When he first entered college at Penn State University, Scranton, Pa. native Bob Chase wasn't sure what he'd gotten himself into.
"I was lucky enough to get a scholarship at Penn State for petroleum engineering and wasn't sure what it was all about, but I fell in love with it," he said. "I even worked summers in the industry."
Today, Chase is the department chair of the Petroleum Engineering Department at Marietta College and, in recent months, has traveled around the region and state to speak as an expert on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Professor Bob Chase addresses a petroleum engineering class at Marietta College.
Tonight, he'll serve as one of four panelists on the WOUB show "Newswatch In-Depth: Fracking Frenzy," which airs at 8 p.m.
Tom Perry, director of college relations for Marietta College, said it's not unusual for faculty there to take part in such events outside the college.
"Marietta College has a talented and diverse faculty made up of more than 100 people, of which 92 percent possess a doctorate or terminal degree in their respective fields," he said in a statement Monday. "Through their extensive research and their involvement in their respective fields, these faculty members are often sought out to provide their own expert opinions."
About Bob Chase
- Age: 61
- Current Position: Professor of Petroleum Engineering at Marietta College since 1978.
- Previous: Assistant professor of petroleum engineering at West Virginia University from 1976 to 1978. Also has worked for Halliburton Services, Gulf Research and Development Company and the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Consulting Work: Columbia Gas, NiSource, Dominion Resources, EQT (formerly Equitable Resources), Cabot Oil and Gas, and CONSOL Energy/CNX.
- Appointments: State-appointed member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission.
- Degrees: Doctorate, Master of Science and Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering from Penn State University.
Source: www.marietta.edu and MariettaTimes.com archives.
How to Watch Newswatch In-Depth:
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: On WOUB-TV, WOUB-FM and online at woub.org.
To submit questions for the panel: 1-800-456-2044 beginning at 8 p.m. on Tuesday; tweet to @woubnews with the hashtag #indepth; or email to email@example.com.
Work in the industry
Chase's early summer jobs included work for companies like Halliburton Services and Gulf Oil.
After earning his bachelor's degree, the university offered Chase another scholarship to continue in graduate studies.
"That was in the early 70s. Then I did my (doctorate) on getting methane gas out of coal seams," he said. "I became very interested in obtaining gas from coal and shale."
In 1976, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Chase did research on producing natural gas from Devonian shale beds while working for West Virginia University.
"Devonian shale lies much shallower than the Marcellus and Utica shales we're talking about today," he said. "I had plans to continue in that research when Marietta College called about a post in the petroleum engineering department."
In 1978, at age 27, Chase became head of the department, overseeing what the college website boasts as the ninth largest petroleum engineering program in the U.S. and the only one of its type in the country taught at a liberal arts college.
He currently teaches courses in well testing, reservoir engineering, natural gas engineering and engineering economics, and often finds high-paying summer internships for students as well as assisting graduates in locating permanent positions with top oil and gas companies.
The college has had a 100 percent placement rate for its petroleum engineering graduates for the last several years. Chase said Marietta College grads work literally all over the world.
As an example, he noted the department is currently educating 35 students for the Saudi Aramaco Oil Company.
"But this is not all about me-I have to plug my staff, too. Our backgrounds are so diverse we can cover all aspects of geology," he said. "And that makes the Marietta College petroleum and geology program an absolute gem."
The impact for
Perry said the institution can expect more attention due to heightened interest in obtaining oil and gas from shale deposits.
"The exploration and potential development of the Marcellus Shale in our region may well result in increased interest in what Marietta College has to offer in the way of our energy, geology and petroleum engineering programs," he said.
"Our petroleum program is once again expected to reach its enrollment goal this year, and perhaps not coincidentally, we are experiencing a growing interest in our new Energy Systems Certificate program," he added.
David Mustine, general manager for energy, chemicals and polymers for JobsOhio, said Marietta College has a definite advantage over other facilities by being a center of petroleum engineering.
"The school is producing highly-trained students for the oil and gas industry who (during the Utica and Marcellus shale boom) can work here in Ohio instead of having to go to Texas or the Gulf of Mexico," he said. "And Bob Chase is a tremendous asset for the school and for Ohio."
Mustine noted Chase's expertise and willingness to engage the public in order to educate more people about the shale industry and its impact on the state. And Chase often acts in an advisory capacity for state officials.
"We want to understand the shale industry so Ohio can take advantage of this opportunity," Mustine said.
With the advent of hydraulic fracturing-the process of removing natural gas and oil from the local Utica and Marcellus shale beds-Chase spends a lot of time on the road, talking to various groups and making public presentations about the process. He's not paid for the appearances, he said.
"Two of my associate professors, Ben Ebenhack and Ben Thomas, also go out and make presentations to groups," Chase said. "We want to educate the public as well as our students. There's just so much misinformation about fracturing and what's really involved with the drilling of these wells."
For 35 years Chase has also provided consulting services on issues related to the coal and natural gas industries and has served as an expert witness on legal issues for companies like Consol Energy and others.
"Almost all of my work is related to natural gas and shale," he said. "And there are other people here who do consulting work, too. The college is generous enough to allow us to do this to supplement our salaries."
Local attorney and former Ohio Rep. Jennifer Garrison, working with the Bricker & Eckler firm of Cleveland, represents landowner associations in the leasing of oil and gas mineral rights and has been working with Chase, as well.
Currently Garrison is representing landowners in Washington, Guernsey, Noble and Monroe counties with more than 35,000 acres ready to be leased.
"Bob is a technical consultant for us," she said. "He explains technical aspects like the evolution of horizontal drilling and shale gas extraction, helping us to assess the geology that helps us make sure our leasing is appropriate."
Garrison said the attorneys rely on Chase's expertise, which helps protect landowner associations when developing lease arrangements with oil and gas companies.
"But he has absolutely nothing to do in our negotiations with the companies," she said.
Chase receives a consulting fee for his services from the landowners association.
"I'm not working for the companies," he said. "The landowners associations pay myself and others, but that's just for the consulting work we do."
In one case, the association paid Chase $2,500 for each 100 acres of land leased.
Beyond his teaching, public presentation and consulting work, Chase is also a state-appointed member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission, which mediates issues for parties that claim to be adversely affected by any order from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Chief of the Division of Mineral Resources and Management.
To make sure his duties with the commission are not deemed a conflict of interest with his other work, Chase recently requested a review of his oil and gas commission responsibilities by the Ohio Ethics Commission, which is ongoing.
"We teach an ethics class for our freshmen and I thought this would be a good real-life example of what someone who's representing the public on a state board should do," he said.