CNG Future Glowing Bright in Northeast

CNG Future - George StarkGeorge Stark
Director, External Affairs at Cabot Oil & Gas


Natural gas development is bringing economic sustainability to Northeastern Pennsylvania as this sector of its economy multiplies in new ways every day. Compressed natural gas or CNG is part of the future and Johnson College is helping make it happen.

Beginning next year, Johnson College will offer automotive and diesel training in compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel systems and technology. In 2015, the school will offer the region’s first CNG certificate program. I commend Dr. Ann Pipinski the Johnson College President, and her staff for recognizing the opportunity that natural gas provides for this region.  It is truly gratifying that this local institution has taken the steps to fill the industry’s growing need for CNG technicians. Cabot has its own CNG gas station, a fleet of CNG vehicles and CNG equipment used in the development process, so its important to us as an individual company as well.

Johnson College Taking the CNG Initiative

Johnson College is an extraordinary institution with a long history of job-ready education in Pennsylvania. To help support Johnson College in this new endeavor and to promote natural gas as a more sustainable transportation fuel, my employer, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, hosted a CNG expo last November 7th at the college. Over 150 guests including students of the school, regional business leaders and politicians were invited. Check out this great little video of the event:

High school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teachers from Lackawanna County also attended as part of a day-long program focusing on high-demand regional career opportunities coordinated by Skills in Scranton, a Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce business-education partnership. Additionally, the STEM teachers visited Lackawanna College’s School of Petroleum & Natural Gas to learn about the petroleum engineering technician and compression technician degrees that are in high demand.

CNG technology has greatly improved in recent years and, to illustrate this, Cabot invited Kenworth of Pennsylvania and Pocono Peterbilt, two of the region’s leading truck manufacturing providers, to display heavy duty CNG trucks and to explain the technical differences between traditional diesel and CNG engines.

CNG Event at Johnson College

One of the misconceptions about CNG vehicles is that they lack the necessary horsepower to perform heavy-duty work. This of course couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, both of these companies have vehicles operating in northeastern Pennsylvania in heavy-duty capacities today. And the outlook for this type of trucking is bright. “We are forecasting up to 5% of the industry’s North American heavy truck manufacturing in 2014 will be natural gas powered,” said Andy Douglas, national sales manager of Kenworth, who flew in from Seattle, Washington, to speak during the celebration.

CNG Future Promoted by DEP and Marcellus Shale Coalition

The event also featured speeches from senior representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Pennsylvania’s DEP Secretary, Chris Abruzzo, remarked that his department had been accepting grant applications for alternative fuel projects since the beginning of 2013 and had awarded 33 alternative fuel incentive grants throughout the Commonwealth for natural gas projects. He further elaborated the purpose of these grants; to promote clean, alternative fuel projects in Pennsylvania, and to enhance investment in Pennsylvania’s energy sector.

One particular alternative fuel project highlighted during the event was for L.T. Verrastro, Inc., a Scranton based beverage distributor and recipient of a grant earlier this year. The grant will offset the cost to purchase 20 CNG vans, trucks and sport utility vehicles for the firm. L.T. Verrastro is also in the process of building Scranton area’s first public CNG fueling station. Secretary Abruzzo finished his remarks by announcing the next round of alternative fuel incentive grants, approximately $10 million in funding, was now open and the state was accepting proposals.

CNG - Beer

Marcellus Shale Coalition president, David Spigelmyer, helped frame the importance of natural gas as a transportation fuel for the future of the United States.Not only is it clean burning and low cost, he reminded the audience, but it’s also produced right here in Pennsylvania. Daily production from the Marcellus Shale, in fact, is now over 12 billion cubic feet (Bcf) and growing. This means natural gas will be abundant for decades to come.

A few weeks after our CNG expo at Johnson College, State Senator John Blake hosted the 2nd annual E2 Summit: Education & the Economy, at Marywood University and spoke about how additional advanced career-focused education is needed to counter high unemployment rates in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We at Cabot were honored Senator Blake recognized our new relationship with Johnson College as a model of economic sustainability and successful career development in his opening remarks.

Next spring, Cabot is planning another expo at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Who knows what opportunities may arise from that event to further ensure the economic sustainability of our region. The natural gas industry is revitalizing Northeastern Pennsylvania in ways we couldn’t even imagine less than a decade ago when Marcellus Shale became a household term. Now tens of thousands of households are benefitting from not only the jobs and the royalties, but also the cheaper, cleaner gas to heat their homes and fuel their vehicles.

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