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Pennsylvania Highlands Community College: Stepping stone to success

JOHNSTOWN, PA — Pennsylvania Highlands Community College is one of five post-secondary schools in Johnstown. The others include Cambria Rowe Business College, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Commonwealth Technical Institute and Pennsylvania Academy of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences Johnstown. These schools represent more than 5,000

Governor’s proposed budget discussed at CBICC event

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Members of the Centre County business community gathered on Tuesday, March 10, to hear the state Secretary of Policy and Planning John Hanger discuss how Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget will impact the region. Hanger made it clear that the governor wants

The changing role of community colleges in workforce development

As the nation’s economy began recovering from the Great Recession, more jobs became available. However, many employers found they couldn’t find enough qualified candidates to fill those positions. Each year, the Manpower Group, a human resources consultancy based in Milwaukee, WI, conducts a worldwide talent

Northeast Oil & Gas Awards, Industry Summit prepare for third conference

PITTSBURGH, PA – The 3rd Annual Northeast Oil & Gas Awards Industry Summit is making final preparations for its highly anticipated event to be held at the Westin Convention Center on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) President Louis D.

DEP’s oil and gas advisory committee to see sweeping changes

John Quigley, acting secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, is making a clean sweep of his agency’s oil and gas technical advisory board. He’s replacing all of the board members and creating a second board to advise the department about regulations impacting conventional

Pennsylvania Highlands Community College: Stepping stone to success

JOHNSTOWN, PA — Pennsylvania Highlands Community College is one of five post-secondary schools in Johnstown. The others include Cambria Rowe Business College, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Commonwealth Technical Institute and Pennsylvania Academy of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences Johnstown. These schools represent more than 5,000 full-time and part-time students.

Pennsylvania Highlands alone has 2,544 students spread throughout five locations in Johnstown, Altoona, Ebensburg, Huntingdon and Somerset.

The Richland Campus of Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Johnstown.

The Richland Campus of Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Johnstown. (Photo courtesy of PHCC)

The college was founded in 1994 as Cambria County Area Community College. To grow enrollment and expand educational outreach to surrounding counties that were underserved or not served by a community college, the college petitioned the state Department of Education in 2004 to change its name to Pennsylvania Highlands Community College to reflect its new regional approach.

To help supply health professionals for the Conemaugh Health System, Johnstown’s largest employer, and for other health settings, the college offers programs in radiology, pre-health professions, health professions, healthcare information specialist, paramedic and histotechnology. Histotechnology focuses on the structure of cells and their formation into tissues and organs. Other new career-technical programs include welding and culinary arts.

The college has also expanded its course offerings in liberal arts to provide students with options for starting bachelor degrees at Penn Highlands. The college has also increased its non-credit, continuing education programs to meet the workforce development needs of the region.

These geographic and academic expansions have helped Penn Highlands increase enrollment from 2,204 in Fall Semester 2008 to 2,544 in Fall Semester 2014. However, enrollment has begun to slow as a result of the uptick in available jobs and the decline in the Johnstown region’s population.

Community colleges help provide the training needed today for a higher skilled workforce by educating a growing student body, predominately made up of economically-challenged students and those eager to enter or re-enter the workforce.

“More than ever, elected officials and the general public are recognizing the important role community colleges play in preparing people for a highly competitive global economy,” said Edward C. “Ted” Nichols, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs and student services at Penn Highlands.

“This is the case not only because community colleges help lower the cost of advanced education and training, but also because community colleges offer students the opportunity to obtain a mix of general education and technical knowledge and skills.

“Employers value this mix because it enables new employees to ramp up quickly and demonstrate the problem solving, communication, and team-oriented skills they’re looking for, and community college education prepares students to fill the critical need for high skill manufacturing, healthcare, and technical jobs so essential to rebuilding the middle class and to America’s success in the world market.”

In the fall semester of 2014, 74 percent of the college’s matriculated students were between the ages of 18 and 26. A third were between the ages of 22 and 39. Students over the age of 40 represent about eight percent of the school’s most recent fall student population. Approximately 56 percent of students are female.

