Chesapeake Energy Opens District Office at Jane Lew
By Bonnstetter, Cathy
JANE LEW – Chesapeake Energy Corp., which Fortune magazine has named as one of the best companies in the country for which to work, has increased its stake in West Virginia shale and natural gas.
The company recently opened a new 25,000-square-foot district field office here just off of I-79. The office replaces the smaller Upshur County office.
Chesapeake already has 100 operational area wells and employs about 400 people statewide. The company expects to hire even more as their West Virginia assets grow.
“The Appalachian Region is an area of focus for us,” Mike John, Chesapeake’s eastern division vice president of operations, told a crowd of about 225 people. “We are investing capital to explore for clean-burning natural gas as we lessen our dependence on foreign oil.”
John said Chesapeake has invested $110 million in the state since 2005. Chesapeake’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer Aubrey K. McClendon said he sees a lot of promise in the area.
“West Virginia is thriving while the rest of the country is not. It’s not just Chesapeake drilling here; it’s other companies as well,” he said.
McClendon also said West Virginians soon will see residual benefits from sitting atop natural gas laden shale.
“When exploration companies come to an area, other companies follow, such as the ones who serviceour wells,” he said. “In Searcy. Ark., where we have interests, 85 companies followed us. That will happen here, too.”
McClendon assured people that natural gas extraction is good business and good stewardship.
“Natural gas reduces the carbon footprint by two-thirds,” he said. “Many car manufacturers do not understand how abundant it is. Technology in the last few years allows us to extract it from shale, and West Virginia is underlain with shale.
“If you are concerned about the environment, about the price of gas or national security, natural gas can solve these issues,” McClendon said. “And a lot of that gas will come from right here. We will become your good neighbor.”
Chesapeake is the country’s third largest producer of natural gas, according to its 2007 annual report.
Gov. Joe Manchin attended the facility grand opening and welcomed thecompany’s bigger presence in the state. “That a world-class company such as Chesapeake would have confidence in our state speaks volumes,” he said. “They are bringing more jobs and opportunities. Everyone wins.”
Since 2000, Chesapeake has worked to acquire the nation’s largest natural gas base. The corporation owns a substantial number of leases in every major natural gas deposit east of the Rocky Mountains, according to the company’s 2007 annual report.
“Natural gas is clean, abundant, affordable and American,” said Scott Rotruck, Chesapeake vice president of corporate development. “We do a lot of diagnostics upfront, and we seldom miss.”
Now 37 people are employed in the new office, and 29 are employed in the district field.
“A great thing about this new facility is the room for expansion,” Rotruck said. “Technology often shrinks the need for employees; in the gas business, the opposite is true.”
Chesapeake prides itself not just on good stewardship but on community investment. The company donated a parcel of land to Friends of the Cheat to give kayakers improved river access. The corporation also was a main sponsor for the 13th annual Cheat River Festival in Albright, according to the 2007 report.
Throughout the state, Chesapeake has invested about $500,000 in area nonprofits. In fact, at the official opening, Rotruck presented both the Jane Lew and Jackson’s Mill fire departments with $20,000.
Copyright State Journal Corporation May 16, 2008
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