Pennsylvania regulators and industry stakeholders are pushing ahead with plans to greatly increase the use of natural gas for transportation across the state, but it will take some time before any visible signs of progress emerge, a Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) spokesman told NGI Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) held an alternative fuel vehicles forum recently at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and the PUC has introduced a natural gas vehicle (NGV) program and website. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) also held a recent forum to examine the alternative fuel's future in the state.

The "Pennsylvania Clean Transportation Corridor," a concept that was launched by the MSC last year to link the state's five main population centers with a string of NGV fueling stations is still in the pre-construction planning phase.

"Rome wasn't built overnight, nor will large-scale CNG [compressed natural gas] infrastructure," said MSC spokesman Travis Windle. "There is a great deal of positive progress on this front aimed at further leveraging the Marcellus Shale's abundant, clean-burning resources to power the region's transportation needs. We continue to move forward."

The MSC since last year has stressed the Pennsylvania NGV "roadmap," which makes the case that if just half of the heavy duty diesel-powered fleet vehcles were switched to NGVs, there would be significant potential benefits in reduced nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrocarbons for neighborhoods across the state. The coalition contends that in five years, there could be $123 million of new investment and fleet operators could cut their annual fuel costs collectively by $9.2 million.

"It also has a direct impact of creating nearly 1,300 new jobs," an MSC spokesperson said. "The proximity of Mareellus Shale provides the commonwealth with a unique opportunity to expand its clean energy transportation infrastructure."

At the Penn State forum, Tony Bandiero, director of the Greater Philadelphia Clean Cities program, emphasized that the NGV market is "big enough that everyone can work together."

It is still unclear when CNG and liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations might be built and put in service. For now they exist as clusters of colored dots on a map of the state -- existing and planned, CNG and LNG -- tying together the population centers of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and State College.

More immediately, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has planned a series of six regional seminars this fall to educate citizens on the gas development program. A program of providing NGV grants by DEP to vehicle owners also is being hammered out as part of the comprehensive Act 13 that was enacted this spring (see Daily GPI, June 7).

"There is plenty of good information on CNG development" coming out of Pennsylvania these days, Windle noted.

But there is still a question of when it will result in more NGV rubber meeting the road.

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