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Nov. 16, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

Shale speakers explain job opportunities

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Speakers for three companies directly or indirectly involved in the Marcellus Shale boom being seen across Pennsylvania told their Slippery Rock University audience they see the industry's growth as economically beneficial to commonwealth residents.

The three presented "Supply Community and the Ripple Effect in the Regional Economy" as part of the University's School of Business ongoing examination of Marcellus Shale exploration in the state and region. The Tuesday lecture in the Advanced Technology and Science Hall also explored the growing focus on job opportunities directly related to the Marcellus exploration.

Panelists included: Luke Marsh, Marcellus/Utica program leader with AMEC and a 2002 SRU environmental science graduate; Russell Huffmyer, lead project manager with Heckmann Corp., and Amelia Roncone, president of Amelia's Elegant Catering, a food-service business specializing in serving the oil- and gas-well drilling industry.

John Buttermore, assistant professor in SRU's School of Business, served as moderator.

Each of the panelists outlined the support services provided to the industry by their companies and described the substantial growth in such areas as housing, restaurants and numerous services that have been started or expanded as a result of Marcellus Shale activity in their areas.

"My town was dying. It is now booming," said Roncone. There are many new business opportunities for entrepreneurs, not only in direct service to the gas and oil industry, but also in providing entertainment and services to the people employed in the industry," she said.

"The industry has created more than 250,000 new local jobs," Marsh said.

Marsh, who has more than 12 years of diverse environmental consulting experience throughout the United States, outlined the growth of AMEC in its work in the industry.

"Every session we have opens with a safety moment. AMEC's 'Beyond Zero Program' aims to create a health and safety culture where strong leadership, personal responsibility and an unyielding commitment to excellence are cornerstones of how we conduct our business. We consistently take health and safety beyond the work place and out into the wider community," he said.

AMEC is a world leader in engineering, project management and consultancy and is heavily involved in Marcellus Shale operations as well as the world's oil and gas, minerals and metals, clean energy, environment and infrastructure markets.

The United Kingdom-based company entered the U.S. market in 2000.

"About 27 percent of our revenue comes from the United Kingdom, 30 percent from Canada, 27 percent from the U.S., and the remaining 16 percent from other countries in the world," he said.

"The Marcellus Shale Formation is thought to be the second largest in the world," Marsh said. He displayed an overhead slide showing the formation covering nearly half of Pennsylvania, across the northern part of the state, then south into West Virginia and across the Ohio border to the 50-75-mile range.

Marsh said many believe the oil and gas drilling has not created local jobs, "Statistics show that more than 70 percent of the Marcellus jobs are filled by Pennsylvania residents - 93 percent of the Marcellus-related jobs are filled by residents of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, West Virginia and Maryland," he said.

An estimated 6,000 wells have already been drilled and producers have already paid more than $1 billion in taxes, he said.

Marsh said job salaries in the industry are reported, on average, at $81,000 per year, compared to a $47,000 per year average in all other industries.

"Pennsylvania residents are already seeing a reduction in electricity and winter heating costs that amount to $30 to $100 per month because of the lowered price of natural gas used to generate the power." The gas comes from the Marcellus wells.

Marsh urged those in the audience to visit the company's website while still students to determine what job opportunities are available and what skills they will need to fill those openings.

Huffmyer outlined operations at Heckmann Water Resources. He said the company saw opportunities related to Marcellus Shale drilling and decided to expand its trucking operations. The company purchased a number of other trucking firms and in the process became the largest liquefied natural gas-fueled truck-tractor fleet in North America. Most of the company's trucks run on a mixture of 95 percent natural gas and 5 percent diesel fuel.

The trucks primarily service the oil and gas fields.

"A company slogan is 'We move the water that moves energy forward,'" he said. He explained that drilling for natural gas, particularly involving hydrofracturing, requires millions of gallons of water. The water must be trucked to the well site and the resulting brine must be trucked from the well site, cleaned and ultimately recycled or disposed of.

"Heckman is a one-stop shop for shale water solutions. It is a circular process involving water transport, water storage, well testing, treatment-recycle-reuse, disposal and brine pipelines," he said. Some of the brine water (salt water) is usable on roadways during winter to reduce ice build up, he said.

"The company has more than 500 trucks and trailers in service and 300 on order. We have 1,100 frack tanks available to customers," he said.

In addition to the Marcellus/Utica operations, HWR has operations in multiple locations in Texas (Mississippi Lime, Eaglebine, Eagle Ford and Permian Basic reserves) as well as the Tuscaloosa Marine in Mississippi and Alabama.

The company works with such industry leaders as Chesapeake Energy, Goodrich Petroleum Corp., Shell, ExxonMobile, EnCana, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and elpasso.

Huffmyer was a jet engine mechanic for the F-16 and the KC-135 with the U.S. Air Force, while studying at the University of Pittsburgh to earn his bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He joined Heckmann as a project manager during his senior year and now manages two other project mangers and handles projects ranging from drilling injection wells, design and construction of unloading facilities for water trucks, truck staging yards, maintenance garages, office buildings and performs work related to property acquisitions from the Coraopolis office.

Roncone used her address to encourage individual entrepreneurship. She explained how she left an unsatisfying job as registered neurovascular intensive care nurse at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to join Specialty Oilfield Solutions. The work for that firm as general manager led to additional opportunities and the formation of Amelia's Elegant Catering.

"I had worked in every job possible at my father's golf course and I knew something about food. I saw the need for workers in the oil and gas industry to eat better than at local or regional gas stations and the idea of catering blossomed. The energy industry in southwestern Pennsylvania became a new and exciting challenge," she said.

"I was working with Specialty Oilfield Solutions, but there was so much room for growth in the catering area that my partner and I decided to channel more energy and resources toward catering," she said.

"We rebranded and repurposed into Amelia's Elegant Catering to serve more energy companies and a wider geographic area. We started out of one restaurant and now are able to cover West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio through a series of other restaurants we use as suppliers and providers," she said. "We discovered and filled a niche that has led to growth."

She said the next step is to branch into more business events, including corporate lunches and dinners, as well as weddings and other upscale social events.

Roncone said she expects to hire people for onsite delivery, waiters and waitress opportunities, chefs, marketing and networking, as well as working on social media and event planner positions. The company now employs 15.

Roncone is a member of the board for a number of organizations, including Junior Achievement. She recently launched a subsidiary group dedicated to women in the oil and gas industry titled Young Professional Women in Energy, which has a mission to empower women to lead and succeed in the field.

She was named to the "2012 Edition of Who's Who among Executives and Professionals."

Buttermore urged those in the audience to visit the Marcellus Coalition Job Portal at to see what jobs, and the skills required, are available.

SRU's School of Business and its advisory council sponsored the discussion. Anthony Cialella, vice president for energy services at Advanced Waste Services and a 1992 SRU finance graduate, was instrumental in creating and organizing the series.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.