The Appalachian region’s abundant supply of natural gas will be the catalyst in “how this region creates the next industrial revolution,” an energy expert predicted at a recent Washington County Chamber of Commerce event.
Denise Brinley, vice president of strategic growth and client engagement at TRC Companies Inc. and a former executive director of Pennsylvania Office of Energy, was one of three panelists discussing the state of energy in this region.
She said that this area is in the “bulls-eye” for attracting one of four hydrogen hubs that will be funded by the recently approved federal infrastructure bill that allotted $8 billion for the projects, which are aimed at helping the nation meet its emissions reduction and climate goals.
She said that is due to the abundant supply of natural gas, which can be converted into hydrogen, as well as the large energy industry here including Shell, U.S, Steel, and others. Many of these companies have to find ways to address carbon emissions, and hydrogen could be the answer for hard-to-electrify industries and long-distance transportation through fuel cells. Developing hydrogen technology, and coupling that with carbon capture and sequestration would be a big step toward “future-proofing the region,” she said. Brinley noted that the region also has geological features and caverns where carbon emissions could be permanently stored if the technology can be ramped up.
David Callahan, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, noted that Pennsylvania is the No. 2 state in gas production, providing more than 18 percent of the nation’s gas, and No. 1 in the number of producing wells. But the industry faces some challenges, with one of the biggest being the difficulty of getting approvals for pipeline projects. Several large pipeline projects have been repeatedly challenged in court by environmental groups, slowing or stopping them.
“The impediments of moving natural gas to other regions are confounding,” Brinley noted. While different groups have different energy goals, she argued that natural gas is lower in emissions than coal and can be used to supplement other energy sources.
Joe McGinn, vice president of public affairs for Energy Transfer, which built and operates several pipelines in the region, including the Mariner East and the Revolution pipelines, noted that Europe and New England are both starved of energy, yet the ability to ship Appalachian gas to help meet those needs is hindered by a lack of pipeline capacity due to federal and state regulations and “anti-energy movements.”
Tony Guadlip, vice president of Range Resources, one of the region’s biggest producers, noted that it’s necessary to have a portfolio of energy sources. “Natural gas right now in my viewpoint is the reliable and clean-burning fuel that can fill that need as we figure out how to make alternative fuels more affordable.”