Lackawanna College created one of the first degree programs for training students to work in Pennsylvania’s growing Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. And it may be the first to acquire such a large piece of equipment as a training tool. Exterran, a multi-national Texas-based energy company, has given the college a piston-pump compressor and six-cylinder engine “package” used by the company to help process gas. A compressor applies pressure, reducing the volume of gas, and forcing it to travel through pipelines. To learn more about how this works, check out Exterran’s online “expert” tool.
Exterran’s compressor had been used to service natural gas extracted by Talisman Energy. Now it will be used by students training for work in the gas industry. Lackawanna’s New Milford campus has a one-year certificate program in gas compression technology. Student Louis Riccio is quoted in a college-issued press release as eager to use the tool and learn his new trade.
“You know how people say that a picture is worth a thousand words,” Riccio says. “Well, being able to work on the equipment that’s actually used in the field is the same kind of thing. You can read about something in books all you want, even look at pictures, but none of that compares to walking over and putting your hands on it.”
The College reports that Riccio is taking the course after working decades in the dying field of printing. A professor, Ray McDonald, says he prefers students like Riccio to newly minted high school grads.
“When we started this program we thought a kid fresh out of high school could do well in it,” McDonald says. “Now I’m not so sure. The students who are actually in the program and are doing well have had related prior work experience. They understand mechanical concepts; they know how to take things apart and put them back together again. They have some math skills.”
Exterran and other gas companies have helped develop the new curriculum at Lackawanna College. New pipelines and compressor stations are needed across the state to help get the Marcellus Shale gas to market. Some residents and environmentalists worry about the air emissions from natural gas compressor stations, especially those run on diesel fuel. The donated Exterran compressor is powered with natural gas.