Baker Hughes to Establish Regional Headquarters in Ohio's Shale Gas Region

Company becomes the latest manufacturer to announce natural gas-related expansion as community leaders, politicians debate potential consequences of shale-gas development.

Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. will open a regional headquarters in Massillon, Ohio, to take advantage of the region's growing shale-gas resources, the company said Feb. 28.

The company plans to invest $340 million in the project that is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

Baker Hughes, a Houston-based provider of drilling technologies and services, will hire local scientists, engineers and mechanics to staff labs and workshops that will be part of the regional center, said company spokesperson Pam Easton.

The company is expected to hire 700 people at the facility and utilize a 6%, seven-year job-creation tax credit for project, the Ohio Department of Development said.

The regional headquarters will be located in the heart of Ohio's Utica shale region. The Utica shale formation has attracted growing interest from manufacturers because of its abundance of liquids-rich natural gas.

"It will bring us closer to our customers and allow us to further service, support and bring important technologies to operators working in the region," said Easton in an email.

Ohio's vast shale resources has attracted new manufacturing expansion in the state and increased oil and gas development. But the potential environmental impact posed by hydraulic fracturing, a method used to drill for natural gas in shale rock, has created some concern in local communities.

Water Contamination Potential

Ohio residents voiced some of their concerns during a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing Feb. 27 in Steubenville, Ohio, located about 40 miles west of Pittsburgh.

Possible contamination of water resources from shale gas drilling near the southeastern Ohio town of Athens could negatively impact the health and economic strength of the community, city council member Michele Papai told the committee.

The nearby Hocking River could be at risk and local real-estate agents have already reported lost sales because of pollution concerns, she said.

Athens is home to Ohio University and Hocking College is located in neighboring Nelsonville.

Any threat to student health and safety could discourage parents from sending their children to the area colleges, Papai said.

But sufficient regulations are already in place to protect the groundwater and that past contamination incidents were either surface spills or the result of discontinued drilling practices, testified Richard Simmers, chief of the division of oil and gas resources management at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

"The claims that Ohio has identified groundwater resources contaminated by hydraulic fracturing are patently false," said Simmers in his prepared statement.

The expansion of shale gas development helped Youngstown's Local 396 plumbers and pipefitters union move from 40% unemployment two years ago to full employment this year with no expected layoffs in the future, testified Roland Taylor, business manager for Local 396.

See also:

Could Shale Gas Create a Manufacturing Renaissance in Ohio?

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