Summer Career Experience Takes Students to Gas Fields

Employees of Chesapeake Oil & Gas (top) show Oilfield Experience students large apparatus at the Lackawanna College Tunkhannock Center that are common on Marcellus shale gas pads. Above, Coterra’s Ben Whitaker and Bill desRosier explain the workings of a completed gas pad in Susquehanna County to participants in NTIEC’s Energy & Oilfield Career Summer Experience held Aug. 8 to 12.

Participation in the Energy & Oilfield Career Summer Experience took a healthy jump this year, with several past participants returning and more students from Luzerne and Lackawanna counties climbing aboard. The five-day program is administered by the Northern Tier Industry & Education Consortium (NTIEC) as a way to provide a broad overview of the natural gas industry and the variety of pathways to careers with us and other companies.

Each day began with a safety lesson, topics ranging from how to dress appropriately for visits to active work sites, the importance of hydration, and a certified Stop the Bleed class conducted by Peg Austin, a Geisinger RN. The week kicked off at the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas (LC PNG) with an Intro to Oil & Gas, after which program participants took up a friendly competition working their way through our Mobile Oilfield Lab Unit (MOLU).

On their second day, Coterra Energy took the students to an active drilling rig, a pad with nine completed wells and a compressor station, and a water withdrawal site so they were better able to see first-hand elements of production we had discussed the previous day.

Ben Whitaker, a long-time well-tender for Coterra, explained what he looks for on his daily visits to numerous pads. In addition to visually inspecting the myriad of valves for potential wear, Ben explained how overlapping safety features are also monitored remotely by dozens of employees, who can shut down a well from miles away if there are any problems.

Other key components of the Oilfield Experience were presented by JHA Associates, Williams Midstream, Chesapeake, Resource Environmental, and the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center. Topics that caught the interest of participants included the increasing use of drones for engineering, land surveying and heat tracing and detection; large engine repair; and the additional opportunities provided by obtaining CDL certification.

As the week wound down, LC PNG director Brad Reid asked participants if the Experience had been better than they expected, and everybody raised their hands. The majority of them also expressed a sincere interest in the PNG program.

Josh Keeney was participating in the Oilfield Experience for a third summer in a row. His father works in the environmental compliance end of the pipeline business. Josh intends to pair his interest in diesel mechanics with a CDL license.

Zoey Wright was back for a second year, having started classes at LC PNG in the spring while still a high school student. By the time she graduates from high school, she will likely only have one more semester of PNG classes and can move directly into the workforce. When asked what impresses her most about the industry, Zoey cited due diligence to the environment. “Most people think they don’t care, but they care a lot,” she remarked.

Joseph Kalafut attended an open house at the school last fall and registered for the Oilfield Experience to meet more of the teachers and enjoy some hands-on activities in the labs.
“There’s nothing like it. It’s very unique,” Jonas Gruver said of the School where he intends to take up courses in midstream and compression.

Coterra management expressed gratitude to NTIEC for devising such an interesting program and to the School of Petroleum & Natural Gas, from which Ben graduated in 2016 to begin a second career. “Looking back, 24 doesn’t seem that old,” he told the students, “But I wish I had started when I was your age.”

Oilfield Experience participants take apart a large engine at the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas in Tunkhannock.

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