Tech advancements highlighted at CNG event
BY STACI WILSON
For years, Susquehanna County has exported its resources, from milk to timber to stone. Even the most recent tapped resource, natural gas, has been sent through pipelines to major markets on the east coast.
But now, the natural gas industry is also utilizing the resource closer to home.
Cabot Oil and Gas, of Houston, Texas, hosted a Compressed Natural Gas informational event Thursday, Aug. 15, at its
CNG filling station in Springville Twp. Cabot uses the station to fuel its 60 dual-fuel fleet vehicles, as well as its “tube truck” used at drill sites.
Cabot also brought in a hydraulic fracturing pumping truck that is using natural gas, from a pipeline, wellhead or LNG (liquefied natural gas) to power the frac process, in addition to diesel.
Bryan Dickson, of FTS International, said the effectiveness of the dual-fuel engine is still being studied. The new technology has only been in use in the field for the past few months, he said.
“It’s been successful so far,” he said. “And it’s on the leading edge of natural gas conversion technology.”
In addition to fuel cost savings, the use of natural gas also lowers the carbon footprint of the process, Dickson said.
The frac truck wasn’t the only large vehicle powered by natural gas.
Adam Diaz, owner of Diaz Companies of Brooklyn Twp., introduced his new CNG truck purchased through Kenworth of PA that will be used in his company’s disposal division.
“It uses no diesel,” Diaz said. “It 100 percent relies on CNG.”
Diaz said the cost of CNG at the pump is roughly half the cost of diesel fuel. And he plans to convert his entire vehicle fleet to CNG in the future.
“As the technology advances and the supply of CNG increases, it makes sense,” he said. “The supply is here.”
Randy Rutherford of Kenworth of PA said the Diaz vehicle was its first all natural gas vehicle sale.
“Kenworth is a pioneer of natural gas and alternative fuel vehicles with CNG and LBG trucks,” Rutherford said.
He also said natural gas development as a whole has been good for their business, including the addition of mechanics and technicians to the company payroll.
Cabot’s Regional Operations Manager Gary Hlavinka said, “The Marcellus Shale is a world-class energy resource.”
With 30 years working in the industry, he described the daily production rates Cabot is hitting as “astounding.”
Hlavinka highlighted the fact that local gas was being used by the company for its dual-fuel CNG vehicles, drill rigs and the completion equipment.
“The more natural gas is used, the less diesel and gasoline are needed to run our operations,” he said. “We produce our own natural gas right here.”
Hlavinka continued, “This station is a sneak peek of the innovations in technology as industry and consumers find new ways to take advantage of (natural gas).”
Cabot spokesman George Stark echoed Halvinka’s point. “We drilling it, putting it in the pipeline and using it,” he said.
Anthony Ventello, executive director of The Progress Authority – Susquehanna County’s economic development arm – said the technology highlighted at the event really showcased the “value-added” features of natural gas.
“It’s the next step,” Ventello said, “adding value to the resource before it leaves the county.”
“Susquehanna County has now overcome having prolific wells that no one could use,” Ventello said.
Scott Staruch, of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, said that in 2011, Pennsylvania became a net exporter of natural gas. He also spoke about how the lower cost fuel was helping to bring manufacturing back to the United States. ANGA’s mission is to promote the use of natural gas, he said.
Staruch said several proposed power generation plants in Pennsylvania plan to use natural gas, including a plant in Lackawanna County.
And, he said, resource estimates indicate an abundance of domestic natural gas.
“It’s often called a bridge fuel,” Staruch said. “If that’s the case, it’s one heck of a long bridge.”
In addition to the natural gas using vehicles, Stark noted the company’s involvement with local colleges and high schools in developing natural gas technology programs for students.
Located in New Milford is the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum and Natural Gas. College President Mark Volk said the programs offered at the school allow students to find local jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage.
“Our goal is for students to be on the cutting edge of what the industry needs,” Volk said.
Chad Gorman, a Broome County, N.Y., native, pursued a career in environmental engineering out of the area, but came back to take a job with Cabot.
Gorman is now president of GasSearch Drilling Services, who views his job as a “long term career opportunity.”
With over 180 employees and 85-90 percent of those employees from the local area, Gorman expects GDS to continue to grow along with Cabot.
“It’s right here. It’s under our feet. This is the future,” he said.