By Burton Speakman
A study shows shale already has generated more than 38,000 jobs in Ohio.
Ohio has one of the highest growth rates from shale nationally based on the estimates in the study, which was released Wednesday, said Christopher Guith, vice president of the U.S. Chamber Energy Institute, which co-sponsored the study.
The estimates include a modifier of 3.5 to 4 indirect jobs created for every job that is tied directly to shale. The rate is one of the highest of any industry. The study was conducted by IHS, an energy-research firm.
“Pennsylvania got its growth a few years ago,” he said. “Ohio is supposed to surpass Pennsylvania by 2020.”
“The IHS study shows Ohio currently has a total of 38,380 jobs related to unconventional gas and oil activity, a number expected to increase to 143,595 in 2020 and to 266,624 by 2035,” said Christina Polesovsky, associate director of the Ohio Petroleum Council.
The job number reflects the impact of exploration taking place in the Utica Shale, she said.
“Because of the significant investments made in Ohio and encouraging well results, the IHS is forecasting a substantial increase in oil- and gas-development jobs,” Polesovsky said.
Those jobs at the well are just a portion of the overall economic impact of shale, Guith said. There also are a number of positions that support the supply chain of oil and gas.
Much of the growth in Ohio is attributable to the liquid gas, such as propane, that is being found in the Utica Shale, he said.
“Some of the wells have been disappointing with more dry gas found than expected, but most of the wells have produced more liquids than expected,” Guith said.
The wet gas being found in the Utica Shale is why companies are moving from northeastern Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus Shale contains almost all dry gas, to western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, where wet gas is being found, he said. The movement is because of the historically low prices for dry natural gas.
This study helps to verify the numbers put out in a study a year and a half ago that people said was “crazy” and overstated because of its connection to the oil and gas industry, said Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Education Program.
When the industry first started talking about the growth that was possible it was difficult for people to grasp, she said.
“Now we’re starting to see the employment numbers and the investment dollars,” Reda said. “There are people who want this to happen tomorrow, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow. It’s something that’s going to build over a series of years.”
Reda agreed with Guith that development has been faster than projected in part because of what is being found in test wells and core samples. The industry is finding three products — oil, wet gas and dry gas — that provide more value.
“We knew what was coming. That’s why we’ve been working with 45 different colleges, universities, community colleges, technical schools and career centers to ensure that we have a trained work force,” Reda said.
Ohio must continue developing the infrastructure and trained work force for the industry, she added.
“Shale energy is a game-changer for America and for Ohio,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the Energy Institute. “The latest installment of this study allows us to quantify just how significant the impact on Ohio’s economy will be. It provides all the more reason to strongly support responsible shale-energy development.”
One of the areas where shale helps is with government revenues. The study stated that Ohio oil- and gas-related businesses contributed nearly $1.5 billion to the state government. The figure is anticipated to increase to more than $6.7 billion in 2020 and nearly $12.7 billion in 2035.
This is money that can help the state and federal government offset cuts that are going to be made to necessary programs such as Medicare to balance the budget, Guith said.