Staruch: Natural Gas Utilization Conference Set for Oct. 14 & 15

By: Scott Staruch

The 2014 Penn State Natural Gas Utilization Conference heads to Canonsburg, Pa., October 14-15. The conference’s fourth installment will showcase the latest trends in natural gas use.

Presented by America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research (MCOR) and Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center (SGICC), the conference will feature presentations from energy industry experts, business leaders, government officials and academic researchers. These speakers will discuss how the natural gas revolution is reshaping natural gas’ role as a transportation fuel, revitalizing our manufacturing sector and providing a cleaner fuel source for power generation needs. The full agenda is available at

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Staruch: Putting Natural Gas To Work For Your Business

By: Scott Staruch

This October 14th and 15th, the annual Penn State Natural Gas Utilization Conference will take place in Canonsburg, Pa., just south of Pittsburgh ( Since many readers in the southeast will likely be unable to make the trek, this month’s column offers a glimpse of what will be discussed, and how natural gas can go to work for your business.

Price + Supply = Confidence

No matter who you ask (the Energy Information Administration, the Potential Gas Committee, MIT), for the last few years they all have been predicting increasing amounts of recoverable U.S. natural gas. Recent natural gas supply projections range from 2,000 trillion cubic feet (TCF) to well over 3,000 TCF. And for perspective, in 2013 total U.S. natural gas consumption was 26 TCF.

Here in Pennsylvania, we’re constantly reminded of that supply as we continue to hit new production milestones. In early August, the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced, “natural gas production in the Marcellus Region exceeded 15 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) through July, the first time ever recorded…increasing from 2 Bcf/d in 2010 to its current level.” Then in late August, Wood Mackenzie provided an analysis of the Marcellus Shale play calling it “the largest shale gas play in the world” and predicting it holds over $90 billion in remaining value.

That supply and increasing production provides price stability for businesses.  In 2009, EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook forecasted gas prices around $13 per MMBtu (1,000,000 British thermal units). However, their most recent Annual Energy Outlook suggests prices will be just over $6 per MMBtu in 2035, and still less than $8 per MMBtu in 2040.

Natural Gas & Your Facility

No matter your business’ size, if you use a lot of energy, natural gas is sure to reduce your overhead costs and environmental impact. UGI Utilities, the state’s largest natural gas distribution company, finds that “many small to medium-sized businesses are saving $12,000 a year or more on their overall energy costs by switching to natural gas for heating and more.” An example of the types of savings from natural gas: since 2008 UGI converted over 31,500 households to natural gas, and in 2014 those 31,500 households will save roughly $47 million.

With the supply and price forecast mentioned earlier, affordable natural gas is not limited to just one utility. Early this month, Philadelphia Gas Works announced it was cutting prices by nearly 7 percent per month, and other utilities like PECO and Columbia Gas have programs to help commercial customers make the switch to natural gas.

Natural Gas & Your Fleet

There’s been growing awareness and interest in the role of natural gas as an alternative fuel in our transportation sector. If you have a child in the Lower Merion School District or if you use Bucks County Transport, this is no surprise to you.

“Natural gas vehicles outperform conventional fuels with a significantly higher octane rating, better fuel efficiency and lower operating costs - all while offering dramatic reductions in emissions. Natural gas is the only fuel alternative that can power heavy-duty trucks and buses, among the busiest vehicles on the road today,” explains America’s Natural Gas Alliance.

What surprises many southeastern PA residents is that this pocket of the commonwealth has more public compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations than any other region of the state. So whether you’re in Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia County, you have access to at least one CNG fueling station.

While the upfront costs of natural gas vehicles are greater than traditionally fueled vehicles, for businesses that have medium/heavy-duty, delivery, service or transport vehicles, the fuel savings will likely pay you back in just a couple of years. The latest Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report pegs the nationwide average fuel price for CNG at $2.15 versus $3.65 for gasoline. Additionally, to help make the shift to natural gas, you may be eligible for grants, rebates or other incentives.


As mentioned in last month’s Region’s Business, pipeline infrastructure to bring the local supply of natural gas to businesses will be a major factor in enabling the increased use of natural gas.  New infrastructure ensures system reliability, resiliency and supply diversification.

Proposed projects like the Atlantic Coast, Atlantic Sunrise, Constitution, PennEast Pipeline, and others are critical to bring natural gas to not only Pennsylvanians, but to our neighboring states. Pennsylvania sits above arguably the largest natural gas field in the world, and other communities are looking to their “friends in Pennsylvania” to help them with their energy needs.

Natural Gas: The Competitive Edge

While Pennsylvania businesses still face numerous hurdles to rebound from the economic downturn, the competitive edge under their feet is natural gas. The natural gas revolution is here and businesses that convert today will stay competitive for years to come.

Scott Staruch serves on the Penn State Natural Gas Utilization Conference Planning Committee. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.