The Depth and Breadth of the Talent in the Natural Gas Industry
Oil and natural gas quality assurance specialist Don Crusan gives his thoughts about the many people of the natural gas industry who make the Marcellus Shale region a great place to live and work, focusing on the wide array of opportunities and jobs to be found in the industry.
I have been chasing the money and projects in energy sectors over the years, from coal through nuclear and settling on natural gas and oil for the last 35 years as a Quality Assurance Specialist. I specialize in tubulars, static equipment, and rotating equipment.
If you are like a lot of people, you ask me what kind of insurance I sell. Well, the best way to describe what I do is thus; I do my best to assure the product you ordered from a manufacturer or vendor is manufactured to the stringent specifications you or your design engineers have required; specifications such as those promulgated by API, ASME standards, and/or the parameters of a purchase order.
This brings me to the staff behind the scenes that make this business happen and this industry hum. They are often overlooked by the media and the greater populace. You see, the industry is more than just a corporation. It’s comprised of hundreds of thousands of hardworking men and women and far more positions than the stereotypical laborers or truck drivers the public often identifies with oil and gas.
Jobs in the natural gas industry are everywhere. It is not fair to say the jobs are few and far between or they are not good paying, permanent jobs. Let’s review all the part of the wheel that make this wagon roll.
I’m sure you could imagine many of the positions, but there are a long list of people needed to develop a natural gas well from beginning to end. You will find people from the concept engineer, design engineer, facilities manager, materials manager, quality manager, inspectors, auditors, fitters, welders, all the way painters, just to name a few. There are many more, but usually we only see the faces of the petroleum engineer, executives, roustabouts, and roughnecks, who all part of the very important roster of people needed to make and keep a well productive but not the only ones.
When a well site is discussed and develops into the planning stage, we are called from many places around the world and many different projects that have wound down, to land on our feet and get the new project up and running smoothly and efficiently.
In my case, as an independent third party specialist, I visit vendors, discriminately watching the welders, technicians, and inspectors performing their duties. Specialists such as me watch for the small tweaks and nuances used in conducting the factory acceptance test, hydrostatic test, non-destructive testing (NDT), and even paint tests used to achieve the end result. Based on my observations and the data retrieved from the tests, I either accept or reject the product and the vendor then makes the necessary changes to make it compliant if I do not accept the test results. Quality assurance is involved at every stage of natural gas production and so are jobs.
Considering the fact many of us occupying these silent positions sometimes have to work 100-hour weeks, miss out on family and local events and seldom take the time to say “no,” we are stunned at the naysayers amongst us who disdain our efforts without even knowing all or any of the facts. Doing the job we love with safety, quality and integrity in mind, most of my peers don’t know how to respond to the kind of non-factual political arguments used by the opposition. They tend to stay silent, more so than I’d like but that’s the nature of professionals – they just do the job.
Nonetheless, be assured, we don’t want a faulty pipeline in our backyards, a water well contaminated or a gas well or holding tank catching on fire. That’s why safety is paramount and quality assurance procedures pervade the industry. We are all human and there can be accidents or mistakes as there are with any human activity, and any machine activity, but we do care and we do our best to ensure incidents don’t happen or if they do, that they are contained with minimal impact to workers and the surrounding community. That is the record of the industry and it’s a good one.
Provenance is key to everything we do, and without it, no end is acceptable. We spend a lot of time doing research and studying before we take on an assignment to ensure we are ready for the assignment and continue to learn more throughout the project’s duration. That’s the nature of quality assurance in our industry.
I worked on a Shell Appalachia project last year at a remote vendor location and was pleased with Shell’s insistence on quality and safety, which is something I stressed daily to the vendor. Because many exploration and production companies, like Shell, don’t manufacture or do the mundane tasks, and suppliers and operators of equipment and office support are, therefore, all needed to make a facility successful, they rely on small vendors from around the Marcellus Shale region.
Some of these vendors include Hetrick Manufacturing, Harliss Specialties, Mountaineer Fabricating, NuWeld, Nadine Manufacturing, RNDT, Wright Consulting, Norwin Manufacturing, New Pig, Grace Automation, and tens of others. Auditing these shops, leading pre-production and pre-inspection meetings, witnessing inspections, leading quality meetings, expediting and tending to logistics–we do our part to make it happen.
We also have other groups who perform critical functions in bringing a new project to the light of day and keeping it running. There are several health, safety, and environmental professionals who may work directly or indirectly with the natural gas industry, for instance. They include engineers, surveyors, hydrogeologists and biologists. There are still others who concentrate in this important sector and keep us going back home at the end of work every day; lawyers, accountants and the like. Many are constantly teaching us how to better protect our natural resources and are often not mentioned or recognized by others.
Then, there are communications specialists like those at Energy In Depth, Shale Stuff, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, and all of the others in the information and public relations endeavors, who comb the news and internet to keep us up to date on the changes we are mandated to know about and implement. They also help us deal with the misinformation campaigns of the naysayers.
Together, all of these firms and the hundreds of others who provide goods and services, employ thousands of people with good and solid well-paying jobs.
Through the course of my work days, I get emails and telephone calls from companies here in the United States and abroad (as far away as Australia, China and Malaysia) who desire to have a footprint in the Marcellus Shale, either as distributor/sales or manufacturing. There are possibilities beyond imagination when it comes to breaking into the workforce of Marcellus Shale.
It takes about 450 people with around 150 different skills to bring a well on line and keep it safe and productive. All of these jobs in my chosen field pay more than the median and carry a lot of cachet, dignity and self respect for doing an important job well.
Often times we are asked to go beyond the perceived job scope and get into sourcing of parts and procurement which is something I have consolidated into my business. The people we meet, the cultures we live in, the vendors we work with, and the freedom of individuality make us, the behind the scenes types, who we are.
It’s time to remember that we not only want a stress free economic future for our children and grandchildren, accurate science (not hysteria and innuendos), a sound energy policy utilizing all of the realistic forms we have, energy independence, but also, and most of all, a safe and sound energy infrastructure.
My family and neighbors, here in the Northeast United States, I ask you to talk to us in a non-emotional way, do your research, and then make your decisions. Please do not rely on others to tell you “the truth.” Together, we can achieve any and all of the goals related to sound natural gas production. Together, we can work daily to Ensure safety, quality, and integrity at the well pad, work hard to put the United States back on the track to energy security, get the worker home safely and provide for a bright economic future for future generations.
It is great to be back home near the beautiful Pennsylvania mountains after years of travel and being involved in these exciting times.
With all respect, I thank you for hearing me out.
Disclaimer: Even though I have mentioned a few of the many companies I have had the pleasure to work with through the years, let it be understood that I have no financial interests in any of them and do not endorse them in this article.