Engineering a Solid Future
While many in Ohio are still waiting for the hydraulic fracturing boom, Jason Thomas got a close look at the fracking taking place in Pennsylvania. A mechanical engineering technology major at North Central State College, Thomas worked during the summer in Pennsylvania as a project coordinator for Integrity Kokosing Pipeline Services.
“Integrity ran water pipelines to the well heads for the shale drilling sites,” Thomas explained.
The Marcellus shale gas formation that runs through that area is estimated to be the second largest natural gas ἀnd in the world. The Marcellus shale stretches across New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland at a depth of 5,000 to 8,000 feet. Until recently, the formation was deemed too expensive to access. Recent advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology have opened up new areas of exploration.
“They’ve got thousands of (well) permits in Pennsylvania now, while Ohio is just getting started,” Thomas said.
While in Pennsylvania, Thomas said his NC State coursework came in handy on the job for Integrity Kokosing, a division of Kokosing Construction Company.
“I worked in the area of pipeline and holding pond design,” Thomas said. “We would run pipelines to the well heads to carry the water needed for the fracking. We also built huge holding areas that would hold up to 1.5 million gallons of water.
“A lot of my time was spent in inventory control. I kept track of the pieces of pipe and the valves used. By keeping a good inventory, we wouldn’t have to stop work because we ran out of something or have to spend extra money to have something shipped in by special delivery. I created spreadsheets and charts that I learned how to produce in my classes,” he said.
A 2009 Clear Fork High School graduate, Thomas did not start out studying engineering at NC State. “I went to Capital to play football and majored in nursing. My mom is a nurse and I thought it would be a good field to go into, but I found it wasn’t for me,” he recalled. “After a year, I decided not to continue since I really didn’t want to spend the money it takes to attend a private school and just be undecided about a major.”
The son of Randy and Tammy Thomas of rural Bellville, Thomas then took a look at North Central State College. “I talked to a friend who was attending another college for engineering and I found that NC State’s credits would transfer,” he said. “Then I looked at the tuition and saw how affordable it is and that I could live at home and it just made a lot sense.”
The news got better when Thomas also learned many of his credits at Capital would count toward an NC State associate’s degree with a major in mechanical engineering technology.
“I’ll graduate in May and will only have one class – Mechanical Design Project – to take spring semester,” he said.
Until then, Thomas is working part time for Kokosing Construction Company in Fredericktown. “I wanted to continue working while I was in school and this is a way to stay with the company,” he said.
Kokosing Construction Company is the largest contractor in Ohio. A diversified family-owned business with facilities and affiliated companies across Ohio and the Midwest, Kokosing has more than 60 years of experience in industrial facility construction, water and wastewater treatment plants, underground utility systems, manufacturing and process plants, roads, bridges and marine work. Engineering News Record ranked Kokosing the 57th largest contractor in the 2011 Top 400 U.S. contractors listing, as well as the 23rd largest contractor in the 2011 Top 50 Domestic Heavy Contractors listing.
“They’ve offered me the opportunity to work for Integrity Kokosing when I graduate,” he said. “I’m looking forward to joining the company full time.”
Thomas said he is leaving open the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree either through the Miami University program offered at NC State’s Kehoe Center or through the Ohio State University at Mansfield.
With his NC State degree and the experience he gained with Kokosing, Thomas has designed a foundation for a solid future.