The college works hard to ensure that college programs stay current and relevant to the region’s workforce needs through a variety of means: closely monitoring regional, state, and national labor trends and high priority occupations; meeting regularly with advisory committees comprised of community leaders representing various economic sectors; reaching out to area employers and engaging in training needs assessments; and providing workforce development training to regional employers.

“As a leader in workforce development, Pennsylvania Highlands’ faculty and staff are particularly attuned to employer needs regionally and nationally,” Nichols said.

“We also offer a number of short-term certificate and diploma programs designed to prepare people for immediate employment including child development, early childhood management and leadership, pharmacy technician certificate programs and medical coding specialist diploma programs,” Nicholas continued. “Students completing these programs often gain employment or are promoted by their current employer almost immediately.”

Governor’s proposed budget discussed at CBICC event

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Members of the Centre County business community gathered on Tuesday, March 10, to hear the state Secretary of Policy and Planning John Hanger discuss how Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget will impact the region.
Hanger made it clear that the governor wants to make a change in the direction from where the previous administration was heading.

CBICC President Vern Squier (left) fields questions from the audience to state Secretary of Policy and Planning John Hanger (right) during the question and answer portion of the event.

CBICC President Vern Squier (left) fields questions from the audience to state Secretary of Policy and Planning John Hanger (right) during the question and answer portion of the event. (Photo by Emily Miller)

“The governor has proposed on all accounts of it, including those who are critical of it, a bold plan,” Hanger said. “The first question is, why now for a bold budget? I think the answer to that question is because the governor believes that Pennsylvania has underperformed as a state for 30 to 40 years, a good long period of time. We could be doing so much better.”
With the budget plan, Hanger said the governor has several goals.
Hanger first discussed the plan to cut the corporate net income tax rate from 9.99 percent to 5.99 percent to make Pennsylvania a more competitive state.
“It is almost like a scarlet letter on the state in terms of its attractiveness to other businesses . . . when businesses hear that Pennsylvania has a CNI rate of 9.99 percent, that pretty much ends the conversation,” Hanger said. “It is a ball and chain around the state when attracting business investment.”
The governor also believes that property tax has been another “ball and chain” around the state in terms of both communities and school districts.
In Centre County, the property tax relief would impact schools significantly. Bald Eagle Area would see the most property tax relief of with over 90 percent. Other school districts including Bellefonte Are School District (43 percent), Penns Valley (46 percent) and State College (16 percent), would also benefit from property tax relief.
“The governor feels strongly about this, because it’s been in his experience in business and as a community leader that in so many school districts and so many parts of Pennsylvania, the property tax rate has made whole areas of the state uncompetitive for investment,” Hanger said. “Millage rates are so high that they are driving out investment or keeping investment from coming in. What this plan would do for Pennsylvania as a whole, and for many of those communities, would be turn them from a ‘no-go’ place for investment to ‘we’re open for business.”
Hanger explained that the change would benefit homeowners as well.
“It would undoubtedly increase property values across the state, just about for every Pennsylvanian,” Hanger said. “For many people, their single most important wealth is their home. This plan will in fact increase the wealth of Pennsylvanians because it will increase home values. It is a very important part in this plan.”
According to Hanger, education is a key part of the governor’s plan, and the governor is in “unapologetic support” of education of all levels. In Happy Valley, this means that Penn State University would have $49.6 million restored.
“It will obviously be very helpful and important to Centre County, the institution, and all of the families and businesses that benefit from Penn State,” Hanger said.
Finally, the governor’s budget calls for a tax on Shale gas that is similar to the tax that is in place in West Virginia. Most of the revenues will be dedicated to education.
“The impact fee that is on the books now will be maintained and continued, including the uses of the money in the impact fee,” Hanger said. “Our intention is not to change the impact fee.”
The breakfast event was held at Toftrees Hotel and Conference Center and was organized by the Chamber of Business and Industry in Centre County.

