Today the term Marcellus Shale is a household name. It’s transformed Pennsylvania’s economy and has elevated the state’s energy profile. Recent production figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection illustrate the prolific nature of this play. Production topped 895 billion cubic feet of natural gas for the first six months of 2012, pushing the total production over 2.5 trillion cubic feet since 2008.
How big is this? Pennsylvania has gone from importing 75 percent of its natural gas just five years ago to being a net exporter today.
Thanks to an abundance of this resource, much attention has been focused on its safe and responsible development. However, another area gaining attention is the role natural gas plays in our transportation sector.
With substantial cost saving and environmental benefits, employing more vehicles fueled by natural gas will put us on the road to a cleaner energy future. The increasing attention on natural gas as a transportation fuel is evident in a variety of ways.
Nearly 200 people attended a recent Natural Gas Utilization Conference in State College. Hundreds of residents are attending PA Department of Environmental Protection’s natural gas vehicle workshops.
The Turnpike Commission is engaged in a study looking at the feasibility of liquefied natural gas stations along the turnpike. Even at the recent annual ShaleNET Workforce Forum, the discussion included new careers in transportation related to NGVs and natural gas fueling infrastructure.
Announcements have been made by auto manufacturers such as Chrysler to offer bi-fuel engines on its Ram model, and Honda is increasing production of its natural gas Civic. Other auto manufacturers such as Ford and GM also offer natural gas fleet options and all heavy duty truck manufacturers now offer natural gas in their lineup.
In addition, engine manufacturers are developing natural-gas powered engines for on-road and off-road equipment.
To support these new natural gas vehicles, drivers need fueling infrastructure. In response, numerous cities and companies have announced plans to open natural gas fueling stations for public and private use nationwide.
And Pennsylvania is leading that charge. Chesapeake Energy has announced the development of several compressed natural gas filling stations in the Northern Tier to fuel its vehicles while opening the stations to the public. EQT has had a public CNG station opened for more than a year in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.
Other companies have recently opened CNG stations in Bucks and Delaware counties and more are being planned throughout the state — including LNG stations.
Building on these infrastructure and auto manufacturing announcements, the Department of Environmental Protection has aggressively been educating the public on its natural gas energy development program.
Through public workshops and via its website, DEP is helping consumers, fleet owners and public officials make informed decisions on utilizing natural gas as a transportation fuel.
To put a finer point on the potential benefits, natural gas use in power generation has helped achieve the lowest carbon dioxide emissions in 20 years, with significantly lower smog and ozone-causing emissions as well. It can similarly help clean up transportation emissions. It’s also cheaper than conventional gas and diesel — by more than 50 percent.
That’s more money kept in our communities and in your pockets. Costs to convert fleets can be recaptured in short order, helping businesses save money, expand their operations and increase their competitiveness in a national and global economy.
Using more natural gas vehicles is a solution to help Pennsylvania and other states reach their clean air goals. Thanks to an abundance of supply and exciting advances in vehicle and engine production, we can safely and responsibly use this resource to get on the road to a cleaner transportation future.