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Natural gas production, supply centers on rebound

Natural gas prices may be dropping, but the number of area companies involved in the natural gas industry shows no signs of decline.

Area companies are involved in a wide range of natural gas services, including engineering and surveying, environmental consulting, excavation and construction and providing fuel.

Compressed Natural Gas of New Holland, Lancaster County, operates a CNG refueling station in Earl Township.

“Anything from a Honda Civic to a class 8 truck (tractor-trailer) can refuel here,” said Rick Bunn, partner in operations.

Business has been good at the station since it opened in September 2013, Bunn said.

“We see significant growth month over month,” he said.

Compressed natural gas, which is methane stored at high pressure, can be used in place of gasoline, diesel fuel and propane.

CNG-powered vehicles have several advantages, according to the company’s website. They are better for the environment than gasoline-powered vehicles. CNG generally is between 30 and 60 percent cheaper than gasoline. CNG-powered vehicles require less maintenance than other hydrocarbon-fuel-powered vehicles, and they’re safer than gasoline-powered vehicles.

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Additionally, Bunn said, most of the CNG used at the station is produced in Pennsylvania, so it benefits the state’s economy.

“Why would you import it if you have it domestically?” he said.

Bunn declined to disclose how much fuel the station sells.

The number of CNG vehicles on the roads is still relatively low, Bunn said. However, he said, it varies by area. There are more in western Pennsylvania than the eastern part of the state, he said, because there’s more natural gas activity in the west.

“It’s been supported by the industry, and since there’s more drilling in the western part of the state, there seems to have been more adaptation of the CNG vehicles,” he said.

Motorists from other states, such as Ohio, who have CNG vehicles stop at the station while passing through, Bunn said.

“What happens is the people who are running the CNG get to know where the stations are,” he said. “There are a number of smartphone apps that will tell you where the stations are and how to get to them.”

Bunn said research shows that if there are places to fuel, people will purchase CNG vehicles. He has explored opening another station but decided now is not a good time because refined fuel prices are depressed, he said.

“I believe that within the next year to 18 months you’re going to see at least one more in the area,” he said.

Rettew Associates, Lancaster, also is heavily involved in the natural gas industry. Rettew offers engineering, survey and environmental consulting services for drilling companies, among other services.

Mark Lauriello, Rettew’s president and COO, estimated that about 35 to 40 percent of the company’s business is related to the natural gas industry.

“We’re a pretty diverse engineering firm,” he said, noting that it does highway, water and wastewater projects.

However, Lauriello said, things aren’t exactly booming right now on the natural gas side. The industry has seen a steady decline for about three years, he said.

“It peaked in 2011,” he said. “It ramped up rapidly from 2008 to 2011, and peaked in late 2011. It’s been dropping pretty rapidly recently.”

Lauriello said the decline is related to the drop in the prices of oil and natural gas. Though fuel prices can be unpredictable, Lauriello said the current lull is somewhat of an anomaly, and he believes the industry will rebound.

“We were definitely impacted, but because we’re diverse, we can withstand it,” he said. “With that said, we would like it to come back and sort of stabilize.”

 

This article was written by Brad Rhen from Reading Eagle, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.