By Karl Henkel
The Utica and Marcellus shales are still relatively new to Ohio, but for one Mahoning Valley business, it’s been years in the making.
Evets Oil & Gas, a division of VEC Inc., is at the forefront when it comes to production and installation of one of the largest components of the natural-gas industry — compressor stations.
“We’ve been involved in this since the early 2000s,” said Dominic Spelich, client relations manager, who said the biggest influx of work started with the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania in 2008.
“Three years later, we know the gas industry in Pennsylvania like we never anticipated.”
Compressor stations — made of many parts, including concrete foundations, gas, water and electrical pipelines, and other equipment — are used to transport natural gas from producing well sites to major pipelines for distribution.
The equipment, when completed, takes up about 5 acres of land, or about 12 percent of the size of a standard 40-area well pad.
It’s a critical step to the shale development process, said Chris Jaskiewicz, senior vice president and COO of VEC.
“Drilling companies don’t start making money until they start producing gas,” he said.
Evets, on the other hand, makes its money on the front end of natural-gas production. It has performed more than $50 million in projects related to oil and gas plays in the past 18 months. VEC’s revenues have skyrocketed 25 percent during the past five years.
It’s led to an influx of jobs, too.
VEC has about 65 in-house employees — all local — plus an additional 200 field contractors.
It also just bought new building space along Belmont Avenue in Girard and is planning to build a new fabrication plant of about 15,000 to 20,000 square feet.
It hopes to break ground in mid-2012.
And once they start producing, Jaskiewicz said, it becomes a race to put together the gas compressors and connect them to major gas pipelines.
With the anticipated drilling boom throughout Northeast Ohio, that means more work and more jobs for Evets, and because of their head start on the process, it has also meant greater efficiency.
The compressor stations, which cost an average of $5 million and can take anywhere from two to six months to develop, are in such high demand throughout Evets’ footprint — in Pennsylvania and in North Dakota, home to the gas-rich Bakken Shale.
It is at the point now where Evets’ contractors are actually assembling as many compressor stations at off-site locations as possible.
“That’s one of the best developments in this industry,” Jaskiewicz said.
Evets will put that development to the test in January, where the company, along with other contractors, will be expected to complete a compressor station start-to-finish in just about month.
That speed is much like the speed of the Utica Shale play in Ohio, one of its defining characteristics.
“I think it will come faster than it did in those areas,” Jaskiewicz said. “For us, it’s not about ‘if,’ but ‘when’ and ‘how many.’”