“America is built on energy.”
The first stop of our 2016 STEM Careers Tour was PennEnergy Resources located in Robinson Township, a northwest suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. PennEnergy Resources is an independent oil & gas company with a focus on acquiring and developing oil and gas shale resources into operating wells and reserves. They currently have operations in Armstrong, Beaver, and Butler counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. Founded in 2011, they employ 32 professionals with over 425 years of industrial experience!
Due to safety concerns we were not able to visit an actual Penn Energy drilling facility for our tour, but we were provided an overview of their operations and introduced to many of the people who make it possible.
The first step in the process of developing a gas well is finding the gas. We learned that geologists use various tools and tests to analyze and determine where gas is located, how much is present, and the best location for the well.
Once the optimal location is determined, engineers and geologists study the operations and environmental permitting requirements. After the planning process is complete and regulatory approval received, construction begins on the drilling pad and location infrastructure. This step could include new bridges and roads to enable the access of equipment and minimize the impact on the environment. Large triple-lined water pits are also constructed to hold the water used in the drilling process. Once the site is complete, PennEnergy contracts the drilling operation to specialists in the field. The target area for the drilling is ~ 1 mile deep into the earth and then they drill ~1 mile horizontal within only a 10 foot vertical zone to extract the gas.
It was evident that the safety of employees, communities near the drilling sites, and the environment are a key focus at PennEnergy Resources. PennEnergy’s Director of Health, Environmental and Safety shared with us some of the policies that they implement to ensure safe work sites with little impact to the environment from such as the water pits that are triple lined to ensure that they do not leak into the ground water. Engineers need to be good communicators as they go out into the community to address fears and concerns of communities.
It was very interesting talking to the people behind the process at PennEnergy Resource. They were extremely passionate about their jobs and the energy industry. Many have traveled throughout the country and seen the world working in the industry! They provided a lot of advice for the students:
Communication is key for success, both oral and written.
All education is a stepping stone.
You will ‘morph’ and evolve and your job will change as you gain experience in different areas.
Know your strengths and what you like.
Listen to the ‘old’ guys.
Although we weren’t able to visit an actual drilling site, our visit to PennEnergy Resources provided us with a great view of the company and their role in the oil and gas shale industry. The passion of the PennEnergy employees for their work and the energy was contagious.