Media groups meet oil and gas reps

PARKERSBURG – The lines of communication were opening up in Parkersburg Thursday between news organizations around the state and officials with companies involved in the emerging oil and gas industry.

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, in association with the West Virginia Press Association (WVPA), hosted members of the Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) of West Virginia at the Blennerhassett Hotel. The meeting was another in a series of meetings being done by the press association around the state.

”The natural gas and oil industry is certainly such a big part of our future,” said Don Smith, WVPA executive director.

Representatives from both groups talked about the importance of keeping the lines of communication open in presenting the public information about the oil and gas industry, work going on in the area and employment opportunities as well as being able to get answers to questions and concerns people may have.

With last week’s announcement of the ethane cracker plant being planned for Wood County, attention is being brought to the industry and what kinds of opportunities can be brought to the area through the development of the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale natural gas deposits.

”This will be the big boon area where things will be happening,” Smith said.

There is a perception by many that the oil and gas industry is doing business and making the decisions outside the area and bringing in people from other states to do the work.

Charlie Burd of IOGA WV said he wants young people to know that many companies are looking to hire local workers. Burd lives in Vienna.

Opportunities will be available in the industry on all levels, Burd said of laborers, drivers, lawyers, accountants and caterers.

”There is every type of job to be filled in our industry,” he said.

Tom Rowan of Gastar Exploration said engineering is always a good field to be in with the oil and gas industry as well as having good mechanics.

”Many companies would prefer to hire local people because they know and understand our state’s terrain,” he said.

Many of the area’s established oil and gas workers are getting close to retirement age and there will be a need for young people to start filling the gaps as well as fill the new job openings, Burd said.

To be considered for any of the job opportunities that might be coming up, young people need to go to school and graduate; have decent math skills; have the ability to read and understand instructions; be able to respond to things in writing; and be able to pass a drug test.

”Texting is not writing,” Burd said with a chuckle.

Workers can be high school graduates, college graduates or people with certain technical certificates for needed skills. There is a lot of on-the-job training done in many areas, the representatives said.

On average, an employee in the gas industry could make around $75,000 a year. Some employees could work a staggered schedule with so many days on and so many days off.

Representatives from Gastar Exploration, E&H Manufacturing and Northeast Natural Energy said many of their employees live and work in West Virginia.

Above all else, prospective hires in the oil and gas industry need to be able to pass a drug test, Burd said.

Many people have turned to drugs when there was little hope of life improving for themselves, he said. With the announcement of the ethane cracker plant, Burd hopes many young people who will be looking for work will stay drug free.

”The Marcellus Shale play is here to stay,” he said.

With new opportunities coming to the area, the press association wanted to make sure there was an opportunity to bring many different types of stories to the public about the oil and gas industry.

“The Parkersburg News and Sentinel is a strong supporter of the West Virginia Press Association, and we are happy to partner with it for this meeting,” said Jim Spanner, publisher of The News and Sentinel. “We are excited that this region of the state is the next for aggressive development for natural gas and oil.

“This meeting was a great opportunity to open the lines of communication between the state’s newspapers in the area and this industry.”