Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance
The City of Scranton’s Lackawanna College has taken delivery of a 45,000-pound teaching tool. It arrived one recent morning at the college’s New Milford, Pennsylvania, campus on the back of a 16-wheel flat-bed trailer, and it took a crane and a crew of eight to get it down.
“It” is a compressor and driver set — a big six-cylinder engine fueled by natural gas that shares an 8- by 21-foot steel and concrete base with an equally big piston-pump compressor. Gifts from Exterran, a Houston-based oil and gas services company, the package and base will be a hands-on “textbook” for students in the college’s petroleum and gas technology programs, particularly its certificate program in gas-compression technology.
“Students at Lackawanna now will be able to work with an actual compressor package, giving them valuable and relevant real-world experience,” says Rob Rice, Exterran’s President, North America.
And, Rice’s view was seconded by Jordan McDaniels, a student in the compression-technology program who had stopped by the campus to cheer on the delivery. Newly painted battle-ship gray rather then gift-wrapped, the package was arriving at a perfect moment. The college is only weeks away from certifying its first gas-compression technicians, students who enrolled in the program at its get-go in September 2011.
“Now we can have some real hands-on work with equipment that’s being used in the field right now,” McDaniels said “Until today, all we had to work on was a scaled-down model compressor.”
The compression program has drawn mostly students with a high school education and some years of work experience, but several students have college degrees in other fields and are looking for careers in the oil and gas industry.
McDaniels, for example, finished high school, then studied auto mechanics for 2-1/2 years at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport. Since then he has added years of on-the-job experience in automotive and heavy-equipment maintenance. Fellow student Louis Riccio spent decades working as a printer and is looking to go into a field that has a more promising future. Like McDaniels, Riccio can’t wait to get to work on the compressor package.
“You know how people say that a picture is worth a thousand words,” Riccio says. “Well, being able to work on the equipment that’s actually used in the field is the same kind of thing. You can read about something in books all you want, even look at pictures, but none of that compares to walking over and putting your hands on it.” – Louis Riccio
Ray McDonald, who heads up the compression technology program, says he’s delighted with the students now completing the compression certificate course.
“I’m so lucky with this first class,” he says. “They’re so interested and motivated. I’ve taught at the high school level, and you ask the kids, ‘Why are you here?’ and they answer, ‘I don’t know.’ You don’t get that with any of these people. They know what they’re doing and why. They’re looking to get into a field where pay and benefits and working conditions are good, and they can work until they’re ready to retire.
“When we started this program we thought a kid fresh out of high school could do well in it,” McDonald continues. “Now I’m not so sure. The students who are actually in the program and are doing well have had related prior work experience. They understand mechanical concepts; they know how to take things apart and put them back together again. They have some math skills. I’ve had to tutor a couple of them in algebra, that’s true, but that’s fine with me.”
A mechanical engineer by training, McDonald spent some thirty years with a firm called Metaullics Systems, where his work included designing and overseeing the manufacture of filtration and pumping equipment for the aluminum and steel industries. Other teachers in the gas-compression certificate program have degrees in electrical and petroleum engineering.
McDaniels, the sometime auto mechanic, was on the money when he remarked that the compressor package delivered to the college is the sort of thing “being used in the field right now.” It was trucked in from an installation in upstate New York, where Exterran had been providing compression services to Talisman Energy. The unit had been in daily use until a few weeks ago and is completely operable.
Exterran hasn’t put a cash value on its gift, but industry people say a brand new unit of this sort could cost up to $500,000. The company says it sees its gift as an investment in the future of our region — its future here and ours. Exterran is eager to hire skilled technicians in our region, Rice said, and this is one way “to enhance the talent pipeline,” as he put it.
Two other firms chipped in on this gift: Talisman Energy, with U.S. headquarters in Warrendale, Pennsylvnia and offices in Horseheads, New York, covered the cost of trucking the compressor package to the college, and Payne’s Cranes of Bainbridge, New York, donated the services of the crane and its operator. Indeed, more than a dozen oil and gas industry firms have contributed to the petroleum and natural-gas programs at the private, not-for-profit college.
“Lackawanna College is fortunate to have partners from the industry like Exterran,” says college president Raymond Angeli. ”The donation of the compressor unit will allow our students to learn on professional equipment that they will eventually use in the workforce. We thank Exterran for their dedication to higher education in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
And, industry support has gone well beyond sending money and equipment. The gas-compression curriculum was designed with input from natural gas companies operating in our region, and their employees have lectured at the college, including Exterran’s Pennsylvania representative, Dave Bartlett. It was Bartlett who first floated the idea of giving the compressor package to the college after one of those lecture visits.
Rick Marquardt, who heads up the petroleum and natural gas programs at Lackawanna College, says he’s delighted with Exterran’s gift for several reasons. First off, it will provide immediate and important learning opportunities for the students in the college’s programs, he says, but more than that the gift shows how positively people in the oil and gas industry think of those programs.
“We set out to serve the industry by providing people in our region the skills the industry needs,” Marquardt says, “and this Exterran gift says to me that industry people feel we’re doing things right and that they’re committed to helping us do it.”
For more information about Lackawanna College’s petroleum and natural-gas technology programs or for general information, please call the New Milford Center at 570-465-2344, send an email to [email protected] or visit www.marcellusshaletraining.com