spotlight if an accident happens.

“BP was blamed for the oil spill in 2011, because they were the operating company, they were leasing the minerals,” Hippensteel said.

Service companies have to abide by a MSA – Master Service Agreement. This agreement outlines what protocol service companies must have in place.

Those applying for the job in the industry are urged to note any previous safety-related training on their resumes. Hippensteel cited training courses and certifications such as SafeLand USA, USHA 30, basic CPR/First Aid certification. He also recommended researching free online safety courses, which can be cited on a resume.

Hippensteel noted the importance of knowing the different types of industry-related jobs. A job described as upstream will be beside the wells, where the oil and gas is produced. Hippensteel said these are high-paying jobs, dependent on commodity prices. He said these are mobile jobs, for when a well is drilled, workers will move to another location.

Midstream jobs are with companies that process the commodity coming out of the ground. Hippensteel said companies such as Mark West, Williams Energy, and Dominion, are midstream companies. These are not mobile and have a stable-type of environment.

Downstream jobs are companies that work with delivery to the end user. Hippensteel said these jobs are very stable “but typically don’t pay as high.” He said a downstream-type company would be Mountaineer Gas.

Hippensteel described the different types oil and gas industry jobs available, noting key words to look for when looking for a job in the industry. For instance, “drilling” and “completion” jobs are very mobile jobs that move from location to location. A “production” job would be an “in-place” job, working around well sites, producing fluids, day after day. Building pipeline is a mobile job, while a “drilling” focuses on “building the well.”

Specific titles in the field include the following: lease operator, measurement technician, compressor operator, production roustabout, i&e technician, pipeline operator, cementing engineering technician, maintenance technician, HSE coordinator, compressor mechanic, outside operator, inside operator, lab technician, mud logger, lwd technican, and rail loading technician. Hippensteel noted that I&E technicians are skilled technicians who work with the control systems at plants. He said these skills are in demand because of increased automation.

“Automation increases some jobs because people are needed to maintain the systems. Everything is tied to those systems,” Hippensteel said.

Other skills sought in the industry include mechanical, electrical, operations, instrumentation, safety, environmental, compliance, logistics, welding, controls, computer networking, CDL, equipment operation, corrosion, measurement, and drilling.

Although an applicant may not believe he or she possesses those skills, according to Hippensteel, skills translate. He noted those with experience or time spent operating equipment, reading prints, farming, working with levels, maintaining equipment, or military, should note such on a resume.

Most of all, if an applicant conveys a “good work ethic,” he or she will find interest.

“If you do what you are supposed to do, they are happy to train you If you have some skills, find ways that they may fit in.”

Also of importance is knowledge of the field. Hippensteel cited several terms applicants should be familiar with: wellhead, separator, GPU, pig launcher/receiver, heater, dehydrator – to name a few. Those wanting a career in the oil and gas industry should conduct research and familiarize themselves with the process.

Those interested in the field should familiarize themselves with industry open houses or job fairs, as well as research the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, Independent Oil and Gas Association, or other organizations. Sometimes jobs can be found on these sites, and sometimes industry-related events, that are open to the public, offer great opportunities.

Of course, one might also consider furthering his or her education on the subject as well. Northern currently offers an Associate in Applied Science in Petroleum Technology, a Certificate of Applied Science in Petroleum Technology, and an Associate in Applied Science in Chemical Operator Technology.

Hippensteel described a student who sent out resumes between classes, while enrolled in one of the college’s programs.

“He did very well by doing that,” Hippenstel said, reiterating that the student had five interviews, and was offered a sixth interview.

“It’s a very simple thing, but relate what you have, to what the company needs.”

Also, “Consider an entry-level position.”

“This will provide field experience and open the door to other, more advanced opportunities.”

Hippensteel noted, “If your work ethic is good, you will probably not stay in the entry-level position for long.”

Hippensteel himself can be reached by calling 304-214-8981, or by e-mailing chippensteel@wvncc.edu

Steve Ledergerber, who is the Chemical Operator Instructional Specialist/Program Director, can be reached at 304-510-8789, or at sledergerber@wvncc.edu

Northern’s New Martinsville campus can be reached at 304-455-4684. Northern can be accessed online at www.wvncc.edu