The changing role of community colleges in workforce development

As the nation’s economy began recovering from the Great Recession, more jobs became available. However, many employers found they couldn’t find enough qualified candidates to fill those positions. Each year, the Manpower Group, a human resources consultancy based in Milwaukee, WI, conducts a worldwide talent shortage survey. Last year, of of the 38,000 employers polled, 35 percent worldwide reported difficulty filling jobs because applicants lacked the required skills. In the United States, it was 39 percent.

Policymakers have come to understand that post-secondary education is a necessity to meet the demand for a more skilled and educated U.S. workforce. However, at the current rate at which four-year colleges and universities are awarding degrees, by 2020, qualified job candidates will fall short by nearly five million, according to the Georgetown Center on education and workforce.

To help fill the skills gap, businesses are turning to associate degree and certificate-granting community colleges. In recognition of the importance of community colleges in workforce development, President Obama recently called for a new partnership with states to ensure that the first two years of community college are free for responsible students, whether they intend to apply their associate’s degree credits towards a bachelor’s degree or go directly into the workforce after graduation.

The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges in Harrisburg is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to help Pennsylvania’s community colleges increase the workforce readiness skills and educational attainment level of Pennsylvanians to create a more productive workforce and vibrant economy.

Community colleges in the PBC readership area include Community College of Beaver County,  Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and Westmoreland County Community College.

“I think the increased attention on community colleges is due to the realization that America’s workforce is changing, and that for some students, the pathway to a family-sustaining job is not always a four-year degree, but rather a series of credentials from high school to an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree,” said Elizabeth Bolden, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

“Community colleges are also more important today because we know that many jobs that will exist 10 years from now don’t exist today, so what the business community is looking for are higher education institutions that are quick to adapt in providing training in new and emerging industries.

“We find that because of their community nature of providing job candidates for local and regional businesses, community colleges are closest to those industry changes and therefore most able to quickly adapt.”

Unlike four-year colleges and universities that offer degrees in academic-oriented fields such as paleontology, anthropology and art history that are likely to lead to careers outside the state or outside the country, community colleges are continually evaluating the relevance of their programs to the local and regional economy and adjusting their programs to make sure they’re aligned with student demand and workforce needs.

“Many community colleges regularly consult with business and industry advisory councils, which are comprised of employers from various business segments and industries,” Bolden said.

“Ultimately, the decision about program offerings rests with the individual college’s board of trustees, but they are continually looking to make sure those programs are evolving to meet the needs of the local community and the state as a whole.”

Students who complete an associate’s degree or certificate at a community college are much more likely to earn more money than students who have taken a few or no college courses and don’t have a credential.

Post-secondary certificates offered at community colleges in certain fields such as welding, commercial driver license and mechatronics are the fastest-growing credential in the U.S. today, outpacing associate’s and master’s degrees, because they’re focused on good paying, high-demand occupations. Certificate holders, on average, earn 20 percent more in income over their lifetime, as much as $200,000, than those who only hold a high school diploma.

Community colleges also educate a large number of essential workers. Nearly 60 percent of new nurses and other health-care workers and about 80 percent of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians are credentialed at community colleges.

Although millions of students enroll in community colleges each year, the percentage of students who earn a credential or transfer to a four-year college is less than 50 percent. The success rate for low-income, black, Hispanic and Native American students after six years of enrollment, is even lower, at less than 30 percent.

“Our community college students are often juggling jobs or family obligations and school at the same time, so some students leave school for a while, but return later,” Bolden said.

“In Pennsylvania, one in five community college students complete some type of credential within six years of their initial enrollment, and that’s a rate that the students are satisfied with since they have a longer term viewpoint, because they are juggling so many responsibilities.

“We also have students who transfer, and they transfer prior or after their associate’s degree.”

Last year, 30,000 students from community colleges transferred to four-year colleges.

A major obstacle for workforce development in Pennsylvania had been the “brain drain” of young professionals who graduated from colleges and universities in the commonwealth, but sought jobs outside the state. The Shale gas industry has helped plug the drain, particularly in western Pennsylvania, with college graduates landing such jobs as petroleum engineers, environmental technicians, data analysts, IT professionals, attorneys and accountants. However, those graduates rarely work in the communities where they went to school.

