By Jamison Cocklin
As the oil and gas industry continues to develop a local workforce, there’s a sharper focus on training more Ohioans for land management.
Considered an integral part of developing the country’s fossil-fuel resources, the process of tapping the country’s shale-gas reserves begins with landmen who acquire the land that every exploration and production company needs to stay in business and produce the resource.
Perhaps not as glamorous as a career in geology or petroleum engineering, landmen still require much general knowledge about the industry. They conduct title research, secure and negotiate contracts, deal with locals and mine courthouses across the country for important documents.
“It can be a real challenge, especially in underdeveloped areas without a lot of oil and gas development to find experienced professionals,” said Martin Schardt, executive vice president of the American Association of Professional Landmen, which has a regional chapter in Appalachia and works regularly on issues in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. “When the [Utica Shale] got underway, companies would have professionals come in from the Southwest oil-producing states like Louisiana, New Mexico or Texas and then take local folks and develop them to do the work.”
Since 2009, when leasing began ahead of the shale boom in Ohio, that trend has progressed here.
“There are landmen in Ohio — there always has been — but there’s just not enough of them,” Schardt said. “What you’re seeing now is a lot of those guys from Texas or wherever are heading back home because they’ve developed talent in places like Ohio, or they’re just flat out moving here.”
A survey conducted among 3,139 of the AAPL’s 12,500 members last year showed that the median compensation for a landman working in the oil and gas industry was about $90,000 per year, but that number can go far higher depending on where the work is being performed and what kind of experience and education an individual has.
The same survey showed that the amount of landmen living and working in Ohio between 2007 and 2010 increased by 19 percent.
Kristopher Carroll, chief executive of Canton-based KK&C Endeavors, a land-services company, recently told The Vindicator at an energy jobs fair in Boardman that he arrived in the state from Wyoming in 2007.
In May, he partnered with the land-acquisition company Sulmona Energy, based in Youngstown, and Retrain America to offer landmen training certification at YSU Metro College. Those courses were offered last year, too, said the metro college’s program planner, Michael Glonek, who works with businesses and several industries to meet their workforce training needs.
Though the metro college provided a venue only for the shale exploration certification courses, Glonek said the class was heavily attended last year, with about 25 participants paying to take the course. Glonek estimated that about 10 people participated this year.
He added that Youngs-town’s interest in the oil and gas industry has been minimal in recent years, but it’s beginning to grow as the shale-gas boom continues to take off. More grants and private-public partnerships are being offered across the region to grow the industry’s workforce here.
“Leasing in Ohio has crested and fallen off, but there will always be demand for these types of professionals,” said Thomas Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, which works closely with the AAPL on public policy and other land-management issues. “Now, there are title issues, right of ways for pipelines and a lot of other stuff that comes with development. The big lease play is not over here; it’s just not as feverish as it was a year or two ago.”
This is why Schardt said the AAPL recently has accredited two universities in the region to offer landmen education. Penn State University and Western Virginia University will begin offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in energy and land management next year, he said.
Landmen need a firm grip on communications skills for negotiations, the regulatory process and even geoscience among other things.
The AAPL’s goal is to have more locals working in land management in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania in the next three to five years, after certain degree programs get underway.