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    Building a ready workforce

    Companies support Field Lab for Lackawanna College students

    Mikaila Adams

    Domestic natural gas production from the northeastern US, particularly from the Marcellus shale formation is proving to be a game-changer for the US energy industry. Bentek Energy calls the Northeast the "new center of the gas universe for North America," while a recent Morningstar Inc. report sees the Marcellus the biggest driver of US gas production over the next few years as well as the catalyst that will transform the US into a major exporter of natural gas.

    Lackawanna College, a private, accredited two-year college serving the people of northeastern Pennsylvania, opened its School of Petroleum & Natural Gas (PNG) in 2009 at the beginning of the Marcellus Shale boom to offer curriculum to meet the specific needs of the growing industry.

    "Lackawanna College saw an opportunity a few years ago and took a leap into education in support of the oil and natural gas industry," said Mark Volk, Lackawanna College president.

    Williams presents a check to Lackawanna College to support hands-on training.
    Williams presents a check to Lackawanna College to support hands-on training.
    Photo courtesy of Lackawanna College

    In support of the college's mission, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and Williams, both active in the region, provided gifts to the School of Petroleum & Natural Gas in New Milford, PA.

    Cabot holds nearly 200,000 net acres in the dry gas window of the Marcellus. The company's Marcellus properties accounted for 79% of the company's proved reserves as of year-end 2012 and 85% of the company's total net production for the second quarter of 2013. In April, the company gifted $2.5 million to help fund the college.

    "Our partnership with Cabot enhances tremendously the ability of the School of Petroleum & Natural Gas to provide a world-class education designed to prepare a ready workforce that fits the needs of the multiple companies across the industry. Beyond just an investment in Lackawanna College, through this collaborative effort Cabot is making an investment in our students and our community," commented Volk.

    Funds will be directed toward creating a $1 million endowment that will provide continuing support for student scholarships and help meet the long term needs of the school. An additional $1.5 million will be used for equipment, training, staff and faculty development, and student interactive experiences and internships.

    "This opportunity will ensure that qualified, hardworking individuals can get a solid education and be prepared for employment in this robust, expanding industry," said Phil Stalnaker, vice president of the North Region for Cabot.

    Adding to the equipment necessary for the students to receive the solid, hands-on training needed, is Williams, a midstream company operating compressor and gas processing stations, gathering pipelines and other facilities within miles of the college. Williams donated a glycol dehydrator, a machine used to process natural gas before compression and distribution.

    "Our employees are technicians who spend a lot of time on computers," said Ryan Stalker, a Williams representative. "They have to understand complicated machinery and know how every part of it works.." He said many people looking for jobs in the area "are from nearby communities, so helping this school train them just makes good sense." The company gifted $10,000 to cover the costs of acquiring and installing the necessary controllers, regulators, valves and piping, as well as $2,500 for a PNG student scholarship.

    Rick Marquardt, executive director of the School of Petroleum & Natural Gas, noted the dehydrator will be "an immediately available and important learning-tool addition to the school's new field lab, which includes all the field handling equipment used in the production of natural gas."

    "We worked to identify the technical skill base required of oil and natural-gas industry technicians and technologists," Marquardt said, "and we write curricula that try to meet those needs," Marquardt concluded.

     

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