SALEM - Two Ohio State University students from the Mahoning Valley watched the once-dim economic landscape of their hometown brighten and founded an organization aimed at making the most of the shale bonanza.
The Buckeye Shale Energy Organization is a student group in its second year at the university with a goal to reach out to the oil and gas industry, as well as to other students.
The network was founded by Vince Melillo, president of the BSEO, and Alex Sava, treasurer. They are both from the Youngstown area.
''What we're doing is essentially gathering up people who are from our state who want to stay here and make Ohio into a great oil and gas producer,'' Melillo said.
Sava is a fifth-year engineering student interested in the growing shale play. "I think there are a lot of great opportunities coming from Ohio, western Pennsylvania, all around here. Students are going to have a lot of job opportunities from these companies.''
BSEO is comprised of students in engineering and geology under the leadership of Dr. Jeff Daniels of OSU's School of Earth Sciences. The goal is to educate students on the opportunities shale development offers and to connect students with employers.
Daniels said that while the students are promoting the potential that lies in the Utica Shale, they are also promoting the safe practices used by oil and gas developers to extract those resources.
Sava said, ''Based on seeing a portion of the money being invested, the Utica and Marcellus Shale plays are a potential and sustainable solution for our country's energy needs. Energy from shale development is estimated to be able to supply the United States for 100 years."
Daniel Alfaro, the communications director for Energy in Depth, the Ohio project, said the idea is to get communities and the work force, young and old, engaged in the oil and gas opportunities.
"Development has not really kicked off ... not until 2015," Alfaro said. "These kids want to be at the forefront."
According to its website, EID was launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America in 2009 "as an outreach and education campaign focused on researching, explaining and (when needed) setting the record straight on the promise and potential of onshore energy development in America."
Alfaro said studies have projected some 200,000 jobs will be associated with the shale boom. A U.S. Chamber study says 38,000 jobs already have been created by the industry to date, he said.
"We are only beginning to scratch the surface, and these students actively engaging with an industry that is going to be a driving force in Ohio's future prosperity should be applauded for their efforts," he said.
Permit and drilling activity has been brisk in Carroll and Columbiana counties, which account for half the permits issued statewide, but EID said "for all the excitement these new and traditional oil and natural gas 'plays' have generated in our state ... successfully converting that potential into jobs, revenue and opportunity for everyday Ohioans will require a whole lot more than drill bits and pressure treatments."
Making sure Ohioans are in the best position to take advantage of the job opportunities "will require a sustained, coordinated and perhaps unprecedented effort aimed at explaining the way energy development works who does what, where and how, and what steps will be taken to ensure our air, water, land and surrounding environment are protected," he said.
Sava said, "I'm not a political analyst nor an economist, but I believe that this shale is one of the most encouraging developments to hit the Youngstown area since the steel industry of the past.
"While other students getting ready to graduate from college might be worried about their prospects, the Utica Shale has made students in my field confident about their future."
Shields writes for the Salem News.