Several community colleges in Pennsylvania have reported over 95 percent of their graduates staying in the local community after graduation.

“Part of community colleges’ core mission is to forge strong partnerships within their community and to create an environment in which the community and its residents can thrive,” Bolden said.

“Students are an integral part of those partnerships, because they establish their own relationships in a variety of ways with internships, job shadowing experience, and community service, which help form a strong bond that makes them want to stay and work in the community after they receive their credentials.”

Northeast Oil & Gas Awards, Industry Summit prepare for third conference

oilgas award can

The new Oil & Gas Awards trophies are a one-third scale barrel in highly polished aluminum. (photo provided) 

PITTSBURGH, PA – The 3rd Annual Northeast Oil & Gas Awards Industry Summit is making final preparations for its highly anticipated event to be held at the Westin Convention Center on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) President Louis D. D’Amico is this year’s guest of honor.

The event recognizes the outstanding achievements within the upstream and midstream sectors of the North American oil and gas industry. The awards are a platform for the industry to demonstrate and celebrate the advances made in the key areas of environment, efficiency, innovation, corporate social responsibility and health and safety.

Hundreds of companies submitted nominations for this year’s annual awards. Finalists were announced and notified in January, including publication in media partner Marcellus Business Central’s January edition.

Winners will receive new trophies – a one-third scale oil barrel in highly polished aluminum. Kerr Pumps & FlowValve designed and manufactured the trophies, which will be handed out to winners this year.

This year there are 25 categories:

  • Award for Drilling Excellence
  • Award for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Award for Geophysical Excellence
  • Award for Excellence in Health & Safety
  • Award for Excellence in Well Completion
  • Breitling Energy Future Industry Leader
  • Construction Company of the Year
  • Corporate Consultancy of the Year
  • E&P Company of the Year
  • Engineering Company of the Year
  • General Industry Service Award
  • Industry Leader
  • Industry Supplier of the Year
  • Law Firm of the Year
  • Manufacturer of the Year
  • Midstream Company of the Year
  • New Technology Development of the Year
  • Oilfield Services Company of the Year
  • Operational Consultancy of the Year
  • Recruitment Agency of the Year
  • Risk Management Company of the Year
  • The Oil & Gas Financial Journal Transaction of the Year
  • Trucking Company of the Year
  • VZ Environmental Award for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship
  • Water Management Company of the Year


The Northeast Industry Summit will be held during the day, immediately before the awards gala dinner. The summit will provide an extended platform to deliver strategic and operational business insights that have clear commercial benefits, as well as an extended network opportunity. The summit builds on the significant success of the Oil & Gas Awards, a unique series that has become a must-attend industry event.

Keynotes and panel discussions include Health & Safety, Corporate Social Responsibility, Environmental Stewardship, Lawmaking Through Litigation and Innovation and Infrastructure Delays. The Industry Summit will ensure that attendees are kept abreast of what the leading companies in the Northeast are doing.

Click here to see a full list of award finalists.

DEP’s oil and gas advisory committee to see sweeping changes

John Quigley, acting secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, is making a clean sweep of his agency’s oil and gas technical advisory board. He’s replacing all of the board members and creating a second board to advise the department about regulations impacting conventional drilling.

DEP Sweeping Changes - Quigley


Quigley, who was nominated by Governor Wolf to lead DEP, was secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources from 2009 to 2011.

The new board, which is called the conventional oil and gas advisory committee, will consist of seven members: three appointed by the DEP secretary, one appointed by the DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council, and three members from conventional oil and gas operators.

The DEP is seeking nominations for the oil and gas technical advisory board, which includes engineers and geologists who represent the drilling industry, the coal mining industry and the general public. The five outgoing members of the board had served in their positions between seven and 26 years.

These changes came less than three weeks before the technical advisory board was scheduled to review the latest draft of wide-ranging changes to the state’s oil and gas regulations on March 5. The meeting was rescheduled for March 20. The draft of the final rules are informed by the DEP’s responses to thousands of comments submitted by the public on the new rules.

