PARKERSBURG - The natural gas development that will come from the development of the Marcellus and Utica Shale deposits will provide opportunities for many throughout the region from employment to tax revenue, an oil official told the Parkersburg Rotary Club on Monday.
Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, addressed the Rotary Club on the future of natural gas development in the region.
With the recent announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its proposed Clean Power Plan, which will cut carbon emissions from power plants, Burd said natural gas is set to fill in the gaps where the EPA wants to eliminate coal as a fuel source.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, addresses the Parkersburg Rotary Club Monday on the future of natural gas development in the region.
"You read that the EPA is going to shut down coal," Burd said. "We are the first ones to say that we need a robust coal industry in this state.
"It is jobs, taxes, investment ... everything good. They want to reduce emissions. The way to do that is to decommission coal, which will cause increases in natural gas. We expect the price for natural gas to go up."
Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas deposits cover 95,000 square miles, including much of West Virginia. Last fall, officials with Odebrecht announced plans for the development of an ethane cracker, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation in Wood County.
A cracker plant converts ethane, a byproduct from Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale natural gas, into the widely used ethylene, a key component for the plastics industry.
Burd said the natural gas deposits represent a long-term opportunity for development and job growth.
The IOGA represents more than 750-member companies and has educational outreach programs, awarding $127,000 in scholarships to West Virginia high school seniors.
"We spend a lot of time in high schools trying to get to as many underclassmen as they can to explain the benefits of this shale play, the industry and the opportunities this is going to create," Burd said.
For students to be able to take advantage of these opportunities, they must get the most out of their education in learning to read to understand and write to communicate; have math skills; have good attendance as companies look at attendance in school as an indicator of what attendance would be like at a job, Burd said.
"There are jobs in every possible avenue you can look at," Burd said. "We are going to be drilling this formation for a very long time. It is the second largest natural gas play in the world, behind Saudi Arabia. This is where the future is."
IOGA has helped institute programs at colleges across the state related to developing the skills to work in the emerging natural gas industry.
"We have to have an educated hirable workforce," Burd said.
Burd detailed the history of conventional natural gas wells and the coming of the horizontal wells over the past few years as work has begun to develop the Marcellus and Utica Shales.
"I have been told some of these wells produce more in 30 days as conventional wells did in 30 years," he said.
One of the most important requirements for the jobs coming available will be the ability of employees to pass a drug test, he said.
Many companies will not even interview prospective employees before they can pass a drug test, Burd said, adding employees who fail a random drug test can be fired.
"You cannot work in our industry and not pass a drug test," he said.
Having a drug free and educated workforce is key for developing the future of the area, he said.
"We are right in the midst of some of the best oil and gas production in the country," Burd said. "The shale is going to be our future.
"We send too many kids away (for good-paying jobs and opportunities). We now have the opportunity to keep them here and bring some back."
Companies are interested in hiring local workers with ties to the area.
"These companies do not want to bring in contractors (from somewhere else)," Burd said. "They want to come in and hire local workers. They want those workers to be engaged in their communities and a part of their communities. It is better for them and the communities."