Lackawanna College NatGas Program to Get Boost from Obama Visit

President Barack ObamaMDN attended and reported on the grand opening of a new CNG fueling station in Susquehanna County, PA last week (see Cabot Launches CNG Fueling Station in NE PA). One of the presenters at that event was Mark Volk, president of Lackawanna College. Dr. Volk was there to sing the praises of Cabot Oil & Gas and their key support for Lackawanna’s new-but-rapidly-growing Petroleum & Natural Gas Technology program. Cabot has not only contributed money but also equipment and expertise to the program, one of only four or five programs like it in the country.

Lackawanna College–a 1,600-student, private 2-year school near Scranton, PA–is about to emerge on the national stage in a big way, and by extension, Cabot as well. President Obama will visit the school tomorrow (Friday, August 23) and deliver a speech “to the nation and world” from Lackawanna, no doubt touting the role of Lackawanna in preparing students through programs like the Petroleum & Natural Gas Technology program. In honor of President Obama’s visit and to celebrate Obama’s recognition of the importance of an educated workforce for the northeast and particularly for the vitally important oil and gas industry, Cabot’s own George Stark has penned the following exclusive “guest post” for MDN readers…

by George Stark, Director of External Affairs, Cabot Oil & Gas

For several decades, the U.S. has relied heavily on foreign sources of energy.  But now this dependency is changing, thanks in large part to new energy development in places like northeastern Pennsylvania by companies like Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation.  In fact, domestic oil and natural gas development is helping the U.S. take a once unimaginable leap toward increased energy security … and, down the road, maybe even energy independence.

President Obama himself recognizes the significance of this breakthrough, which is why he’s visiting our region on Friday – including a stop at Lackawanna College in Scranton, an institution offering natural gas education in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Leading on Education, Job Training

Since 2009, Lackawanna has offered a curriculum in the study of petroleum & natural gas with an associate degree in Natural Gas Technology. The program has been developed in cooperation with the natural gas industry to prepare students for a career in the operations segment of the natural gas industry – a welcome new source of regional job growth.  In fact, the college made a significant financial commitment to the oil and gas industry by investing over $750,000 to build a new dedicated regional center at New Milford in Susquehanna County.

Students learn the full spectrum of natural gas discovery, drilling, production, processing equipment and principles, and marketing, plus OSHA safety requirements and computer skills necessary for technician level positions. Instruction includes hands-on teaching with gas field equipment and a summer internship with 12 weeks of actual field experience with an E&P company like Cabot.

The president of Lackawanna College, Mark Volk, had this to say about the school’s program: “Our school recognizes the nearly limitless growth potential the natural gas industry offers students. Our goal at Lackawanna College is to educate the next generation of leaders in an industry that offers great promise for our region, our state and indeed our nation. Lackawanna College is committed to working in strong partnership with Cabot Oil & Gas to ensure that this promise is realized in all our students.”

In just over three years, over 75% of the program’s graduates have been hired by major E&P, midstream and pipeline companies who return year after year to interview and hire our students. Another large chunk of graduates have continued their petroleum engineering degree at other colleges or found jobs in another portion of the industry, such as land operations – bringing the total percentage of students finding jobs after the program up to the high nineties.

The number of students enrolling in the oil & gas program at Lackawanna has grow steadily over the last few years and given its current level of success the total class size is expected to double in the next few.

Tuition revenue growth from an expanding student base, coupled with financial and knowledge contributions from the natural gas industry, have made Lackawanna a model for the President to highlight.

Cabot as a Partner for Lackawanna

Cabot is a major part of the transition to energy security in the region, with an average daily production of 1.2 billion cubic feet (Bcf).  Government data shows that Cabot had 15 of the top 20 producing wells in Pennsylvania in 2012 and, since 2008, total cumulative production of 488 Bcf from just 225 producing wells.

We are also a proud champion and partner of the Lackawanna College curriculum.  Not only has Cabot contributed to the program with corporate donations (part of the nearly $2.5 million in donations we’ve made around the region to date), the company has also contributed the industry know-how and leadership needed to help the program establish its expertise.  We’ve been grateful for the opportunity to donate things like equipment, expert lecturing, mentoring, and more – as well as giving students plenty of access to drilling sites, producing well sites, compression facilities, etc. during their course of study in Susquehanna County.   In short, the type of things that helps make an education come alive.

In addition, Cabot is committed to supporting the Lackawanna College program by hiring graduates when needed, as well as placing students in internships during their work study.

Recent CNG Event

President Volk joined Cabot last week to highlight the opening of the first CNG (compressed natural gas) fueling station in Susquehanna County. During the celebration CNG powered trucks were on display but drilling and fracturing equipment running on natural gas was also demonstrated.

Cabot isn’t the only one using natural gas, the event featured displays by a variety of companies and organizations throughout the region that are using natural gas to fuel their equipment and products, and also included displays from other local colleges that have expanded course offerings to meet the growing demand for energy industry employees.

The topics covered by the speakers at the event included the growth of jobs and small businesses in the region; education and training by area colleges for students interested in the natural gas industry; the increased usage of natural gas in operating equipment and vehicles; and the economic impact of the industry throughout northeastern Pennsylvania.  In other words, a great snapshot of all the good things that are happening in the region involving natural gas these days.

President Obama Has Picked the Right Place

The President has sure picked the right place to highlight the role that natural gas drilling can have on energy security, job security and educational opportunities.  Expanded access to natural gas in the region has had a transforming effect, resulting in many benefits:

  • Use of a fuel that is both cleaner for the environment and helping to reduce dependency on foreign fuels;
  • A growing need for skilled workers such as engineers to design natural gas engines and mechanics to keep them operating;
  • Expanded course offerings from colleges and universities around the area to meet the workforce needs of the industry, as well as offerings that provide maintenance training on the new natural gas vehicles and fueling stations in the area;
  • Expanded infrastructure across northeastern Pennsylvania that will continue spurring innovation and economic growth for years to come;
  • Grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to help businesses and individuals convert their vehicles to natural gas and build CNG fueling stations;
  • Decreased use of gasoline and diesel, replaced with less expensive CNG, allowing individuals to save money at the pump and companies to reduce costs.

Cabot is proud of the difference that our work is making in the Susquehanna County region, and proud of the impact our industry is having on our country’s energy independence.  We look forward to President Obama’s visit helping to spread the positive news about natural gas to an ever growing audience!