STOW: Ohio’s Utica shale boom is benefiting Polystar Containment.
In the past 3½ years, the drilling industry in Ohio and other states has become one-third of the sales for the Stow company that specializes in spill prevention and containment.
Last summer, Polystar moved its 25 full-time employees from two buildings with 40,000 square feet of space in Twinsburg into larger facilities with 80,000 square feet of space in Stow. There they produce modular and portable systems to contain leaks and spills around drilling rigs, tanks and shipping sites to protect the environment.
Additional space and facilities were critical to handle growing sales, officials said.
The sales bump from drilling for natural gas and oil “came almost out of nowhere, but adding this has been fantastic,” said Rob Nightwine, the company’s director of sales. He declined to provide specific sales figures.
Polystar Containment is not the only company to benefit from Ohio’s Utica shale boom.
It is among 106 projects that a Columbus law firm lists in its spring 2014 compilation of Utica shale investment and spending in Ohio.
Ohio has seen an additional $5.9 billion in investment since last fall, according to Bricker & Eckler LLP. Shale-related spending has grown from $12.9 billion in the fall report to $18.8 billion in the latest report.
The number of projects jumped from 84, an increase of 26 percent.
And the dollar value is far larger than reported because there are no price estimates for 43 of the 106 projects listed, officials said.
The Shale Economic Development Overview report is dominated by energy infrastructure — pipelines and processing plants — said Bricker & Eckler attorney Matt Warnock.
“The numbers are flat-out staggering,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’m both surprised and impressed.”
He admitted that it is difficult getting used to talking about multibillion-dollar projects in Ohio.
A dozen projects on the company’s list show a price tag of $500 million or more.
Most of the names on the list are not from companies that people are familiar with or have ever been in Ohio before, Warnock said. That means there is “a tremendous growth of existing companies and new companies moving to Ohio.”
The listings range from new hotels to interstate pipelines, from enlarged steel mills to well-service companies entering Ohio.
Akron’s FirstEnergy Corp. has one of the largest projects: a $2.8 billion upgrade to its electric system in Ohio’s shale region.
Another big-money project on the list is a $500 million proposed natural gas-fired power plant in Butler County near Cincinnati. The plant, announced in January, could begin operations in 2018.
Warnock said the law firm gathered most of its data from news reports. Not all of the listings are directly tied to Utica shale activity, but the list provides a comprehensive overview of the industry, including new plants, new or expanded Ohio offices and new educational programs.
The law firm issued its first report about a year ago, but the fall report was the first to get significant attention, he said.
Eight in Stark
Locally, Stark County has eight listings, including steel expansions by Canton-based Timken Co. and plans by Stark State College to build training facilities in Canton for drilling.
Summit County has one other listing: Amerimar Inc. and its redevelopment plans for the old Firestone Tire Co. offices and plant, as well as the Greystone Hall building in downtown Akron.
Portage, Medina and Wayne counties do not appear on the Bricker & Eckler list, but numerous pipeline projects would affect those counties.
Trumbull County leads the Bricker & Eckler report with 15 listings. Columbiana County has 10 listings.
Stow’s Polystar Containment specializes in systems of steel and fiberglass or molded polyethylene that can be placed around drilling sites, storage tanks or loading areas to contain spills and leaks.
The secondary-containment company — it is officially Polystar Inc. — offers 13 specific products that have been designed, built and are for sale, Nightwine said.
Its most popular system is a 3-foot-high barrier that is corrosion resistant.
One advantage is that two workers can install the barrier system with no heavy equipment or tools. The company produces four pieces needed to assemble the outer barrier.
A barrier for a 40-foot-by-40-foot area would cost about $11,000 to $12,000, Nightwine said. Liners are extra.
The company typically stocks up to 2,000 barrier pieces that are 4 feet long for quick shipment, he said. The barriers are easy to ship by van or truck.
The company also offers a containment system that lies flat on the ground around railroad tracks where oil is being loaded and unloaded.
“We’re basically an insurance policy against leaks and problems,” Nightwine said.
Drillers from as far away as Texas, North Dakota and Oklahoma have been attracted to its equipment, he said.
His company is dealing largely with drilling contractors, not the big energy companies, he said. The equipment is sold to contractors, who then rent to drillers.
Previous to the shale drilling explosion, Polystar Containment largely sold to the trucking and rail industries plus the military, Nightwine said.
The 21-year-old company, originally based in Macedonia, also is looking to expand into protecting against leaks and spills of hazardous chemicals, production manager Mark Pethtel said.
The Bricker & Eckler report is available at www.bricker.com/documents/attachments/Shale%20ED%20Chart%203.14.pdf.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.