Chesapeake Energy dedicates $2 million to build natural gas industry training center


Chesapeake Energy dedicates $2 million to build natural gas industry training center

Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) announced the largest donation in its history – a $2 million commitment from Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation. OSUIT will build a state-of-the-art natural gas compression training center at its Okmulgee campus using the funds from Chesapeake. The new facility will be called the "Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center." It will be equipped with the latest technology, machinery and tools, enabling students to be work-ready upon graduation. 

"This historic gift from one of our nation's most active drillers of domestic natural gas wells will enable OSUIT to build and operate the finest compression training center anywhere," said newly appointed OSUIT President Bill Path. "Our institution is proud to partner with Chesapeake to both provide the best training possible and produce ready-to-work technicians. These technicians – our own OSUIT graduates – will helpChesapeake and the natural gas industry meet the growing demand for affordable, clean, domestically produced natural gas."

The Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center will be the first of its kind in the energy industry. In the 33,600-square-foot building, students will have access to world-class instruction and applied-research spaces where they will learn to diagnose, service and maintain gas compression equipment. 

In addition to classrooms equipped with SMART Boards and other technological advances, the center will include several dedicated areas for hands-on training. One such area will feature a flow loop system complete with a functioning miniature pipeline to demonstrate the steps involved in moving natural gas from the wellhead to the transportation pipeline. An annex of the building will house a testing center where students will evaluate engines, engine control systems, emission-control devices and digital-monitoring devices commonly used in the industry.

"This summer, when Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon unveiled a bold plan to start reducing our dependence on OPEC oil, he mentioned it would take American ingenuity, innovation and resources to succeed," said Mike Stice, Chesapeake senior vice president of natural gas projects. "The investment we are making today to build the nation's finest compression training facility is further evidence of our company's desire to ensure our industry has an available work force to support the growing demand for natural gas. We have jobs, and we need Americans trained to fill them sooner rather than later."

OSUIT offers an associate degree through its natural gas compression program. After completing four semesters of coursework and two semesters of paid internships, students graduate with an Associate in Applied Science in Natural Gas Compression. Although natural gas compression training has been part of the OSUIT curriculum since 1979, the program started as an independent course in 2000. In its first three years, program enrollment averaged 17 students per year, with most coming from rural Oklahoma. Enrollment has since increased to 65 students and has included individuals from as far away as Florida.

Following the opening of the Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center, enrollment numbers are expected to double to 115 students, and the program plans to graduate 50 to 55 skilled individuals each year.

"Our company regularly hires OSUIT graduates for full-time positions, as well as offers summer internships to some of the program's undergraduates. I see firsthand the need for an enhanced education program that offers the best training to those interested in our industry," said Al Lavenue, President of MidCon Compression, a Chesapeake subsidiary. "As our company continues to grow, our need for these technicians will continue to increase as well. The Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center will ensure that we will have a steady stream of qualified technicians to fill the new jobs our company is creating every day."

Beyond the classroom, the Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center will also facilitate training to upgrade the skills and abilities of technicians already in the workforce. Additionally, the center's conference area will enable the school to host seminars linked to the natural gas industry.

The center's total budgetary need is $4.0 million, but with Chesapeake's $2.0 million investment, the school can begin construction.

Chesapeake's gift for the center builds on the company's historic relationship with OSUIT, including support for the school's scholarship program. Chesapeake will continue its scholarship commitment with OSUIT, in addition to the building contribution.

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