LACEYVILLE — A number of presentations were held during last Friday’s joint meeting between dozens of federal rural development representatives and local business and elected officials, where ideas and information for rural energy development were exchanged.
One of those presentations was given by Central Bradford Progress Authority Executive Director Tony Ventello, who outlined the numerous ways that modern energy has ben integrated into the local economies.
Bradford County Commissioner Daryl Miller introduced Ventello, and noted that Pennsylvania now produces the second-most natural gas in the country.
“We’re not new to energy,” he said. “But we’ve become the second-highest producer in the last decade. We weren’t even on the radar a dozen years ago.”
As Ventello explained, while the natural gas industry was busy drilling wells and building pipelines to get the gas to market, local businesses and organizations set to work to develop their own uses of natural gas and capitalize on its opportunities.
“One of the critical components to all this is kind of an assumption that in lots of other parts of the state thinks we all have access to this resource. Distribution is kind of the root of vertical integration,” he said. “But a lot of times we don’t have access to it at all. It’s kind of the perfect irony in that regard.”
Ventello cited an example as such — the Elk Lake School District in Susquehanna County. The district has had a gas well on its property for years, but could not access the gas being pulled out of the ground until only recently.
“They wanted to convert their boilers over to natural gas ... and they were able to do that,” he said. “The Montrose High School now utilizes natural gas. There’s two new hospitals in our region that are invested in natural gas (in Troy and Montrose). These are just good things that are happening in our community.”
Ventello also touched on the several CNG (compressed natural gas) stations located in Bradford County, as well as the massive LNG facility being constructed near Wyalusing.
“Most of those are being formed because of New York state’s curtailment of pipelines, so these are stopgap developments,” he continued. “But, of course, it’s about getting the gas out of here, keeping drilling strong and also adding value to the gas before it leaves the area.
“We’ve talked about (power) generation. We have the Panda Power Plant (in Asylum Township) and there’s a sister plant in Lycoming County,” Ventello stated. “They produce around 830 megawatts of electricity. You can see the investment — close to $1 billion locally — and both facilities are up and running.”
Ventello also mentioned the seven IMG Midstream “mini plants” that produce around 20 megawatts of electricity each.
“We’re also seeing combined heat and power sources throughout the region,” he stated. “To our north, Guthrie just put in a small two-megawatt facility. GTP (Global Tungsten Powders) in Towanda is also contemplating combined heat and power at their location.”
Ventello noted that GTP also now produces all its own hydrogen needed for the plant by utilizing natural gas.
However, Ventello added that part of the region’s strength is the diversity of its economy across several different industries, as evidenced by Guthrie, Cargill, Leprino Foods, Masco, GTP, DuPont and others.
“One of the great things about this region is the diversity of the economy,” he said. “You go to other states and you get those dips in the economy. But diversity helps you weather those and, of course, vertical integration helps you weather those, too. But because we have a strong industry base throughout the region, we don’t get the peaks, but we also don’t get the valleys in the economy that other regions do.”
One of the area’s largest companies that has embraced local energy is Procter and Gamble in Wyoming County, explained Ventello.
“They have combined heat and power plants that generate all of their energy independently,” he said. “They have all of their own gas wells on their site. They make paper products, so a lot of the waste is hot air, and they’re able to use the hot air. So they’re very efficient in what they do.”
Ventello explained that the region economically is a strong advocate for natural gas, and leaders at all levels need to continue to find ways to incentivize its growth.
“It’s environmentally friendly. It’s low cost, and it’s our future,” he said.