Students to get natural gas technician training

SOMERSET, Ky. — A southern Kentucky city that runs its own natural gas pipeline has been approved to offer a pilot program in vocational training in the natural gas technology.

The program comes as the city prepares to bid out a massive construction project on an energy center that will serve as a hub for city services and a monitoring station for the pipeline, according to the Commonwealth Journal.

High school students will earn dual high school and college credits that would go toward a natural gas technician program.

“They take these certificates and/or diplomas in the U.S. and get great jobs,” Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler said at a recent Somerset City Council meeting.

Somerset got into the natural gas business during a shortage in the 1970s. The city borrowed $4.5 million from Farmers Home Administration and built a natural gas pipeline into eastern Kentucky. Transmission of natural gas from previously landlocked producers ended frequent shortages in Somerset and has proven a financial success.

Somerset Gas, owned and operated by the city, consists of a local gas distribution system as well as 155 miles of transmission lines that run through five counties. It transports gas for 12 producers in eastern Kentucky, according to the city’s website.

The training program is the culmination of two years of work on the part of Girdler, the Pulaski County and Somerset school systems, the Pulaski County Area Technology Center, and Somerset Community College.

“We’ll start here, then expand statewide,” said Girdler.

The future energy hub will be a 36,200 square-foot structure with an estimated cost of more than $8.4 million. Somerset has been approved for an $8.5 million loan through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Community Facilities Program.

City hall offices will be located on all three of the above-ground floors. The technology center is slated for the second floor, and an emergency command center will be located in the basement.

Girdler said he’s hopeful the program can get under way in the fall.

“It’s a great feather in the hat of Somerset and Pulaski County,” he said.