By Burton Speakman
It was a day filled with talk about the shale industry and the opportunities it will provide in the Mahoning Valley in terms of jobs and growing the local economy.
The Covelli Centre on Front Street was teeming with activity for the Youngstown, Ohio, Utica and Natural Gas Conference and Expo organized by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
“This was truly a year of progress and opportunity,” said Joel Mastervich, president and chief operating officer at V&M Star, talking about what has occurred locally since last year’s conference.
There are a lot of possibilities for the smaller-diameter steel tubing that will be made at the Youngstown facility, he said.
Changes in oil and gas associated with fracking have increased the demand for smaller-diameter piping, Mastervich said. In the fracking process, about 65 percent of the piping used will be the smaller-diameter product.
Fracking is the process in which sand, water and chemicals are pumped into shale at high pressure to release the gas trapped within the rock thousands of feet underground.
“We feel there is a great opportunity in the Marcellus and the Utica Shale. The opportunity is today, not five or 10 years from now. People are coming here today,” Mastervich said. “The Utica is already the fifth-largest shale development in the U.S.”
To capitalize on the shale, it is necessary for solid midstream development, said Dave Mustine, managing director of energy, chemicals and polymers for JobsOhio. Midstream development is the portion of the oil and gas business after the raw product is removed from the ground and processed.
“Midstream development is a big focus of Gov. [John] Kasich and JobsOhio. If we don’t do it right, they’ll be no rigs, and wells won’t get drilled,” he added.
JobsOhio is the new nonprofit entity that is taking over most economic-development efforts for the state.
Pittsburgh-based Consol Energy recently opened an office in Leetonia in Columbiana County. The goal was to be close to the company’s planned operations in the Utica Shale, said Harry W. Schurr, general manager for Utica operations and Hess JV for Consol.
“We have the opportunity of a lifetime, and how we seize that opportunity will speak to generations to come,” he said.
Consol has two rigs in Ohio, which represents a $240 million investment, Schurr said.
People need to support projects such as Shell’s ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, Pa., which will produce chemicals such as polyethylene, used in plastic bags, and ethylene glycol, used in antifreeze. The plant will mean jobs and economic development on both sides of the Ohio-Pa. line, Schurr added.
Exterran has broken ground on its Youngstown facility on Salt Springs Road. The plant will employ 75 people after opening early in 2013, and plans are to add 25 in a few months, said Sean Clawges, director of global manufacturing expansion for Exterran. The site will be a production facility where the company will make products for midstream operations.
“We’ve designed it with plans to double the size of the manufacturing facility,” he said.
Overall, the event was a success heading into the third day today, said Eric Planey, vice president of international business attraction for the chamber. There were a total of 1,500 who registered for the event and 115 vendors.
“The feedback about the conference thus far has been exceptional,” he said.
There were a lot of businesses that were able to get together and talk about possible partnerships, Planey added.
This event is a great opportunity for businesses in this area to get involved with companies in the oil and gas business, said Penny Seipel, vice president of community affairs for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.
The event continues at the Holiday Inn in Boardman. Today’s schedule will include talks about midstream operations and water use.