Developments in shale industry highlighted at local workshop

SHALE TALK — The region’s shale industry was the topic of a workshop held Monday at the JeffCo Event Center. — Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — Local business leaders were updated Monday on developments in the shale industry and how local manufacturers can benefit from the growth.

The morning-long workshop held at the JeffCo Event Center was sponsored by the Jefferson County Port Authority and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, with Encino Energy, Ohio Southeast Economic Development, Ohio Oil and Gas Association, Voto Sales, Tuscarawas Economic Development Corp., WV Industrial Extension and Magnet (the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network.)

Robert Naylor, port authority executive director, said the workshop was intended to “dispel misconceptions that the oil and gas boom has only resulted in making property owners wealthier without translating into true economic growth” in the region.”

“The second big objective was to help local manufacturers and vendors understand the energy supply chain and how to get immersed in it so they can create economic opportunity,” Naylor said. “In short, the (purpose) of the workshop was to stress or demonstrate how the business community — vendors and manufacturers — could enter the energy supply chain to create jobs, workforce development and overall economic game for our region.”

Shale POWER’s Katie Klaber said the goal is to show manufacturers “how the industry is very established and integrated into the business community, where the opportunities are to develop along with the industry.”

Shale POWER provides technical assistance and business support to small and medium manufacturers and enterprises looking to grow business, production and jobs in the shale gas and downstream manufacturing sectors in the Appalachian region.

“Opportunities that were here earlier have passed, but there are current and future opportunities we want to make sure local businesses are aware of,” she said. “It’s definitely evolving.”

Klaber said midstream opportunities have expanded with the opening of the Shell ethane cracker in nearby Monaca.

“Ethane’s now going to Shell’s plant, whereas before, it didn’t have a value locally, it just went into the natural gas stream or was sent north to Ontario or south to the Gulf,” she said. “Now we’re getting economic benefits from using that ethane instead of just getting rid of it.”

She said Ohio’s shale gas has been a game-changer, a local resource that’s become “part of something much bigger than the region.”

“When you look at our region here as being second most to Texas in terms of production of a resource that’s not only used here, but nationally and globally. Our molecules are finding their way to helping our allies abroad,” she said.

Klaber said the industry still has to overcome barriers to infrastructure development, “so right now we have more resources that people would like to get to market than they can because of pipeline constraints, but that’s not to say there’s not a lot of resources being developed right now — that’s going very well. It’s integrated into our electricity generation, it’s integrated into our winter heating costs — we’re getting gas locally instead of importing it from other places or countries. We’re producing our own.”

Matt Henderson, also with Shale POWER, said the industry is stepping up to the challenge, “helping solve some of the challenges — solving some of those greenhouse gas emissions, reduction in methane, providing more energy to export overseas.”

“I think from a global perspective, the industry has been stepping up, will continue to help provide and solve the energy need from energy transportation you’re hearing everybody talk about. Most oil and gas companies are energy companies — their footprint is not just oil or gas, they’re into renewables and they’re looking at some of the new technologies that are coming.”

Henderson said the presentation was geared to helping manufacturers figure out how to be problem solvers, “what new technology and innovation do they have to help solve the industry’s needs.”

“It’s an evolving industry, shale is 12, 15 years old maybe but there’s still a lot to be developed, to be figured out,” he said. “There are lots of opportunities for local companies — there’s an established supplier base in traditional oil and gas in the Gulf, but companies have a desire to work with local (businesses). That’s what Shell is working on, working with local manufactures and helping them understand where the needs are, then helping manufactures develop their value proposition to enter the supply chain.”

The Shale POWER initiative was launched three years ago to provide assistance to manufacturers and local businesses to make them marketable to the energy industry, he said.

Those could be things like quality certifications, increasing production, helping with outreach to promote themselves to industry. That’s what the Shale POWER program is for, we want local businesses to compete in those opportunities and be ready to compete.”

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