Sunday, April 08, 2012

Is being sent to Pennsylvania as bad as an assignment on a North Sea oil rig?

Why do I have to read in the Ohio media the clearest explanation of how the Marcellus workforce in Western Pennsylvania operates?  Likely the paradigm for all of Pennsylvania I would guess. In the Akron Beacon Journal today: Ohio can learn from Texas’ experience with fracking industry, is this sentence:                  
Every two weeks, driller Sean Nagel Mueller, his brother, Warren, and about a dozen others board a flight for Dallas-Fort Worth or Pittsburgh. Nagel Mueller works a two-week hitch of 12-hour days on a rig in Washington County in southwest Pennsylvania.
It turns out that the two week cycle is exactly the same as what is typical for workers sent to rigs in the North Sea.  The North Sea mind you is one of the worst places to work in the world.  The thing that gets me is that Washington County is pretty nice, full of people, lot of history in oil and gas develooment, and not a remote place.  If the industry can't find resident workers there, then what is it like across most of Pennsylvania.  Maybe they just don't want to despite the rhetoric.  Actually the sentence just before quote above is even more telling:
“If I can keep my headquarters, my people and my infrastructure here in Fort Worth and put three guys on an airplane every week to go hit the Marcellus, to fly up and go stay in a hotel in Youngstown … that’s pretty efficient versus picking up half my company and moving it up there.”
So it is all efficient.

Those quotes also explain what is behind some passenger trends at the airport of course. We won't even get into the bigger labor force issues that are embedded in them.  What I really want to know is why Ohio is not learning from Pennsylvania? (vice Texas)


Blogger Vannevar said...

I always enjoy your writing but I need help with this one, you lost me with the closer: What I really want to know is why Ohio is not learning from Pennsylvania?

Seriously: What is PA doing successfully that Ohio should learn from? Or, what examples of don't-do-this is PA providing that Ohio should avoid?

Is PA doing well with fracking? (loaded question?)

Sunday, April 08, 2012 8:15:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

In Praise of Pennsylvania... Is not all policy emanating from Harrisburg a universal paragon?

Sunday, April 08, 2012 8:26:00 PM  
Anonymous MN said...

Ok, yes, *some* of the Marcellus workforce in Western Pennsylvania is flying back and forth to different places. They call this "commuter status." And the biggest reason I've heard is that they don't want to move their families. And if you're from PA, I'm sure you can relate to that.

But it's not possible for the *entire* Marcellus workforce to do that. It's really only limited to those on crews working those kinds of shifts. And even then only the "engineers" because the companies are not going to pay for hands to be able to do that.

So there are resident workers. I assure you. Some are locals and some are transplants, but the transplants are moving their families here and buying homes. And the ones who want to stay here (because they like it here) definitely buy homes because it makes it less likely the company will move them. If you rent, you're more likely to be transferred.

And there are a lot of people in upper management who have moved here. And they're buying houses in Peters Township.

Monday, April 09, 2012 10:07:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

My brother lives in Cleveland and works in Austin Tx. He flies down every Monday morning and returns Friday evening. Does that mean that Austin Tx is as bad as the North Sea??

Monday, April 09, 2012 2:16:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Houston is.

Monday, April 09, 2012 3:45:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Ha.. I like the counterargument except for the fact that Cleveland to Austin is a seven sigma extreme case of commuting whereas commuting from oil regions into Pennsylvania is large enough to impact the passenger counts at our airport. Even that one article referenced a dozen workers at a single firm and likely working on a single pad. Anyone really believe that is an lonely exception. A single worker commuting from Cleveland to Austin makes for a lonely fact.

Monday, April 09, 2012 6:50:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

The counter argument was for the sensationalist headline and nature of the post. The commuting is not an insult to Greene or Pa. It is the nature of the business.
There are lots of gas workers that commute between Pa and Tx along with Ok, Ark, and Louisiana. Hundreds if not thousands. The two week schedule is a long held tradition among the oil field workers. Many do not buy homes because of the transient nature of the work. They may spend a couple of months in Green Co and then go to Susquehanna for the next well. Or to the Bakken or the Eagle Ford.
And they have to use experienced workers because it is physical, technical, and dangerous work. And God forbid the outcry should a disaster happen if they are using inexperienced locals.
One poor guy from Harrisburg was killed just last week near Tionesta when a pipe shifted and crushed him. He was only 24.

They hire local as people get trained, start them out on lower skilled jobs and allow them to advance. As time goes by more and more are local hires. Many crews are now half local hires if not more. Even if a truck has Tx or Ok plates, the driver and/or passenger may be local.

Monday, April 09, 2012 9:37:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Many do not buy homes because of the transient nature of the work.

Flying into town last night, I sat next to a gas company man from Oklahoma. He said exactly that about the housing. The company puts them up in short term rentals so they don't have to worry about the employees being hard to move.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:37:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

the thing is.. how many years now has Marcellus development been going on? How long is the training pipeline for most (not all) jobs? Add in the fact that so many companies are said to be scaling back development elsehwere in Pennsylvania which ought to be freeing up local workers to work on local pads. If the news stories of last week still are talking about flying in squads of workers at a time you have to ask when it will become a local resident workforce?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:51:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

I have no idea, but I did learn that you can get a BS (BA?) in Petroleum Land Management, which suggests that out of the area specialists may be needed indefinitely.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Lucky Landlord said...

Basically, the politicians have to quit trying to sell drilling as a local job creator, or at least a high-paying job creator.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

I have a friend whose son works on a hydrolic fracking crew. They had 62 people on the site, all but five were Pa residents. I'm sure it varies a lot from crew to crew but I would guess that most are local. Add in locals for excavation, pipeline laying, trucking, support services, environmental and legal work, accounting services, and more. Most workers are local.

And I imagine that there are a lot of local people in all those offices in Cannonsburg and S Strabane. And many of the middle management types there will move here in due time, if many haven't already.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 1:38:00 PM  

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