Ceremony marks opening of Energy Technology Education Center

The Energy Technology Education Center, a joint venture among Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Lycoming County Department of Public Safety and natural gas industry partners, was formally dedicated today in a ceremony held at the college’s Schneebeli Earth Science Center near Allenwood.

The facilities and equipment used at the ETEC will support hands-on training for new and existing workers in the natural gas industry and other energy-related fields, as well as emergency-response personnel.

A demonstration and tour was conducted after the dedication ceremony to highlight how first responders will be prepared for handling emergencies unique to gas-field drilling and production sites. Approximately 100 invited guests gathered at the site for the formal dedication.

The first training for first responders is scheduled to take place Saturday, May 19.

Speaking at the dedication were individuals who provided valuable insight and leadership for the ETEC initiative. They are: Edward A. Mann, state fire commissioner; Jeff C. Wheeland, chairman of the Lycoming County Commissioners; Doug Mehan, health environmental and safety director for PennEnergy Resources LLC and safety committee chairman for the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association; and Ralph Tijerina, vice president for safety and environmental compliance for Range Resources-Appalachia LLC and safety committee chair for the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Representing and speaking for Penn College at the dedication were Paul L. Starkey, vice president for academic affairs/provost, and Tracy L. Brundage, assistant vice president for workforce and economic development.

More than 45 industry and nonindustry donors provided funds, equipment or in-kind services for development and construction of the ETEC, which also benefited from a significant investment from Penn College.

“This first-rate training center serves a vital need in the region and throughout the Appalachian Basin region,” said Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour. “We are delighted to collaborate with Lycoming County and industry on this state-of-the-art facility that will enable participants to experience the same type of conditions and scenarios they can expect to encounter in the field.”

The site includes live fire "props," a well head, separator, meter house, flammable-liquids simulator, tank battery, hydraulic fracturing-site display, pressurized production-site setup, sand separator, pig launcher and receiver, and miscellaneous static props.

The area to be served by the project is not limited to Pennsylvania, though it’s expected the majority of participants/trainees will be from the Appalachian Basin/Mid-Atlantic states. The facility will allow emergency personnel statewide to access specialized training programs. Currently, there are no facilities in Pennsylvania for responders to obtain this type of training for the higher-pressure dry- and wet-gas wells.

The Office of the State Fire Commissioner -- through the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and in partnership with the Marcellus Shale Coalition and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association -- has developed a first responder training program specifically targeted for Marcellus Shale gas production. The Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program has also been supportive and is working with Penn College on curriculum development.

Craig Konkle, of the Lycoming County Department of Public Safety, said the ETEC will offer industry and first responders an opportunity to participate in classroom and hands-on training aimed at mitigating emergency situations on sites associated with natural gas. He said the ETEC is working closely with the gas industry and the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy to offer practical and safe training courses.

“We understand certain incidents, such as a well-control emergency, will be handled by well- control specialists and not the local responders,” Konkle explained. “That said, there are other incidents that will and do occur that local responders will be called upon to handle. This will give us the opportunity to better prepare them for such incidents.”

The ETEC project would never have been completed, he said, if not for the team effort among the natural gas industry, Penn College and Lycoming County.

“This is a demonstration of the value that all three entities place on the safety of the public, gas-industry personnel and first responders,” Konkle said. “We are excited about the training that will be forthcoming from this facility.”

Among the classes to be offered at the site are: Advanced Well Control, Basic Well Control, CDL, Confined Space, Crosby Rigging, Fall Protection/Fall Rescue, Fire Extinguisher Training, Gas Measurement (fluid dynamics), Hot Work Air Monitoring, Responding to Gas Field Emergencies, Rigging and Hoisting, Rough Terrain Forklift, Roughneck (multiple subject areas), Roustabout (multiple subject areas), Spill Prevention and Cleanup, Trenching Safety and OSHA Competent Person, and Well Tender.

The college will generate tuition support through classes offered at the facility, with the goal of operations becoming sustainable through income generation. In addition, the college will pursue state and federal grants to assist with training initiatives.

“The success of the ETEC project will ultimately be measured by the amount of training that occurs at the facility -- both specialized emergency training and industry-specific training,” Brundage said.

Through its Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center (a collaboration with Penn State Cooperative Extension), Penn College provides a wide variety of resources to the community and to the oil and gas industry. For more, visit http://www.pct.edu/msetc or call 570-327-4775.

The college also offers a variety of for-credit degree programs related to the natural gas industry. To learn more, visit http://www.pct.edu/naturalgas or contact the Admissions Office toll-free at 800-367-9222.

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Last Updated May 21, 2012