New Castle News

April 19, 2014

Hilcorp a partner in vo-tech shale course

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A shale drilling company’s contribution to the vo-tech school will help fund a curriculum for careers in that field.

Tom Havranek, operations director for Hilcorp, presented a $5,000 donation to the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center Wednesday as seed money for the school’s up and coming oil and gas technician program.

Len Rich, the school’s director, said he plans to have the program start in the fall.

The center is partnering with Hilcorp Energy, one of the larger companies drilling gas wells in the area.

Havranek said he foresees a need for many workers in the shale field.

Currently, he noted, Hilcorp has 10 wells in production in the area and he anticipates the company will drill a total of 40 wells in the Lawrence and Mercer county area this year.

Havranek attended the school’s biannual meeting and addressed its local advisory committee, comprised of government officials and business leaders.

He said Hilcorp also plans to donate some equipment to give students hands-on training.

Principal Regina Hiler said the school is using guidelines from another career and technical center to set up the program. The course will train students how to build a well head, be a roustabout and do welding and other technical jobs in the drilling field.

“We want to produce someone who has a little bit of skill in all of the areas,” she said.

Havranek and Rich said more skilled work will be developed as people progress into the career.

Well drilling is becoming a skilled profession, Havranek said, and estimated some positions pay as much as $80,000 to $90,000 per year.

According to Rich, some Career and Technical Center students already have expressed an interest in the program, and he plans to recruit more in May from the eight school districts in Lawrence County. He anticipates advertising to hire its teachers in June.

Rich said the center’s business partners will help to outfit the shop for the course.

The program initially will have the capacity for 40 to 50 students, he said.

Havranek said Hilcorp is focusing on an area of shale in western Pennsylvania that has natural gas and liquid resources, where there is potential to drill about 250 wells in the Marcellus and Utica shale veins.

Hilcorp, a Texas-based company, has established a local headquarters in a Neshannock Township industrial park.

Havranek, a graduate of Laurel High School, was quarterback on the football team in the 1970s. His football interest took him to Marionville College and he became a petroleum engineer with Pennzoil, then worked for Quaker State in Oil City. After that he was an independent consulting engineer from 1986 to 2005 and partnered to buy a drilling rig.

He joined Hilcorp when it moved into the New Castle area “in a very big way.”

Referring to the Marcellus and Utica resources, he commented, “The amount of energy now sitting under our feet and needing developed is just extraordinary.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)