Quigley said the changes to the committees will help the technical advisory board give greater attention to shale gas drilling, which didn’t exist when the board was created in 1984. It will also strengthen participation and transparency in the state’s environmental regulatory process.

“We want to make sure that our stakeholders, which includes the regulated community, affected municipalities and environmental interests, are represented in a focused way for both conventional and unconventional development,” Quigley said.

The revisions to the state’s rules for oil and gas surface operations began long before the recent change in PA DEP’s leadership. On Dec. 14, 2013, Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board proposed new regulations for surface activities related to oil and gas well development. Once finalized, these proposed regulations will set new requirements for oil and gas operations to ensure increased protection of public health, safety and the environment.

The proposals modify and update existing requirements to surface activities related to the development of oil and gas wells, including containment of regulated substances, waste disposal, site restoration, and reporting releases. In addition, the regulations establish new provisions for borrow pits, oil and gas gathering pipelines, identification of abandoned wells, and the road-spreading of brine.

These proposals also add new provisions for unconventional gas wells to help identify impacts to public resources, standards for freshwater and wastewater impoundments, well site containment systems, wastewater processing, and water management plans.

The new regulations will address some areas where the DEP was found to be lacking. In January 2013, Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced he would be conducting an investigation into the effectiveness of state regulators in overseeing the impacts from shale gas drilling. His year-and-a-half long investigation showed the state’s environmental regulators were remiss in at least eight major areas, including failing to cite drillers who broke the law.

DePasquale detailed the agency’s shortcomings in a 158-page report, which included the DEP’s use of a legal “loophole” to avoid inspecting wells. The report also described the agency’s failure to fulfill its duty to track the industry’s toxic waste and faulted the agency for a reliance on voluntary measures in policing the industry.


Tri-State Alternative Fuels Expo & Conference showcases company success stories

MONROEVILLE — The 2015 Tri-State Alternative Fuels Expo & Conference was held at the Monroeville Convention Center Feb. 24-26.

Alternative Fueling Expo 2

Exhibitors at the Tri-State Alternative Fuels Expo and Conference are pictured in the Monroeville Convention Center Feb. 24-26. (photo by Paul Wells)

The event is an annual trade show, hosted by a team of industry advocates and professionals with a common goal of reducing foreign oil use.

The conference showcased exhibitors from not only the natural gas and propane industries but also all types of alternative fuels and energy companies. Educational seminars spanned the different types of alternative fuels and energy utilization, as well as live demonstrations and displays of alternative energy technology.
The 2015 Expo & Conference was themed “Success Stories” and featured large scale fleet operation examples of alternative fuel success.

Founder and managing partner of “O” Ring CNG Fuel Systems, L.P., Robert H. Beatty, Jr., said there were more than 100 exhibitors at the event.

Beatty is chairman of the Alternative Fueling Expo & Conference advisory board and was also a keynote speaker at this year’s conference. He spoke about the development of compressed natural gas (CNG) infrastructure, and how companies can gain a foothold in Pennsylvania.

Beatty’s company, “O” Ring CNG Fuel Systems, L.P., was also one of the event’s many exhibitors.

This year’s event featured a similar agenda as the previous year’s show, but featured more variety and changes in vendors.

Business owners, government officials and citizens attended and learn how using cleaner, local fuel sources can save consumers money at the gas pump. Attendees also heard first-hand from two companies as to how they implemented alternative fuels into their fleet operations and the significant financial impacts that have resulted.

Featured agenda items included a petroleum reduction technology followed by a “Building and Expanding the CNG Refueling Infrastructure in the Tri-State Area”; a presentation about the Marine Inland Waterway & Virtual Pipeline presented by David Kailbourne and a seminar about CNG truck choices, challenges and opportunities.The following day, events included a Department of Energy “A-Fleet” Program followed by “A CNG Success Story for Waste Management.”

Additional speakers also delivered keynote addresses during the event.

