VELMA — Dozens of Oklahoma teachers continued their oil-field education Friday with tours of a drilling rig and a production site operated by Marathon Oil Co.
The events were part of the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board Educators’ Retreat, which allows a select group of teachers to further their understanding of the state’s oil and natural gas industry.
The program, which is offered every other year, is open to teachers who are interested in expanding their use of OERB’s curriculum in their classrooms, education director Carla Schaeperkoetter said.
Eighty-one teachers emerged from more than 200 applicants for this year’s program, which included three days of activities and site visits designed to show them how the industry operates.
“It’s been a whirlwind of activity,” Schaeperkoetter said.
The group visited Valero Energy Corp.’s refinery in Ardmore on Wednesday and dug for fossils in Sulphur on Thursday before heading to Stephens County on Friday to learn about how Marathon produces oil and natural gas.
Wade Hutchings, regional vice president of Marathon’s Mid-Continent asset team, said it costs the company about $11 million to drill and complete a well in the SCOOP, or South Central Oklahoma Oil Province.
The Stephens County well that was part of Friday’s tour is expected to produce about 2 million barrels of oil equivalent over its lifetime.
Hutchings said the U.S. consumes about 18 million barrels of oil a day, so energy companies must work hard to satisfy that demand.
At the well site north of Velma, teachers clad in fire-proof clothing, safety glasses and hard hats they had decorated with stickers, learned about the drilling process from a handful of Marathon employees about how a drilling rig works. Several workers from Hughes Christensen showed them a number of different drill bits.
A half dozen workers responsible for Marathon’s production sites detailed those operations at a site about a mile away.
Brenda Madden, a fifth-grade science teacher from Purcell, said she was pleased to learn how many jobs are available in the oil and gas industry, including for women. About five women were among the Marathon employees involved in Friday’s tours.
She said she is looking forward to sharing the available opportunities with her students. There are jobs available for people with different skills and levels of education.
Ranee Schoenhals, a special education teacher from Edmond, said she appreciated being able to learn more about the industry that has helped some of her more “reluctant learners” become interested in math.
She said she initially went to an OERB workshop about three years ago to get calculators for her classroom, but she was struck by how the board’s real-world lessons managed to engage her students.
Marathon’s Hutchings said he hopes the teachers who were part of Friday’s tour will encourage their students to study science and math because the world, not just the energy industry, needs more scientists and engineers.
Since OERB offered its first education program in 1996, it has shared its curriculum with more than 12,000 teachers. The board has provided materials to about 95 percent of the state’s school districts.