San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) has opened the Gas Safety Academy, in Winters, CA, as its primary training center for employees learning to operate and maintain all aspects of the combination utility's natural gas delivery system. Included in the center -- the third gas safety facility opened by PG&E in the past four years -- are heavy equipment simulators, virtual learning resources, a model neighborhood for emergency response, leak detection practices, and educational safety protocol programs. PG&E officials said that the new center represents five years of research, benchmarking, design and construction. The center is designed to handle 150 employees weekly and provide nearly 36,000 hours of training annually.

Sempra Energy utilitySan Diego Gas and Electric Co. has been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission to upgrade the natural gas and electricity systems in mobile homes in San Diego County. By December, the utility plans to complete the conversion of 3,150 mobile homes at 28 locations, upgrading gas/electric service and reliability. Each mobile home would have a gas and electric meter, replacing system that relied on mobile home park operators to own/operate master systems. SDG&E wants to expand the program to capture an additional 4,900 mobile residences over the next six years.

Effective Oct. 1, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has increased the non-refundable filing fee for an Application for Permit to Drill (APD) on public and tribal lands by $180 to a total of $9,790. Congress directed the BLM to adjust the APD fee annually for inflation over 10 years as part of a defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015.

Carbon Natural Gas Co. affiliate Carbon Appalachian Co. LLC has paid an undisclosed seller $41.3 million for 780,000 net acres and 3,100 miles of natural gas pipelines and related facilities in West Virginia. The conventional assets are producing 37.4 MMcfe/d of natural gas and are 84% held-by-production. Carbon Appalachian was formed earlier this year with a $100 million equity commitment from two undisclosed investors to acquire and develop property in the region. It acquired another package of assets in West Virginia over the summer. Carbon, which operates in the Appalachian, Illinois and Ventura basins, increased its ownership in the subsidiary to 19.37% from 16%.

Lilis Energy Inc. agreed to buy more than 4,000 net acres in the Permian Basin for $45.6 million from an undisclosed seller. The agreement is set to close in November. The purchase would increase the company's position in the Delaware sub-basin to more than 15,000 net acres and 900-plus net drilling locations. The company in September was producing about 2,952 boe/d net from the Delaware, 71% liquids.

Microsoft Corp. is developing the world's first natural gas/integrated fuel cell-powered data center in a pilot test in a Seattle-based Advanced Energy Lab. The pilot is a 20-rack data center in which each rack is directly connected to gas pipes and powered by integrated fuel cells instead of the traditional electric connections. Microsoft has been working for several years with the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California-Irvine, exploring the use of in-rack fuel cells, which can be used with either natural gas, renewable natural gas or biogas. An earlier pilot in Cheyenne, WY, verified the biogas option.