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Providing for the future

OSUIT natural gas training center prepares students to fill industry needs.

OSU Institute of Technology

An orange oil pump jack stands outside the newest addition to the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology's campus in Okmulgee. It represents the history of oil and gas while welcoming students, faculty and visitors to the industry's future at the unique natural gas compression training center. It's a vital training tool that will impact the industry locally and nationally.

Oklahoma is at the forefront of a new era of oil and gas production. With the addition of the Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center, OSUIT is poised to make a difference by developing students who will have the experience to go directly from the lab to the oilfields.

The 23,920-square-foot facility demonstrates the university's foresight into the needs of the Oklahoma economy and is a valuable resource for current and future natural gas students. It will also build upon the existing natural gas compression program, which has trained OSUIT students since 1974.

A Sept. 25 dedication ceremony at the Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center united OSUIT with industry partners Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, ONEOK, Energy Transfer and others that invested time, money and resources.

With construction completed ahead of schedule and under budget at $4.9 million, the center will enable the program to more than double its enrollment and help meet the industry demand.

"This new training center underscores our commitment at OSUIT to help this vital industry meet the crucial need for a continuous flow of trained technicians to build, maintain and operate the vast infrastructure to keep America's energy industry running strong in the coming decades," says OSUIT President Bill R. Path.

Improving the Student Experience

The program's class sizes have nearly quadrupled in the past several years, increasing the need for a dedicated facility.

"The new training center will enable OSUIT to more effectively teach students the technical skills necessary in an industry-quality laboratory to maintain and operate natural gas engines and gas-compressor units," Path says.

The natural gas compression program will use the facility to train students on large equipment such as compression skids, which are used to transform natural gas into a moveable product.

"Being able to work on equipment that I'll use in the field is important," says Kamron Ballard, a second-year natural gas compression major. "I'll know what to do for the company that hires me and know how to operate the multimillion-dollar equipment so I won't mess up in the field."

oil derrick

An orange oil derrick stands outside the Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center as a representation of oil and gas history.

Students began using the training center in early September.

Ballard says the facility offers an environment solely focused on natural gas compression and gives students a sense of pride by being able to have their own building.

Strengthening Corporate Partnerships

The natural gas compression program works with industry partners, learning what the workforce needs from graduates and altering its curriculum accordingly.

"OSUIT has had its finger on the pulse of the needs of the energy industry across the state of Oklahoma and across the country for years," Path says. "We take great pride in our corporate partnerships, and they have never been stronger."

Chesapeake Energy CEO of Oilfield Services and OSU alumnus Jerry Winchester says the program boosts the energy industry. He says the thing most people don't see in the industry is the equipment that runs every day, all day. When that equipment goes down, OSUIT graduates save companies thousands of dollars per hour by being able to fix it quickly.

These graduates will continue to be in demand as large portions of the workforce reach retirement age.

"OSUIT has the opportunity to be the hub of the industry's transformation," Winchester says.

Building Industry-Quality Facilities

The Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center may look like an ordinary building, but inside the workshop's unique purpose is clear.

With massive compression skids lined up along the back of the room and dual 30-ton-capacity overhead cranes to move them, the atmosphere simulates the field.

Two classrooms — one sponsored by Devon Energy and the other by ONEOK — offer additional instructional workspace. White boards are placed on the front walls of the rooms, and collaborative technologies allow for an enhanced learning environment.

The building also houses an auditorium with current video technology and a conference room for company partners to meet with faculty.

"We listen to our industry partners. We sit down with them in advisory meetings and hash out what kind of skills our students need," says Roy Achemire, OSUIT division chair for the Heavy Equipment and Vehicle Institute. "We use that information to make sure we've built those skills into the program."

The new technology and space help train the ever-growing labor workforce, especially in the oil and gas industry.

"I want to give a major thank you to the companies that invested in the building," Ballard says. "Their money and willingness to hire interns from OSUIT is amazing. Without them this program would not succeed."

By the Numbers

$4.9 million
The facility came in under budget and ahead of schedule.

23,920 square feet
The entire building is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and machinery.

60-ton capacity
A dual, 30-ton crane sits overhead in the main workshop. It's used for lifting and moving the compression skids.

65 to more than 150
Enrollment in the natural gas compression program has nearly doubled due to more space.