Layoffs hit field services companies as drillers cut production

A study released last month by the outplacement firm of Challenger, Gray and Christmas showed the oil & gas industry lost 21,000 jobs in January. Field services companies, which support oil and gas field operations on a contractual basis, were hit particularly hard since demand for their services is solely based on oil and gas prices. The layoffs were the result of a precipitous drop in oil prices, which have fallen by over 60 percent because of a global glut in oil supplies.



Halliburton, a major oil services company, plans to cut 6,400 jobs, most of which will be in Canada. The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors forecast an average of 167 fewer active drilling rigs in Canada this year, resulting in 23,000 fewer direct and indirect jobs than last year.

Schlumberger, another major oil services company, announced it would lay off 9,000 workers. Baker Hughes said it planned to lay off 7,000 workers, and Weatherford International plans to cut 8,000 jobs this year.

“The impact will be felt across all areas of Halliburton’s operations, and we continue to make adjustments to our workforce based on current business conditions,” said Halliburton Spokesman Chevalier Mayes in Houston, Texas. “We value every employee we have, but unfortunately we’re faced with the difficult reality that reductions are necessary to work through this challenging market environment.”

Other major field services companies could also face layoffs, including China Oilfield Services, Nabors Industries, National Oilwell Varco, Saipem, and Transocean, a leading offshore drilling service company, which announced the shutdown or sale of 10 of its oil rigs last month.



Some major field services are oil and gas exploration, preparing wells for production, and maintaining and increasing the output of producing wells. Other services include: well surveying; cleaning out, bailing, and swabbing of wells; and operation of workover rigs, which are used to increase production.

The profitability of field services companies depends on technical expertise and efficiency of their operations. Some larger field service companies also manufacture oil and gas field equipment.

Smaller local and regional companies such as heavy equipment operators, electrical contractors and waste management firms also provide support for oil and gas operators. While large companies can offer a broad range of services, smaller firms can compete by specializing in a particular services or geographic areas.

Newalta Environmental Services is a field services firm company with two locations in – one in Montgomery, Lycoming County, which services operators in the Northern Tier, and one in Washington, Washington County, which services operators in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia.

Newalta workers maintain and repair the company’s field services equipment at yards in Montgomery and Washington and transport the equipment to the drill pads after the rig has been set up. Later, they manage the waste fluids used in drilling and the drill cuttings coming from the well.

“Our business in Pennsylvania has experienced some softening, but we’re already seeing additional activity picking up both in the dry and wet gas regions,” said Quay Schappell, northeast district manager at Newalta.

“Most of that is enhancing takeaway capacity – gathering lines and storage tanks – in preparation for transporting gas to the major transmission lines being built in the state.

“Our expectation is that over the next two to three years, as these transmission pipelines are connected to existing lines going to major markets, a lot of our customers’ wells that are now capped will be producing, and our Marcellus shale work will pick up again.

“Right now, most of our work is in wet gas play in eastern Ohio,” Schappell said.

Newalta also has oilfield operations in North Dakota, Texas and throughout Western Canada.

“A significant amount of the work we do in those oil plays is post-drilling. We recover the different waste streams from those oil plays, primarily sediment that accumulates at the bottom of storage tanks,” said Schappell. “We recover oil from what they consider waste, and we send the solids to a landfill and sell the oil we recover.

“The company has experienced a drop in our oilfield services work due to the low oil prices. It’s not detrimental at this point, but it’s lean and could worsen if the oil prices remain low.”

Oil prices have risen slightly in March due to a changeover to spring-mix gasoline, which costs more to produce than winter-mix.

K.C. Larson of Williamsport supports the gas companies at their home bases. The company was hired to do mechanical and electrical construction work for the buildings that gas companies bought or built when they first came to Pennsylvania. Now Larson is maintaining multiple systems in those buildings and adding improvements as needed.

The major trend Larson is seeing in the shale gas industry is operators learning to do more with less.

“They’re continuously focused on increasing efficiency, which means that field services companies have had to up their game to keep pace with the industry’s demand for greater efficiency,” said Keevin Larson, president of K.C. Larson.

