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Bust doesn’t follow oil and gas boom

WINTERSVILLE — The terms “boom and bust” are indicative of someone who doesn’t fully understand the oil and gas industry.

That was the preface for a presentation by Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program to the Jefferson County Educational Service Center’s administrators breakfast held Thursday at St. Florian Hall.

Reda, who has 30 years of experience in the industry and helped found the OGEEP organization in 1997, said there is a misconception that because drilling slows it’s a “bust” cycle.

Oil and gas as an industry is more than drilling rigs, with more than 85 professions open for hiring now in the region for the industry, she said.

Projecting a slide of language that is gibberish to someone outside the oil and gas industry, she translated it into more common terms and said the industry has to do a better job of presenting itself to people outside the profession.

The national demand for energy stands at about 100 quadrillion BTUs now and will climb to 124 quadrillion BTUs by 2030, largely driven by the demand from advancing technologies. She told the school administrators that in an average school, a quarter of the energy consumed goes toward computers.

She said if Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania were a country, it would be the third-largest natural gas producer in the world. The Marcellus and Utica shale formations, which are being tapped in the region, will account for 35 percent of U.S. natural gas production by 2020, she said.

Ohio has 700 wells that have been drilled but aren’t having production sent into the marketplace because demand isn’t there or infrastructure isn’t available. Wells can cost $14 million to drill and it’s not worth continuing to drill more until market demand necessitates more gas in the market, she explained.

That, she said, is not “boom and bust” but how the marketplace works. Ohio set a record for production in 2017 of 1.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 16 million barrels of crude oil from 1,897 shale wells. In 2011, production was 4.9 million barrels of crude and 73 billion cubic feet of natural gas from thousands of conventional wells.

Production, she said, has not stopped.

She said manufacturing is being brought back to use the lower-cost gas in Ohio, led by the cracker plants in the region (one under construction at Monaca, Pa., and the other in discussions for Belmont County).

“How can you say ‘bust,’ when production numbers are off the chart,” she asked.

As for education, OGEEP has seen more than 3,000 teachers statewide participate so far in two-day teacher workshops.

Employment will continue to rise in oil and gas, she said, because of greater numbers of available jobs and an aging and retiring work force.

She said there were 14,400 people employed in the state’s oil and gas work force in 2011. Now, the number is more than 199,000.

She said the emphasis should be on “the trades,” which will have the greatest demand. She noted that only 21 percent of high school seniors who go on to seek a college degree actually obtain one.

“Sixty-three percent of the jobs are expected to be blue-collar,” she said.

She said another factor facing the industry is the ability to find employees who can pass drug testing.

She said that is not only a local problem but one faced all over the nation.

The OGEEP Foundation awarded 62 scholarships in May, including scholarships for certificate programs. Applications will be available to students again in January, she said.

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