Experts: Oil, gas industry still here

WARREN – When residents question why the long-predicted oil and gas boom has been so slow to get started in the Mahoning Valley, Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber officials are quick to point out the local growth of supply chain jobs is going strong.

That includes natural gas and oil pipe manufacturers like Vallourec Star in Youngstown and TMK IPSCO in Brookfield, gas processing equipment manufacturer Exterran in Youngstown, pipe warehouse and shipper IPS in Struthers and manufacturer Legacy Measurement, which makes measuring equipment for the gas industry and more.

“These are the good jobs that you want, permanent jobs,” said Anthony Paglia, Regional Chamber vice president of government and media affairs. “Drilling jobs are great, too, but they come and they go.”

Paglia’s statement, made Feb. 25, couldn’t have been more prognostic. It came about a week before last week’s announcement by one of Trumbull County’s most active drillers, Halcon Resources, that it was pulling its rigs out of Trumbull County with no immediate plans to return.

Similar questions surround the future of BP America, the other big player in Trumbull County drilling. After leasing more than 80,000 acres of mineral rights in the county and drilling several exploratory wells in the last year, BP also has removed its rigs from the area and has been silent on its future plans.

The future of Trumbull County drilling, however, isn’t worrying local economic development and oil and gas experts.

“What we have observed is the suppliers are coming here because of the Marcellus and the Utica,” Regional Chamber President and CEO Tom Humphries said. “What’s here is here, and it’s here because of the area as a whole.”

Of the $579.5 million in total investments still pending in Mahoning Valley economic development projects, 60 percent are oil and gas related, said Sarah Boyarko, the chamber’s vice president of economic development North America. Humphries said he is not worried that these projects will erase their interest in the Valley based on what could be temporary changes in drilling approaches.

“It’s not unusual to see them jockeying around,” Humphries said about oil and gas drillers. “I don’t see it as a problem.”

Champion Township native Joseph Stanislaw, an independent senior adviser on energy and sustainability who operates a Boston advisory firm, agreed.

When asked what effect Trumbull County drilling production will have on local gas and oil-based manufacturing, Stanislaw was blunt. “Nothing,” he said.

“Where you ship the material to may change, but the picks and shovels don’t go away,” Stanislaw said last week. “There’s a huge world market to supply to. The shale revolution is not going away.

“They should be looking at a global market for this,” he said.