BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Williams Energy, an Oklahoma-based natural gas transportation company in the.Fortune 500, is planning to open offices in Tunkhannock and possibly Nicholson this spring.
“By the end of 2013, we project having added close to 100 new jobs in Wyoming and Susquehanna counties,” Appalachian Basin general manager Ryan Savage told a packed Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.
Savage said the company already added 17 new jobs by the end of 2010, and will have a total of 50 by this year’s end.
“The truth is you are sitting on one of the largest natural gas resources in the world, and while it makes some people uncomfortable, it’s going to create a beehive of activity and a lot of jobs for you,” Savage said.
And more than just the ones Williams is creating.
“We’re planning to be here for the long haul,” he added, noting that its Tunkhannock office would be opened by April 1 in the former P&G Federal Credit Union building on Warren Street.
That office will support its Midstream assets acquired from Cabot Oil & Gas for $150 million last year.
They include 75 miles of gathering pipelines and two compressor stations- known as Lathrop and Teel, both in Susquehanna County.
Add to that some major excavation and construction about to unfold between Springville and Dallas where a 2-foot-wide pipeline will be laid, and on Shupp Hill in Tunkhannock Township, a new compressor station will be constructed.
Near Dallas, what is being called the Springville Gathering Line will be connected to the Transco pipeline, a Williams’ holding of the past 60 years which takes gas right into Manhattan, in the heart of New York City.
Savage said Williams through a third party – Western Land Services – had already acquired the rights of way in Susquehanna, Wyoming and Luzerne counties for nearly all of the 34-mile long pipeline.
The land for the compressor station has been purchased from Francis Wilcox, about a quarter of a mile behind the Wilcox Farm Supply store on SR 1002.
Savage said the pipeline will go underneath the Tunkhannock Creek near Shadowbrook Resort along U.S. Rt. 6 and under the Susquehanna River near the village of Osterhout.
He said that the company is projecting the pipeline and compressor station might be in place by the end of July, but to get there will require hiring of subcontractors who can do excavation and lay piping for a 3-6 month duration.
That was music to the ears of Chamber member Amy Kowalski of Adams Enterprises that has a history of site construction, excavation and demolition jobs in the Tunkhannock area.
“Any new opportunity on such a grand scale as Williams is projecting has got to be good for the community,” Kowalski said. “The past four years in much of our region has just not been well, and we’re looking for brighter days.”
Savage, an Oklahoma native with a slight southern drawl, said he would be working out of Williams’ Pittsburgh area office, but two topflight assistants would be in Wyoming County.
Mike Dickinson would be overseeing operation and maintenance of Williams’ assets for the long haul, while David Bradford would be manager of engineering and construction of new assets such as gathering lines and compressor stations.
The office possibly in Nicholson, but for which no contract is yet in place would be dedicated to a third prong of Williams’ regional interest- exploration and production.
Savage said although Bradford and Dickinson were being brought in from outside because of their work expertise, his company was very definitely looking to hire local folks and suggested those interested turn to to www.williams.com
He said the company website using keyword ‘Susquehanna’ showed Williams was presently hiring an engineer, technician, safety specialist and environmetal specilaist in the region with more on the way.
Because much of the local workforce might not have a lot of skill in building compressor stations or laying pipe, Savage said his company would be looking for technicians and electricians who have transferrable skills.
Savage noted that once April rolls around people on the ground will very definitely see a swath of clearing ground, excavating and laying pipe across the county with a workspace width of 40–plus feet in proximity of where the pipe is to go and leading into and out of the compressor station.
Right now a team of biologists is walking the full length of the proposed pipeline and clearing the trees that could be considered potential nesting sites for Indiana bats, a protected species in Pennsylvania which has gone south for the winter.
“A very specific size and type of tree have been identified as those which bats like to nest in,” Savage said, “and we want to cull those trees before the bat population returns to the region in April so we’re not dealing with an environmental issue.”
Then, in April, it will be pretty visible to the average layman as to where the pipeline is being laid because the ground will be cleared of any potentially root-devloping trees to eliminate future damage done.
The end product , Savage said, was increased capacity to get gas to market more quickly.
“Once that’s in place you should begin to see gathering lines moving in to take advantage of getting even more gas to market,” he said.
“That should mean good business for everyone.”