The low price of natural gas is driving this trend.

“When you’re operating costs are fixed and the price you’re paid for natural gas drops or remains low, you’ve got to squeeze every bit of production from each well in order to remain profitable, otherwise, you’d have to cap the well,” Larson said.

“The oil and gas industry progresses step by step, but not always in sequence, sometimes one step gets ahead of the other and you end up what we have now, a glut of oil and Marcellus gas stored in tanks and gathering lines because there’s no way to get all of it to market until the Pennsylvania transmission pipeline system is completed.

“The U.S. is set up to import oil and liquid natural gas, not export them, but all that is about to change as the U.S. transitions from a major importer of energy to a major exporter.

“Things have progressed so quickly with the shale plays and fracking has become so efficient that the industry is now taking a breath and trying to catch up with itself, and unfortunately, there will be layoffs during this transition.”

The story behind Hickory Bend

Pennant Midstream has built a 55-mile wet gas gathering pipeline system in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania to transport the wet gas to the company’s Hickory Bend cryogenic natural gas processing plant in Springfield Township, Mahoning County.

A map of the Hickory Bend Gathering System. (photo provided)

The project, which began operation in August 2014, came at a $375 million price tag. The plant is capable of processing up to 200 MMcf/d (million cubic feet per day) of natural gas liquids. Hickory Bend has 15 employees, most of whom who were hired locally when the plant opened.

Gathering lines are small-diameter pipelines that move natural gas from the wellhead to the processing plant or to an interconnection with a larger gas transmission pipeline. The gathering pipeline is connected to a producing well, converging with pipes from other wells where the natural gas stream may go through an extraction process to remove water and other impurities. Natural gas that is being transported from the production field is referred to as “wet” natural gas if it still contains significant amounts of hydrocarbon liquids and contaminants or “dry” natural gas if gas is “pipeline quality.”

At this stage, the wet gas is a mixture of methane and other hydrocarbons plus some non-hydrocarbons co-existing in a gaseous state or in a solution with wet gas or crude oil. The chief hydrocarbons usually found in the natural gas mixture are methane, ethane, propane, butane and pentane. Typical non-hydrocarbon gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen. At the cryogenic processing plant, hydrocarbons are separated from non-hydrocarbons using low temperature distillation.

For economic reasons, most cryogenic plants do not currently include fractionation, which is the breakdown of wet gas into its individual hydrocarbon components. Instead, the NGL stream is transported as a mixture to a fractionation plant often located near refineries or chemical plants that use the components for feedstock.

Columbia Midstream Group (CPG), a Columbia Gas affiliate, and Hilcorp Energy Company’s midstream affiliate, Harvest Pipeline, jointly own Pennant Midstream. CPG operates the Hickory Bend plant, while Hilcorp provides a large portion of the gas for processing. The wells feeding the plant are located in Lawrence and Mercer counties and the NGL pipeline goes to a plant in Kensington, Ohio to fractionate the gas and send the separated liquids to markets.

Hilcorp, founded in 1989, is one of the largest privately-held independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the nation.  Hilcorp has over 1,100 employees at operations across the United States including the gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana, Northeast U.S. and Alaska’s Cook Inlet. Hilcorp has continued to grow by actively acquiring and exploiting conventional assets while expanding its footprint into a number of new shale resource plays.

Columbia Midstream Group (formerly NiSource Midstream) was established in August 2010 to partner with producers in the Appalachian Basin and bring their supplies to market. Columbia Gas traces its roots to the mid-1800s when it began operating pipeline infrastructure throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

“We at Columbia Midstream are very happy with the success of the Hickory Bend Processing Plant, because it’s an excellent example of our company building the necessary infrastructure to support the phenomenal growth of the industry as a result of the Marcellus and Utica shale play development,” said Mike Huwar, Columbia Midstream’s vice president of marketing.

“We are also proud to be a part of the Springfield Township community. We see strong growth opportunities in the future to further develop gathering and processing of natural gas, which will further enhance the local economy in Mahoning County and beyond,” Huwar said.

