Where are the business and job opportunities in extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale deposit? As EQT Vice President for Commercial Operations Cliff Baker told African American Chamber of Commerce members during the April 15 PowerBreakfast, opportunities are almost anywhere you look.

“It takes 410 people in 150 different occupations to drill one well,” he said. “We have 500 wells in 12 counties, mostly Green County, but we’re expanding into Clarion, Tioga and other counties. Right now, you can’t get a hotel room in ­(little) Washington.”

IT’S ON YOU—EQT Supplier Diversity Manager Audric Dodds tells chamber members to contact him, present their expertise and make their pitch for business, like every other supplier.

Baker briefly explained EQT’s history and how the company is the leading gas exploration and production firm in Appalachia. Operating in four sates, EQT’s Pennsylvania operations have recently surpassed their production in Virginia.

“We’re producing 600 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in PA, and it’s all Marcellus,” he said.

Baker also took time to address some of the concerns about Marcellus development being generated by environmentalists who want gas mining stopped.

“Are there bad operators out there, sure, but you’ll find them in any business,” he said. “We and other responsible companies like Range Resources and Chesapeake Energy are not. We are explaining to municipalities and property owners that, hey, putting up a well is a construction project. Yes, for a time it’s noisy, dirty, but we will put it back as it was or better. We’ll spend the money. We’ll blend in. We are not going to be an albatross.”

Baker also noted that EQT publishes the recipe for its hydraulic fracturing fluid on its website.

“We meet or exceed EPA and DEP requirements. We recycle all our water. We own it cradle to grave,” he said. “We just will not jeopardize our environment.”

As for direct business opportunities with EQT, or any Marcellus developer or contractor, Baker said, “find the holes.”

“Find a skill that fills a gap,” he said. “A while back we found one we’d overlooked—welding. There’s a huge demand for pipe welding. There’s hauling sand, hauling water, just turning a wrench. Somebody out there does that—we don’t.”

When asked if they were setting up a specialized database and subcontractor language requiring minority and small business hiring, EQT Supplier Diversity Manager Audric Dodds said no.

“I’m not going to set up another layer of bureaucracy, another database, have people fill out a bunch of certification paperwork and say, ‘we’ll call you,’” he said. “I push database work out to organizations like this one. You have to demonstrate expertise, contact us, and make a pitch. The onus is on you.

“That said, we are trying to get our partners, the people we hire—like Halliburton—to engage the community.”

Chamber President and CEO Doris Carson Williams said she has already met with representatives from Halliburton, and is working to have them make a presentation to the chamber.

Baker mentioned one opportunity that can be exploited involves the excess ethane coming from wells.

“We don’t use it, but there are all kinds of industries that use it to make their widgets,” he said. “Why not get it to them, or get them to come here—create some more jobs.

There are even opportunities in apparent setbacks, he said, such as certain water authorities recently voting to not accept fracking water for treatment.

“Are there companies out there who do water treatment, that can do this? You bet there are. I expect my phone will be ringing if it isn’t already.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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