Petroleum Technology Program in Full Swing

With the launch of its new Petroleum Technology program, the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton is creating the gateway to a host of career opportunities in the area’s booming natural gas industry. The college reports that 36 students are currently enrolled in the Petroleum Technology program, which has stop-out points at the levels of certificate of proficiency, technical certificate, and Associate of Applied Science degree.
The degree program was developed after UACCM was approached by representatives of the oil and gas industry regarding the development of credit and non-credit training to prepare students for employment in the growing natural gas exploration and drilling industry. To assist with development, Southwestern Energy Company pledged a three-year financial commitment totaling $200,000. 
The Associate of Applied Science degree in petroleum technology consists of 63 credit hours, including 18 hours of general education courses and 45 hours of technical courses, with 16 hours of petroleum technology-related courses. Petroleum and technical courses required for the degree include Introduction to the Petroleum Industry, Drilling Operations, Completion Operations, Production Operations, Petroleum Regulations and Safety, Hydraulics and Pneumatics, Introduction to Digital Systems, Motors and System Controls, and Medic First Aid.  
Jeff Lambert has been employed as the college’s full-time Petroleum Technology instructor. Lambert has a distinguished career in petroleum technology, including employment as a lead formation evaluation engineer for the energy industry, geological consultant, and drilling operations both on- and offshore. Lambert also has previous teaching experience at the college level.  
UACCM remodeled part of its Technology II Building, creating 5,000 square feet of classroom and lab space. A new rig floor simulator recently arrived on campus courtesy of DeSoto Drilling. 
The catalyst for the growth of natural gas drilling and operations in the area is the Fayetteville Shale Play, a geologic structure located within the Arkoma Basin of eastern Oklahoma and north central and western Arkansas. The natural gas play is believed to hold one of the country’s largest unconventional reserves of natural gas.  
In the past several years, changes in the government regulations, increased prices for natural gas, and new drilling technology have increased interest in unconventional drilling techniques for natural gas. Natural gas is a vital component of the world’s energy supply and accounts for approximately 23 percent of the U.S. energy supply. Half of the country’s homes are heated by natural gas. Combined with an increased demand and limited resources, the need for unconventional drilling techniques has become more critical. 
According to the Arkansas Geological Commission, the natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale Play is absorbed in firm shale rock making it difficult to remove. New technology, including horizontal drilling methods, advanced hydraulics, and 3-D seismic equipment have made the extraction process of natural gas from shale more cost effective.
The emergence of oil exploration and drilling operations will not only create a host of new jobs, but also expanded educational opportunities throughout the area. Although many of the jobs are in the areas of construction, drilling, and transportation, career opportunities will also abound in mechanical, drafting, surveying, welding, computer information, and business/accounting fields. 
The activities are expected to have a major economic impact on the area.  A recent study by the Sam Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville predicts the economic impact to Conway County to be $1.4 billion with as many as 2400 new jobs created between now and 2008. Statewide, approximately 9,680 jobs will be created and $357.7 million in state and local tax revenues will be generated by 2008. 
UACCM Director of Institutional Advancement Mary Clark said, “UACCM is very proud to play such a pivotal role in the development of this new economic opportunity for Conway County. We are excited about building new relationships with energy companies, creating new resources for our college, and bringing new opportunities to the citizens of west central Arkansas.”

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