Top 100 Organizations show region’s eonomic strength

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As part of the editorial staff, it would seem that choosing the Top 100 Organizations every year would get easier.

But the truth of the matter is this: every year, The Pennsylvania Business Central receives more and more nominations from its 23-county readership area.

Which means the process of the collecting nominations and obtaining final Top 100 gets more and more difficult.

“Our readers provided an unprecedented number of nominations for our annual Top 100 Organizations,” said Publisher David Wells. “The companies that were chosen represent a diverse group, and we are proud to have them on this year’s list. This year’s nominations were the largest ever received, which made the final selection even more difficult.”

Click here to view the full list of organizations.

Healthcare drives economic development in the state

During the past 40 years, the national economy has undergone a transition from high-wage manufacturing jobs to lower-wage service sector jobs. But the healthcare industry offers a number of service jobs that pay above-average wages, and some well above average.

In most regions, hospitals are the largest employer, based on total headcount including physician group affiliates and outpatient clinics. Hospitals provide jobs not only for highly credentialed physicians, but also for less educated workers looking for opportunities to move up the economic ladder. Forty years ago, this was not the case.

Today, the healthcare industry in Pennsylvania employs nearly a million people, making it the number one employer in the commonwealth, helping to balance many of the lost Rust Belt jobs.

“It’s due to a number of factors, but we cannot downplay the baby boomers and the fact that we have an aging population, which has had a significant impact on the expansion of the healthcare industry in the state,” said Sara Goulet, press secretary at the state Dept. of Labor and Industry.

“While an aging population is found throughout the country, the trend has a greater impact here because we have the third largest 65 and over population in the nation.”

New technology, new medical devices, new treatments and new healthcare models have also spurred the growth of the state’s healthcare industry.

“The healthcare industry is much broader than hospitals, doctors, nurses and medical technicians,” Goulet said.


“Our department also includes some occupations outside of the usual players in the healthcare occupational cluster such as home healthcare equipment rental, optical goods stores, ophthalmic goods merchant wholesalers, and druggists.

“A growing number of drug store chains now offer flu shots and have physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners on site who treat minor illnesses. Even Walmart has walk-in clinics, so the trend we see is healthcare spreading out to more players in the state, and that, too, is part of the expansion of the healthcare industry in Pennsylvania,” Goulet added.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show healthcare occupations will experience the largest planned growth of any occupation, expanding by 29 percent from 2010 to 2020. The health care industry recently added an average of 28,000 jobs per month, and healthcare is more recession-proof than many others industries.

Healthcare-related research and development also creates jobs and companies in biotechnology, medical devices and many other areas. U.S. research institutions such as MIT, Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Pitt and Penn State spend nearly $2,000,000,000 each year on medical, science and engineering R&D.

“The commonwealth is home to several world-class academic research institutions, a talented workforce and a full-spectrum of companies that offer a robust supply chain,” said Heidi Havens, spokesperson for the state Dept. of Community and  Economic Development.

“From pharmaceuticals to medical devices, to the ever-growing population of contract research and contract manufacturing organizations, Pennsylvania is a leader in the life sciences industry sector, employing over 79,000 individuals, who earn over $7.2 billion in wages.”

State funding is also helping Pennsylvania lead in cutting edge healthcare.

“The Geisinger Genomic Medicine Center, a facility that is part of the Geisinger family and is located in Luzerne County, received a $100,000 investment from the Discovered in PA – Developed in PA (D2PA), a state-sponsored economic development program,” Havens said. “This investment will help the facility to build the infrastructure for telemedicine initiatives.”

The Genomic Medicine Center will be home to a world-class, state-of-the-art “Tele-Genomics” facility in the Wilkes-Barre area. Patients will be able to have genomic sequencing completed, interpreted and applied to their healthcare by a team of physician geneticists, genetic counselors, and other medical specialists.

Geisinger will also act as a resource to other institutions, providers, and patients who seek a second opinion, and will invite individuals, healthcare providers, and genomic scientists to participate in efforts to bring diagnostic insight to patient care.