Exploring a new industry


GCCC starting up Oil Technology Program this spring.

GCCC starting up Oil Technology Program this spring.



Oil exploration is starting to pick up in southwest Kansas, and Garden City Community College is poised to take advantage.

With the creation of its new Oil Technology Program, the college has a variety of certificates a student can earn, including certificates in transportation, production and an associate of applied science.

"As you know, we have a handful of companies here starting to look for workers. I don't think it's really ramped up yet, but that day is coming," Bruce Exstrom, GCCC vice president of instructional services, said about the increased oil activity in southwest Kansas.

The program is designed to not only attract students who are interested in entering the oil industry, but also those already in it who are looking to move upward.

"We have classes designed for someone out in the field already who wants to advance, maybe to management or refining," Exstrom said.

The college also offers the program for students who want to get into the oil industry and spend a couple of years at the college, said Exstrom, who added that the college still wants to establish partnerships with local oil companies to get a feel for what the industry is looking for.

"The curriculum is based on what is out in the field — safety, coordination and production," he said.

He said the curriculum focuses a lot on safety.

"We're trying to provide a safe worker. It can be hazardous at times," he said.

Exstrom said the college is putting together an advisory committee to work alongside oil companies that will be based in Garden City.

"It's an exciting time. It's starting to ramp up. We just want to be ready for this," he said.

The Kansas Board of Regents approved the Oil Technology program last July.

The program is designed so students can take a set of core classes, then decide whether they want to focus on oil exploration or oil production.

Those who enroll, according to the newly approved plan, can develop real-world job skills in the process of drilling and extraction of oil from underground reservoirs.

Students will be able to earn stackable credentials and can choose an exploration certificate, involving 22 college credit hours, or a production certificate, including 36 credit hours.¬ Either can lead to an associate in applied science degree, based on completion of 67 credit hours.

The curriculum will involve a series of classroom, lab and field courses covering safety, moving, set-up and operation of equipment used in mineral exploration.

Primary outcomes include understanding geological processes in the accumulation of oil reserves; discovering the options and procedures for fossil fuel exploration, drilling, well completion, production, recovery and processing; and building a thorough command of industry terminology.

Students also will learn how to operate basic electrical, hydraulic and fluid-dynamic equipment, as well as pumps, compressors, oil instrumentation equipment and oil processing equipment. Students will be expected to perform all industry work functions in compliance with safety protocols, and understand the economics of oil recovery and production, according to a release from the college.

The drilling component of the curriculum focuses on traditional drilling methods as well as directional drilling.¬ In directional drilling, an innovative new process, students will get an overview of wellbores and learn about two- and three-dimensional controls, drill string design, stuck pipe prevention and blowout prevention.¬ Those who complete the program will be certified to work as geological technicians, petroleum technicians or roustabouts, according to GCCC.

Students concentrating on the oil production segment will pursue a production certificate or the oil technician associate degree in applied science. Students will learn about well completion, well site maintenance, recovery and production methods, in addition to hydraulics. GCCC officials have said directional drilling offers particular potential because it allows oil recovery where conventional vertical access isn't available and makes it possible to place multiple wellheads in one location for greater efficiency, as well as reduced cost. It also increases the exposed section length through a reservoir, by drilling at an angle.

Among specific courses are Math for Technicians, Applied Communication, Physical Geology, Introduction to Mechanics, Basic Hydraulics and Pneumatics, Electro-Hydraulics, Electro-Pneumatics, Electricity I and II, Drilling, Recovery and Production Methods, and other courses covering topics ranging from production and well completion to compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.

Job growth in oil exploration and production is expected to increase significantly in Kansas in the years ahead, according to industry projections.¬ In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast the creation of 1 million new jobs by 2020 in oil and gas construction and extraction.

Starting wages in the field range from nearly $12 to more than $40 per hour, depending on qualifications, equating to potential annual earnings of greater than $80,000.¬ Oil engineers with bachelor-level degrees command salaries as high as $97,000, according to the 2012 PayScale College Salary Report.

GCCC obtained the support of various industry partners in creating the program, including American Warrior, Chesapeake Energy, Cimarex Energy, and Petro Santander, Inc.¬ Representatives will serve on a program advisory board, and the companies will be called on to offer apprenticeships, assist in program development, help in obtaining equipment and, in some cases, provide equipment or facilities for on-site training, the release said.

Those interested in finding out more should contact the GCCC Technical Education Division, 276-9521 or 275-3259.

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