Gas workers get to know the drill

Date: February 28, 2011

Chesapeake Energy facility in Bradford County provides training for safe work in gas fields in Shale region, company says.

STEVE MOCARSKY smocarsky@timesleader.com

ATHENS TWP. – Natural gas drilling might have come to an abrupt end in Luzerne County with Encana Oil & Gas announcing on Thursday that two exploratory wells wouldn\’t produce enough gas to make drilling here feasible. But there still will be plenty of jobs in the industry just to the north and west.

Nomac Drilling LLC\’s Eastern Training Center and Housing Facility in Athens Township, Bradford County. The cafeteria is in the foreground, with the training center to the left of it, recreation centers to the farther left and a laundry facility farthest left. Six dormitories are behind those buildings. Nomac is a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corp.

And the second largest natural gas producer in the country has opened a rig worker housing and training facility in Northeastern Pennsylvania as part of its commitment to hire Pennsylvanians and folks from nearby states for those jobs.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. recently announced the opening of Nomac Drilling LLC\’s Eastern Training Center and Housing Facility in Bradford County. Nomac is a subsidiary of Chesapeake.

The 36,960-square-foot facility offers free, temporary housing for Nomac employees working in the Marcellus Shale. It consists of six dormitories that can house 276 workers at a time. Each dorm has 23 rooms with common restroom/shower facilities. Most rooms contain two twin beds; one dorm has 10 rooms with one bed each.

Other on-campus facilities include a cafeteria, a laundry building and two recreation centers – one smoking, one non-smoking. Outside are a baseball field, a volleyball court and horseshoe pits.

The 3,600-square-foot training center is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and training equipment. Training topics will include regulatory and operational training that emphasizes safety, environmental protocols and best management practices to prepare workers for long-term employment, according to company literature.

“This facility, I think, represents not only a commitment to the community, but it also, I think, shows a loyalty we have to our employees,” Chesapeake Vice President of Drilling Services David Fisher said Thursday before a tour of the facilities for area officials and the media.

“What you\’re going to see today is a lot of amenities that we provided for all the employees that work on the rigs. … These guys work 14 days straight, 12 hours a day, and it\’s very hard work, both in the summer and in the winter. … We want to give them an opportunity to be able to relax … where they can kind of get away and be rested and well fed,” Fisher said.

But training is an equally important aspect for the facility, he said, noting that Chesapeake set up a training program in Searcy, Ark., about two and a half years ago and, since then, saw about 657 people graduate from it.

“Our goal for the next three to six months is to take what we do at Searcy from a training standpoint, which includes a simulator and additional training for new employees and for existing employees, and duplicate that here. We had to set up this facility first and have a foundation to do that from,” Fisher said.

Kimberlee Smithton, director of training for drilling services, said the major focus of training for new and existing employees will be on safety.

“Keeping people safe is our number one priority – period. Now, what happens when you\’re out there working on a rig a lot of times, and say you\’ve been out there a year or so and you know it like the back of your hand, well then sometimes you get a little complacent. And that\’s why we as a company cannot ever let our commitment to safety waver,” Smithton said.

“So I hope when you come back and look at this facility six months from now, you\’re going to be even more awe-inspired by the amount of training we have here. … It\’s not going to look the same; we don\’t want it to look the same. We want it to continually grow. We want to make sure we have people that grow into careers, and, most importantly, when they show up on a location for any of our companies, that they leave that location just like they arrived, all their fingers, all their toes, and they\’re safe,” Smithton said.

Currently, people hired for work on rigs in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania spend 18 days at the Searcy training facility and complete two or three seven- to 14-day “hitches” of hands-on training on rigs in Texas. The whole process, with time off in between Searcy training and the hitches, takes 75 to 90 days, Smithton said.

The next step for the center is designing a program and building a drill rig simulator “so we can start doing all of our basic training for Pennsylvanians in Pennsylvania,” Fisher said.

Chesapeake Senior Security Officer Steve Evans said there will be two security officers in an office at the entrance to the facility 24 hours a day “to enforce the strict rules that are in place here. It\’s a facility for work purposes, for housing hard-working individuals who have to perform a hard job. And when they come in here, the rules are no contraband. Basically, it\’s a place to rest,” he said.

Copyright: Times Leader

 

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.