Group Seeks Alternative Uses for
Marcellus Shale Gas
7/1/2011 - Penn State Materials Research Institute - A new
industry-led initiative to promote in-state utilization of Marcellus
Shale natural gas by developing combined-heat-and-power (CHP)
systems was announced Thursday at the Natural Gas Utilization
Workshop at Penn State.
The Commonwealth Recycled Energy Economic Development Alliance (CREEDA)
wants to jumpstart development of CHP systems, which recover waste
heat from the generation of electricity and then use it for
additional purposes including humidity control, cooling and heating
“Marcellus Shale-natural gas powered CHP systems are more efficient
than conventional electricity generation.
They also are the lowest
cost method for reducing carbon emissions because they have longer
operating hours throughout the year than solar photovoltaic or
wind-powered systems,” said Richard Sweetser, senior advisor with
the U.S. Department of Energy’s Mid-Atlantic Clean Energy
Application Center, who introduced the initiative.
Held June 29 and 30 at Penn State’s University Park campus, the
workshop drew more than 130 invited participants from natural gas
companies, state agencies, local and state government and University
researchers who examined three high-value uses for the long-term
supply of natural gas being produced in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus
Besides CHP systems, the use of natural gas in transportation and as
a fuel and feedstock for local manufacturing were discussed, with
input from international companies with experience in the economics
of large scale energy projects, which the Marcellus has the
potential to support.
The Marcellus, stretching from West Virginia through much of
Pennsylvania and into New York, is thought to be the largest of
about two dozen shale gas plays in the nation with as much as 500
trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.
The increasing supply of
domestic natural gas represents a new fuel source for manufacturers,
public transit systems, schools and hospitals.
Marcellus natural gas, for instance, has the potential to
reinvigorate the petrochemical industry in eastern Pennsylvania and
create new petrochemical production in western Pennsylvania, said
Tom Richard, director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the
“This is not just about clean energy or about creating a demand for
cheap energy but about economic development,” Richard said.
“Industries that use natural
gas as a feedstock produce eight times more jobs than those that
simply burn the fuel.”
Energy-intensive businesses in Pennsylvania that could potentially
use Marcellus Shale natural gas include furnaces and foundries,
lumber and wood products and food processing.
Workshop participants also explored the advantages of transitioning
from petroleum-based fuels to natural gas-based fuels for
transportation, advantages which include reductions in emissions and
lower costs on a gasoline-gallon equivalent.
But switching involves significant challenges, from the cost of
converting engines to natural gas to the limited refueling
infrastructure across both the state and the nation. Regulatory
barriers to conversions and bi-fuel vehicles also must be overcome.
“We need high-profile demonstrations with vehicle deployment to show
that we can make this work,” said Andre Boehman, professor of fuel
science in the Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
While as recently as 60 years ago, many of Pennsylvania’s state
institutions were powered by CHP, one of the biggest challenges
facing adoption of these systems is lack of awareness by potential
users, policy makers and the public of the benefits, such as greater
fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions.
The target users of CHP
include schools, hospitals and industrial plants.
But the development of CHP systems also faces regulatory and
CREEDA, an alliance of natural gas utilities,
end users, developers, manufacturers and academic researchers, will
be key in developing a statewide CHP energy policy that addresses
those barriers, Sweetser said.
Developing new uses and new markets for Marcellus Shale natural gas
will take concerted and sustained efforts to educate stakeholders
from elected officials and public policy makers to citizens, said
Tom Murphy, co-director of Penn State’s Marcellus Center for
Outreach and Research (MCOR).
“We need to rally the public with good science and good
information,” Murphy told the group.
“We need to let the public know
the process of getting energy to them, so they can decide their own
And we need to let parents know that there will be
good jobs available for their children through wise use of our
The workshop was co-hosted by the Ben Franklin Technology PArtners,
Central and Northern Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Department of Energy
Clean Energy Application Center and was organized by the Penn State
Industrial Research Office, Marcellus Center for Outreach and
Research, and the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the