MANSFIELD - The discovery of natural gas locked deep underground in the Marcellus Shale has resulted in a sort of "gas rush" to the area of the natural gas industry seeking to unlock its energy from deep in the earth.
Involved in that process is hydrofracturing, or fracking, using a water and sand slurry under high pressure to fracture the rock and release the gas.
One of the gas industries to locate here for the long run is East Resources Inc. of Warrendale, which opened a headquarters last year.
CHERYL R. CLARKE/Sun-Gazette
Inside a frack truck, where the process is monitored on computers, sit field engineer Jeremy Valkosky of Punxsutawney and frack operator Scott Digel of Bradford, as frack operations manager Frank Covine looks on.
At an East Resources well site in Charleston Township off Mack Road, the process was in full steam late last month.
There are long hours of hard work and much equipment involved in fracking a natural gas well, said Frank Covine of Meadville, Universal Well Services frack site field operations supervisor.
There are 15 stages to fracking a well, Covine said.
We did two of them March 25, the third earlier March 26 and we are working on the fourth now, he said.
The fourth stage perforates the pipe that is sent into the well to receive about 200,000 gallons of water and sand in the highly pressurized slurry, he said.
With about 28 workers per site to supervise, Covine said he is constantly busy during one of his long days.
"Most of the guys at this site are from Meadville, Punxsutawney and Bradford," Covine said. Though only a couple are locals, Covine said Universal is in the process of hiring more from the area.
Covine, who has worked for the company for more than 30 years, has to be on site at all frack jobs, said East Resources community liaison Jack Showers.
One of the locals, Jared Whitney, 25, lives next door to the East Resources headquarters at the "Y" where Routes 6 and 660 intersect, Showers said.
Whitney, who worked for a landscaping business, also sold East some of his property for its headquarters.
"It's been a steady job with good benefits," Whitney said of his employment with East, which began about two years ago.
Starting out as a roustabout, or someone who does the most manual of jobs "with a shovel," Showers said, Whitney has progressed up the ladder to become a completion foreman.
"Now, all the subcontractors report to him," Showers said.
Of the qualities needed to work in the industry, Showers said, Whitney has the most important, "a good attitude. He is willing to learn and work hard."
Whitney said his aptitude for anything mechanical helped, adding that after high school he originally enrolled at Penn College of Technology to learn that trade.
All together, more than $1 million is spent to frack a well, with an average of six wells branching off of each well site, said East petroleum engineer Dale Fidurko.
Fidurko, 24, and a graduate of Penn State University, comes from a natural gas industry family - his father has worked for East for more than 20 years.
Fidurko said it is a "big misconception" that "we are putting secret things down the wells that are bad for the environment."
Covine agreed, saying "most of the chemicals are biodegradable."