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Forum highlights oil and gas boom

Published: Wed, March 13, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Company’s 61 hires, plans for more highlighted at forum in Boardman

By Jamison Cocklin



Exterran Energy Solutions, which first announced a 65,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on Salt Springs Road in Youngstown in 2012, already has hired 61 local employees, with plans to bring on about 20 more within the next month or so.

The Houston-based company, which provides services and equipment for oil and gas production, processing, treating, transportation and storage, chose Youngstown for its $13.2 million project because of an experienced manufacturing workforce and its geographic location, said Michael Grimland, the company’s director of manufacturing.

Exterran’s arrival in Youngstown, where it’s expected to generate more than $15 million in annual revenue, is a sign that the Utica and Marcellus shale plays are bound to stay competitive as domestic-energy production continues to ramp up across the country.

Industry officials and members of the state’s congressional delegation were eager to highlight why the oil and gas industry has been — and will continue to be — a boon for Ohio’s economy for decades to come at an economic-impact forum Monday at Mr. Anthony’s Banquet Center. The event was sponsored by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and other organizations.

“Imagine if the U.S. were to become the OPEC of natural-gas exports and if Ohio were to lead the way in allowing the U.S. to become the dominate player in this energy sector,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, referring to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, an intergovernmental partnership of some of the world’s leading oil producers and exporters, most of which are in the Middle East.

“I don’t think I need to tell you what that would mean. It could happen; I believe it will happen,” Johnson said, addressing a crowd of about 200. “When it does, it will change the paradigm of geopolitical power across the globe.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2013 energy outlook report, U.S. natural-gas production will increase from 23 trillion cubic feet in 2011 to 33 trillion cubic feet in 2040. In 2011 alone, 95 percent of the country’s natural-gas supply was produced domestically, helping to drive domestic prices to record lows.

Johnson, along with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-13th, spearheaded an effort in January that found a letter signed by about 410 legislators going to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, calling on him to approve permits to non-Free Trade Agreement countries to open up additional markets for liquefied natural gas.

“We all know it makes no sense to drill for a resource if there’s no market for it,” Johnson said. “That’s why it’s important to open up markets, foreign markets and world markets for the product we’re drilling for in the U.S.”

Johnson added that he would use his recent appointment to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to help fend off overarching regulatory efforts on hydraulic fracking from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Many pundits are anticipating tougher regulations when a long-delayed federal report about fracking’s affect on groundwater is released.

In the meantime, Ohio has permitted 548 wells to date, with 255 of those fully developed and 74 producing. Forum panelists were quick to tout the drop in unemployment and the rise in sales-tax collections in places such as Carroll, Columbiana and Harrison counties, where drilling operations are the most intense.

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